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Thursday, January 3, 2013
Orage Masters returns

By Gabe Glosband
ESPN.com

The Orage Masters has become known as the ski industry's "anti-comp," a team slopestyle contest that celebrates costumes, debauchery, and the culture of freeskiing. It's basically one part slopestyle and one part tailgate party.

The last Orage Masters took place in 2010 in Whistler, BC, and the contest hasn't occurred for the past two years. But this week, ski apparel maker Orage announced that they would be bringing the contest back for its eighth installment. From April 5 to 7, 2013, the Orage Masters will take place in the birthplace of freestyle, Sun Valley, Idaho.

"The Masters is a classic. When we take a few years off people start wondering when it will come back," says Orage marketing director and event organizer Mike Nick. "Skiing is going to Sochi next season for the Olympics and we figured the Masters will be a nice break from the rigors off the comp scene and a killer way to cap of the winter again."

Back in 2003, the crew at Orage wanted to give the highly serious and structured competition scene a shakeup. Their goal was to create an event that was first and foremost fun, but also gave top pros a world class venue they could session with their friends. The start list from the first-ever Masters boasts some of the hardest hitters ever to step into a set of bindings, including Tanner Hall, Candide Thovex, Pep Fujas, CR Johnson, Simon Dumont, Jon Olsson, JF Cusson, Henrik Winstedt, Rory Bushfield and three guys named Phil (Poirier, Belanger, and Larose).

What started as a rule-free, every man for himself format eventually transitioned in 2004 to a team event. Athlete captains anchored teams of four and produced some serious showdowns with teams judging teams and all athletes in costumes. Eventually ski manufacturers were invited to field teams. Both K2 and Volkl are two-time champions. (Both also excelled in the costume department with K2 getting a win showcasing some heavy metal steeze as the Rockers, while the team from Volkl earned a victory merit badge as a boy-scout troop.)

The last Orage Masters took place in Whistler in 2010.

The 2013 Masters will again be in team format but with film crews such as Level 1, Stept, Inspired, Traveling Circus, and more rolling into Sun Valley in April. "The cool thing about film crews is that most of them aren't big name comp guys but they have online followings which rival if not exceed the average comp rider," said Nick.

Athletes aren't set in stone but the potential list includes Henrik Harlaut, Phil Casabon, Sean Pettit, Matt Margetts, Banks Gilberti, Chris Logan, Will Wesson, Andy Parry, Cam Riley, Charlie Owens, Tom Wallisch, and others.

"We grew up watching the Masters," says Stept Productions front man Nick Martini. "It always seemed like such a fun event with everyone having a great time. None of the Stept crew had ever been involved, when Mike called to invite us we immediately said yes."