|ESPN.com: Freeskiing||[Print without images]|
|Greg Hill once climbed and skied two million vertical feet in a season.|
Continuing its shift toward becoming a backcountry-focused ski brand, Salomon has signed Revelstoke, B.C., ski-touring luminary Greg Hill to a three-year deal effective July 1 and announced on Monday.
Hill told ESPN.com that he is leaving light-and-fast product leader Dynafit -- where he had a signature pro model ski, the Stoke -- to help Salomon develop a comprehensive line of hardgoods while advancing his own career "from the minors to the majors."
"I think Salomon can take me from the fringe to the mainstream," he said.
His signing also represents Salomon's new vision. According to global brand director Niclas Bornling, the company is at a "turning point" and is making sponsorship decisions differently than it did before. Over the past year, Salomon parted ways with X Games gold medalists Simon Dumont and Sammy Carlson and committed more resources to skiers who make their livings on natural terrain, largely under human power. Most notably, Salomon signed Swedish ski mountaineer Andreas Fransson earlier this year and now follows by inking Hill.
"Our strategy has changed," Bornling said. "We're building an inclusive team of passionate mountain people who will shape the evolution of Salomon in skiing and our product."
The brand shift comes in response to the fast-growing backcountry market, Bornling said. "We deeply believe this is not just a trend but something that's here to stay and will inspire more people to go skiing. Looking back at our heritage as a brand born in the heart of the Alps and driven by passionate mountain people, we feel that this is the right time to come back to our roots and the very basics of skiing."
Hill -- who set a world record by climbing and skiing two million vertical feet in 2010 (a feat to be chronicled in a film premiering this fall) -- began loosely looking for a new hardgoods sponsor last winter. "My ski brand has become a business," he said. "The numbers really have to work out. But the model wasn't making sense."
Knowing Dynafit wasn't in a position to pay what he wanted, Hill reached out to Salomon this spring. Further talks eventually led to a three-year contract that he signed in late June.
"I'm 36," Hill said, "so I was like, let's make this long term. Because I'm not moving over to just try something, I'm moving over to work toward an end that we've both agreed on." As for what product innovations he'll be working on, Hill -- who flies to France next week to begin R&D work -- said the designs won't be geared to the über light-and-fast crowd. Instead, he's more likely to tweak a ski like the Rocker 2 into a more touring-specific design. "I like to go fast, but I like to ski, too," he said. "We're going to try and find that perfect line where it's not cumbersome to get up but it's amazing to come down."
As for Salomon's commitment to the park-and-pipe segment, the brand continues to sponsor Bobby Brown, AJ Kemppainen, Thomas Krief and Alexis Godbout on its international team. But as Bornling said, "We are spending more time, energy and money on developing next-generation gear with skiers and connecting with the core communities, and less money on classical sponsoring of athletes."