In late September, tour owner NBC opted to cut nearly all ties with title sponsor Mountain Dew when the network shut down its action sports branch, Alli Sports. The move put 20 to 30 people out of work at the Alli Sports offices in Illinois and California, which brings an end to confirmed coverage for next winter’s Dew Tour. NBC is still a media partner — the network will broadcast future Dew Tours — but it no longer has a hand in event logistics after this year.
It’s a curious move. Dew Tour remains the second-largest action sports event behind X Games, and it’s long been a favorite for veterans and newcomers alike, much like the Burton U.S. Open in Vail. You’ll often hear “core” used to describe the 8-year-old Breckenridge event, as in, “Dew Tour is core. X Games is corporate.”
Curious or not, NBC’s decision makes business sense. Dew Tour viewership declined 53 percent from 2008 to 2014, when it dropped from an average of 1.13 million viewers over 10 telecasts to 435,000 viewers watched on average across four telecasts, according to a September article from Sports Business Daily.
NBC may be skittish about the future of action sports entertainment, but Dew Tour continues to remain a breeding ground for the best of the best, from big-name athletes like Shaun White (making his first appearance since 2013) to up-and-comers like brother-sister snowboarders Taylor and Arielle Gold.
Competition begins today with women’s and men’s events for ski and snowboard. Here’s a look at what to see, when to see it and why you won’t want to miss a minute. It could be the last year of Dew Tour as you know it.
The slopestyle course on Freeway at Peak 8 is the best course in the country right now — and not just because it’s the only one. Breck does a pitch-perfect job building fun, creative courses with a mix of early jibs up top and four progressively larger jumps at the bottom. It’s a tough event to watch in person, so find a place to post up by the big screen near Colorado Super Chair if you want to catch it all.
The four-jump setup makes the Dew Tour slopestyle a competitor’s dream. Snowboarders can spin in all four directions (frontside and backside, regular and switch) to really impress the judges. These days, expect guys like Chas Guldemond and MarkMcMorries to have a mix of double 1080s, single (or double) 1260s and a few of the biggest airs you’ll see in December. Women are just behind with back-to-back 900s and inverts.
But that’s not to say the upper jibs are throwaways. Canada’s Tyler Nicholson is known for technical, urban-style tricks early in slopestyle competitions.
Women’s final: Friday at 10:15 a.m.
Men’s semi: Friday at 12:15 p.m.
Men’s final: Sunday at 1:45 p.m.
The course won’t change for skiers and snowboarders, but the way it rides will. Skiers also have the chance to spin all four directions on the four-pack jump line, with Olympians like Henrik Harlaut expected to take the 80-foot final jump (aka the money booter) nearly to the bottom. He’s done it before.
One potential hiccup: weather. Reports are calling for snow on Friday and Saturday, right in time for the men’s and women’s finals. Fresh snow can impact visibility and speed. If it dumps this weekend, don’t be surprised if you see fewer spins and less amplitude from skiers and boarders. But don’t expect it.
Women’s final: Saturday at 9 a.m.
Men’s semi: Thursday at 9:30 a.m.
Men’s final: Sunday at 11 a.m.
The big-daddy of them all is held in Breckenridge’s 22-foot superpipe, considered one of the best in the business by pros, coaches, judges and just about everyone in between. It’s perfectly curated by veteran pipe builder Nik Symon and a crew from Snow Park Technologies, the global terrain firm behind X Games and the U.S. Open.
With a pedigree like that, expect to see the best of the best in the Dew Tour pipe. Sure, it comes about two months before X Games — probably the biggest superpipe event in a non-Olympic season — but the competition is about the same. Shaun White, Danny Davis and the rest will lead the pack with back-to-back 1260s, inverts and, of course, Davis’ switch method (or something else …)
Women’s final: Saturday at 10:30 a.m.
Men’s semi: Thursday at 12:30 p.m.
Men’s final: Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
It seems like skiers keep going bigger and faster and stylier (Yes, it’s a word in the ski world) in the pipe every single season. Last year, big names like Gus Kenworthy were regularly soaring 22-feet over the deck of the halfpipe, which put them nearly four stories above ground level. Skiers are now carrying that kind of amplitude from start to finish, not just on the first hit.
Expect men to toss 1260s and maybe even a few 1440s (That’s four full rotations) on all axes, while women will consistently spin 900s and one or two 1080s.
Women’s final: Friday at 9:15 am.
Men’s semi: Friday at 12 p.m.
Men’s final: Saturday at 4 p.m.
SKI AND SNOWBOARD STREETSTYLE
Like it or hate it, rails in a slopestyle run play second fiddle to the jumps. That’s why Breck hosts a few of the best local and pro jibbers right in the middle of downtown on Main Street with the streetstyle. The competition is a short, jam-style event — a small group of skiers and boarders have 20 minutes each to take as many hits as possible — but it’s a spectator’s dream. They’ll be judged on style, creativity and pure originality, which means you’ll likely see something you’ve never seen before. And may never see again.