At the International Snowboard Federation general-assembly meeting in Mont Sainte Anne, Quebec, June 15¿16, the board of directors elected a new president, discussed plans for the coming season, argued over what to do about a potential three-year, 4.7-million-dollar sponsorship deal from a whiskey company, and learned more about where snowboarding stands in the Olympics.
Shirley Hills, the woman elected to replace Christian Savioz as president of the organization, is currently president of the British Columbia Snowboard Association and owner of a snowboard promotions company. She is the first woman and the first representative from an amateur program to head the ISF. “This is a very big step forward,” said Savioz. “It shows that the ISF is not a ‘pro’ organization and that it represents the best snowboarders from around the world.”
Hills was clearly surprised. “This was not something I expected,” she said. “I’m just glad that it’s a one-year term. That way I can stay enthusiastic.”
After the elections the biggest debate of the meeting came when Savioz and Thilo Bohatsch proposed selling the ISF World Pro Tour title to Ballantine for close to 4.7-million dollars over three years. The main problem with the proposal: Ballantine is only interested in the European leg of the tour. In Ballantine’s dream deal the North American and Japanese legs of the ISF tour would get no real sponsorship money.
Although the excluded groups weren’t pleased with the offer, the Europeans felt that the 30,000 dollars the U.S. and Japan would get out of the deal each year was “better than nothing,” Savoiz said.
Everyone agreed with the idea of selling a title, but no one could figure out how to do it fairly. The board decided that further discussions by the parties involved were needed.
Next, the board voted to accept slope-style and boardercross as official ISF disciplines. However, the events would not be part of the World Cup or World Championship tour, because the board believed they should be tested for one season before any world titles are granted. National or continental champions could be named by the individual PSAs.
Also, North American racers got half of their wish for a separate Super-G discipline. The board voted to keep track of the points separately so the continents could name their own Super-G Champions if they choose to do so, but there would be no ISF world title in that category.
The most far-reaching competition decision the board made was to grant fifteen wildcard spots (ten men and five women) at each World Cup event to be filled by “legend” riders who did not have proper rankings to compete. Previously, only ranked riders were eligible for the competition, so there was no way for riders who have dropped off the world tour, like Terje Haakonsen, Jeff Brushie, or Sebu Kuhlberg, to compete in individual events.
At first Savoiz didn’t like the idea. “We are mixing clowns and professionals,” Savoiz said. “I don’t think that’s fair for the other competitors who are moving toward a title. If they are not racing for the title, what are they doing?”
In the end, everyone realized that certain competitors have earned a status above yearly rankings and should be allowed to show up and compete because the spectators want to see them ride. “This decision is the biggest thing the ISF has done in the last four years,” said Bonfire’s and Chairman of the SIA Snowboard Committee Brad Steward.
As for the Olympics and the ongoing battle between the ISF and the FIS, no one had any concrete news. The Europeans are extremely emotional about the issue. “We will continue to have meetings with the FIS to see if some kind of deal can be worked out that will be best for snowboarding,” said Ted Martin, president of the ISF North America, “because that’s all any of us are really interested in.”