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Monday, September 5, 2011
Skier's Cup kicks off in Chile

By Cody Townsend
ESPN.com

You might remember your high school sports coach berating the selfish ball hogs with the cheesy maxim, "There is no 'I' in 'team'!" Following that logic, we as skiers might notice that skiing is so self-centric there happens to be two 'I's in 'skiing.' But the friendliest and most jovial freeskier of our time, Kaj Zackrisson, would like to change that. "Skiing is so individualistic, I wanted to create a competition where we can compete as a team," he says. Enter Zackrisson's dream competition: the Swatch Skier's Cup, which starts Monday and goes through Sept. 12 in Valle Nevado, Chile.

Here's how it works: Two eight-skier teams have convened in the Andes mountains surrounding Santiago de Chile to compete in a team format that pits the best of the Americas up against the best of Europe. Loosely based on professional golf's Ryder's Cup, Team Americas, captained by Mark Abma, and Team Europe, captained by Zackrisson, will square up against each other by putting up individual team members face-to-face in backcountry freestyle and big-mountain match-ups.

If big mountain is the call of the day, Abma might call up Dana Flahr, and Zackrisson then might name Henrik Windstedt and suddenly you have a mano--mano duel with continental pride on the line. As each match up completes, a single point is awarded to the winners and tallied onto the team totals. There will be no individual winners, just a team that gets to call itself the best in the world at the end of the week. According to Zackrisson, the team format is something he's always wanted to incorporate into skiing and he hopes it will catch on for the sport.

Zackrisson says he selected South America as the setting for this competition for two reasons. The first being the competition's ability to attract high-end talent that is typically trenched into filmmaking and world tour competitions mid-winter. The second being the wind-sculpted and playful natural terrain of the Andes. "The natural layout of the Andes makes for a perfect playground for all-mountain freeriding," Zackrisson said.

If you're wondering who is representing your homeland, Abma has selected, Flahr, James Heim, Rory Bushfield, Matt Margetts, Dylan Hood, Oakley White-Allen, Chopo Diaz and Josh Bibby to capture the glory for the New World. For the Euros out there, Zackrisson has chosen Windstedt, Seb Michaud, Richard Permin, Markus Eder, Sverre Liliquist, Nicolas Vuignier and Aussie Chris Booth to round out the team.

No cheering for your favorite skier in this competition, time to root for the team.