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Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Women to compete in three FWT stops

Oops, just kidding: The women will now compete alongside the men in three FWT events, not one, like they announced last month.

Last month, we covered the changes the Freeride World Tour was making for its female skiers and snowboarders: Namely, that they'd be competing on a separate qualifier tour and would join the male athletes for only the final stop in Verbier, Switzerland. This week, the FWT announced another schedule revision for 2011: The tour will reinstate women on two more of the pro tour stops held in Chamonix, France, and Kirkwood, California.

Now, women will be competing in four open-to-the-public qualifier events and three invite-only Freeride World Tour events. The men's schedule remains unchanged, with six invite-only stops around Europe and the U.S -- up from four last year.

"We did not 'change' our position, which is that women have to get their own tour in order to not be in the shadow of men, open the field to younger riders and get the communication they deserve," says the Freeride World Tour's spokesperson Josefine Ås. "FWT organizers are organizing these events for the riders -- so they listen to the riders and try to be responsive. After discussions with female riders they came to the common conclusion regarding the format."

Ås added that their ultimate goal is to have a separate women's tour like those that exist in surfing, golf, tennis and other sports. "FWT is not a federation, it's a private company organizing events with the support of private partners. Today, the market is not ready yet for two tours," she said. "But we hope it will be soon."

The women's ranking in the qualifier events will still go toward their overall rankings and will determine the top five female skiers and top three female snowboarders who will qualify for Verbier. Of the $250,000 prize purse for the tour, $60,000 is allotted for the women's ski and snowboard podiums.

The newest arrangement is not exactly the same as the women's tour has been since the Freeride World Tour began three years ago, but the female athletes -- many of whom wrote letters in disagreement to last month's changes -- see it as an improvement. "Things did change for the positive," one female FWT athlete told ESPN. "I know the letter that we wrote had quite an impact. And I believe we made a valid case they just couldn't ignore."