Big mountain skiers and snowboarders have never had a true world tour. In recent years, they've had the European-based Freeride World Tour and the North and South American-centric Subaru Freeskiing World Tour, which is run by Mountain Sports International. The two organizations have held talks in the past about joining forces, but issues ranging from judging standards to sponsorships to event management have always proved to be sticking points.
ESPN has learned that MSI and the Freeride World Tour are holding conversations -- one of which took place Wednesday morning -- about potential collaboration, which could result in harmonized top-tier tour and qualifier events as early as the 2012-2013 winter season.
According to a source inside the Freeride World Tour, "We are in the middle of a negotiation with MSI to see how we could merge the two tours in one world ranking ... If this is successful, and it is looking like it will be, MSI will take care of North and South America and we would take care of Europe, Asia and New Zealand."
Last winter, the two tours met for the first time in a joint contest at Kirkwood, Calif. For this coming winter, the goal would be to have a unified world ranking based on all of the freeride events currently associated with either tour. Athletes would still experience two separate tours, with MSI's rankings and the FWT's ranking, but a third point system would combine finishes in each event and assign overall scores based upon the results and the level of the event. That list would then be used to decide which athletes would be qualified for a global tour in the 2012-13 season. On the snowboard side, there will likely also be collaboration between MSI's The North Face Masters and the Freeride World Tour.
If this sounds complex it is, to a point. Judging criteria, for example, will be a challenge to streamline. "We don't think that this is impossible," says MSI president Adam Comey. "The tours are not that different ... There are a lot of ways we can work together, and it's only going to get better for the athletes."
Both the Freeride World Tour and MSI soon plan to announce some level of harmonization with scoring for the 2011-12 competition season. What that will mean for a future merger in 2012-13 remains to be seen.