America's national governing body for Olympic skiing and snowboarding has grown a new extremity. This week, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) launched U.S. Freeskiing, comparable to the organization's Ski Team and Snowboarding arms that "will encompass the potential new Olympic events of halfpipe and slopestyle skiing along with skicross, which made its Olympic debut in Vancouver," according to a Tuesday press release.
This latest USSA "brand" is a response to the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) recent consideration of adding new actions sports to the 2014 docket in Sochi, Russia. "The establishment of U.S. Freeskiing is an historic evolution for the USSA and an affirmation that the athletes in this sport require a unique management direction," said USSA Vice President of Athletics Luke Bodensteiner.
The IOC's gravitation towards the likes of freeskiing has hastened as a result of an increase in the number of riders turning to more contemporary styles. Stateside, that volume has led the USSA to partner with popular outfitter The North Face. "As the charter partner of the U.S. Freeskiing brand, The North Face will deepen its integral role in the sport through 2018," the statement claimed. In that role, The North Face will be the source of outerwear, baselayers, and footwear for USSA team riders, and feature prominently at the Grand Prix and U.S. Revolution Tour events.
But will this create a conflict for USSA riders obliged to other sponsors? Not necessarily, says spokesman Tom Kelly. "Our strategic approach to this across all our sports is to develop a program specific to the athletic situation and culture of that respective sport," explained Kelly. "Relative to the Olympics, though, The North Face would be the team provider for all athletes. We have a similar situation in snowboarding with Burton." Marketing and branding for U.S. Freeskiing are in their infancy; a team logo isn't expected until spring.
The idea of a new ski group was conceived over an 18-month period, and freeskiing contests have been added to several national USSA events to accommodate the development. Halfpipe skiing was added to December's Visa U.S. Halfpipe Grand Prix in Copper Mountain. Skicross, halfpipe, and slopestyle skiing -- along with snowboarding and freeskiing -- will be featured at Copper Mountain, Mt. Hood Meadows, Ore., Boreal, Calif., and Mt. Snow, Vt. as part of the Revolution Tour.
According the USSA, IOC President Jacques Rogge will decide what sports will be added following the 2011 World Championships, which includes the International Ski Federation's Freestyle World Ski Championships at Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort in Utah from Feb. 2 to 5.