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Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Skiers ink new sponsorship deals

By Devon O'Neil
ESPN.com

Nick Goepper joins Red Bull's freeskiing roster this winter.

One by one, reports of pro skiers signing new sponsorship deals have trickled out this offseason, some making larger splashes than others. Still more news is expected to come in the next month as companies finalize their pro teams and budgets leading into the 2012-13 winter.

But in an effort to corral what has already happened, we contacted team managers and representatives from 20 leading freeski brands, asking them what changes they've made in the way of athlete support this year. With a few exceptions, the offseason for many companies was focused on maintaining the status quo and re-signing athletes who were already on their teams.

"No news is good news for us this season because obviously with the bad snow situation last year, everybody took a pretty hard hit," said Matt Rihm, sports marketing team manager for Rossignol, Dynastar and Lange. "Industry wide, I think everybody was just like, how can we keep doing what we did last year? I've got a little less [budget] than I had a year ago, so I'm just trying to keep everyone who's already on the team happy."

Gus Kenworthy has signed a new deal with Atomic through 2014.

Gus Kenworthy, the two-time defending AFP overall world champion, made arguably the biggest move of the summer when he left Armada and signed a two-year deal with Atomic through the 2014 Olympics (he also signed a clothing deal with Nike). That wrapped up a busy year for Atomic, which also signed big-mountain film stars Richard Permin (three years) and Michelle Parker (one year, but working on a long-term contract, according to team manager Chris McKearin). Parker also signed with Mountain Hardwear and Red Bull.

The other big hardgoods dealer was Salomon. After signing former Dynafit athlete Greg Hill this summer -- a move that followed Andreas Fransson's two-year contract last February -- Salomon inked Freeskiing World Tour champion Josh Daiek to a two-year deal this fall. The company also added Leah Evans, promoted Noah Bowman and Vincent Gagnier to its international team and re-signed many of its big guns, including Mike Douglas, Kaj Zackrisson and Henrik Windstedt. Its only significant loss was Frenchman Enak Gavaggio, who left on his own terms.

In the yet-to-be-announced department, Volkl/Marker team manager Chris Adams confirmed this week he will add Canadian Matt Margetts to his roster. "We needed an up-and-coming halfpipe skier who's knocking on the door of that elite group," said Adams, who also re-signed film stars Ingrid Backstrom and Ian McIntosh to three year deals and Olympic slopestyle hopeful Nick Goepper to a two-year deal.

Fischer bolstered its team by adding a pair of ex-Coreupt skiers who figure to contend on the Freeride World Tour this winter: Frenchman Adrien Coirier and Argentine Nicolas Salencon. Fischer also gave slopestyle skier Ashley Battersby a two-year contract after she'd skied last year without one, said Matt Berkowitz, director of alpine marketing and product.

"Obviously with the bad snow situation last year, everybody took a pretty hard hit. I've got a little less [budget] than I had a year ago, so I'm just trying to keep everyone who's already on the team happy.

-- Matt Rihm, Rossignol, Dynastar and Lange

Attempting to enhance its athlete-film connection, Nordica signed urban specialist Dale Talkington and skier/filmmmaker Evan Williams, who will also manage its digital content. K2 Skis didn't make any significant additions but did promote a number of existing team members to its prestigious factory team, including Cam Riley, Sean Jordan, Anna Segal and Brita Sigourney. Blizzard/Tecnica also re-signed a handful of athletes, among them Aidan Sheahan and Keely Kelleher, while adding ski mountaineer David Rosenbarger to its international team.

In the boots market, Scarpa and Dynafit signed Chris Davenport and Eric Hjorleifson, respectively, to further their attempts at merging freeride and backcountry capabilities. Both athletes are in it for the long haul, which will benefit every skier who wants more performance with less weight. On the alpine side, Dalbello added Taylor Seaton to its already impressive roster.

Eyewear leader Oakley signed Duncan Adams and Kai Mahler, while energy drink giant Red Bull added Parker and Goepper and, in last month's much-publicized decision, parted ways with Tanner Hall after 11 years.

According to what we heard from some companies, stay tuned for a few more significant moves to come in the next two months.