Just when US snowboarders were beginning to think it might be safe to pin their Olympic hopes on the US Ski and Snowboard Association (formerly known as US Skiing), it’s back to business as usual at the Park City based organization.
In a July 16 meeting in Chicago designed to work out the details of the US Olympic Snowboard Team selection process, USSA CEO Bill Marolt explained to the SIA Snowboard Committee that regardless of the 18 Point Agreement made March 25, 1996, the US Olympic Snowboard team would be chosen based on FIS points not the three US Grand Prix events.
Snow Industries of America was so distraught with USSA that they filed a lawsuit against the organization in Virginia Federal Court. Although Snow Industries President David Ingemie doesn’t like the idea of a lawsuit he believes it was necessary. “We’ve only done it to uphold the 18 Point Agreement and it’s unfortunate,” Ingemie says. “They gave us reason to believe they were not going to comply.”
That’s putting it rather nicely. According to Dennis Jenson, vice president of Burton Snowboards, there was no doubt about Marolt’s plans. “The crux is that the CEO of US Skiing looks you in the eye and tells you that he’s going to do what ever he wants,” Jenson said. “Marolt’s approach to this is based on his philosophical beliefs about developing athletes. And his beliefs are potentially dangerous to the athletes and especially to the sport.”
This cavalier attitude toward snowboarding is nothing new at USSA according to Don Sather, chairman of International Snowboard Federation North America. “They’ll tell you what ever you want to hear, and do whatever they want to do even in the face of a contract,” Sather says. “This was really no surprise to the USASA and ISF people.”
What this means to American snowboarders is that if they want to be on the US Olympic Snowboard Team they’ll have to travel to Europe and compete on the FIS World Cup Tour, a tour that many North American competitors feel is inferior to the ISF World Cup Tour.
“It’s all so confusing right now,” says Lisa Kosglow, American Snowboard Tour Alpine Champion. “I guess what this means is that since I have a good shot at the Olympics I’m going to have to do five World Cups before the Olympics.”
Not only will this make it more difficult for snowboarders to get on the team it is also discriminatory according to Sather. “We felt that the three grand Prixes made the most sense,” he explains. “It allowed the best athletes to compete without discrimination against riders who cannot afford to travel to Europe or were ineligible to compete in the FIS World Tour. What Marlot is purposing could exclude some of the best riders in the US.”
The lawsuit has the support of some of the biggest names in snowboarding including Burton, Salomon/Bonfire, Morrow, Sims, Rossignol, and several other companies. “There are some really important things that we’re fighting for,” says Brad Steward, president of Bonfire Snowboard Clothing. “We’ll see what happens it’s going to be interesting.”
A hearing is scheduled for August 15.
Editors note: USSA CEO Bill Marolt was unavailable for comment at press time.