By Nicole Birkold Freeskier Magazine – Women freeskiers rejoice as they get a much-deserved inclusion into the Winter Dew Tour with a full specialty pipe competition at the Snowbasin event sponsored by Paul Mitchel. Twenty of the top women will compete for a $20,000 prize purse. The finals will take place under the lights just prior to the men’s event. Freeskier magazine’s Nicole Birkold caught up with competitor Sarah Burke to discuss the news and get her take on what this means for women’s skiing.
Why was it important to you that women’s skiing be included in the Dew Tour schedule to some degree?
The main thing is it just makes sense. I’ve been competing just as long, well, actually longer than most of the guys! Girls love to compete and be involved as well, and there is a lot out there to prove that right now. They include female snowboarders and we’re up to par too. And males skiers which is our other half. It’s a family, like husband and wife, salt and pepper, skiers and snowboarders. You can’t have a car without its fourth wheel.
Over the years we’ve have our fair share of “no’s” when it came to women’s skiing, and sometimes that’s fine. But at this point, we’re there. There’s no reason to leave us out.
What are some of the goals you have for women’s skiing in, say, five years from now?
Well, I hope we’re not dealing with women’s skiing not being 100-percent included anymore!
But other than that, I hope to see a female freeskier have an Olympic medal!
What was your reaction when at first it seemed like Dew Tour was going to leave women’s skiing out?
Well, my first reaction was furious. I really feel like we’re at a point in time where it wouldn’t t even be a question as to whether or not we were included. I thought we proved ourselves last year and that this decision was unfortunate. I was surprised.
What was your reaction when you heard that it went from nothing, to a full fledged pipe event?
Thrilled that we had gotten somewhere. We were initially told there was no money, no budget for girls skiing so we were not expecting anything. So when we got word, it was exciting. I still would like to see slopestyle get its due, as I think that is where women’s skiing is the strongest right now field-wise, so it’s not perfect, and not 100-percent fair, but it’s a step in the right direction.
And what does it mean to have the contest include a deep field of twenty athletes and all the amenities of the other disciplines.
It’s a huge step to invite 20 girls. It makes me really happy. And hopefully we can keep working with [the Dew Tour] to keep increasing the exposure of women’s skiing. This is an opportunity for us to ski our best, ski hard and show them why we deserve to be treated the same. I mean it’s a big opportunity to have a 20-girl field and open it up a little more. It’s great to show that there are that many girls that deserve to be on a stage such as the Dew Tour. We’ve never had such a deep field, so it’s exciting.
You’ve been training in Colorado this early season. How has that been?
Not my best. i dislocated my should at Woodward. So, I took some time off, and then started to feel better. And then, first day back out, crashed again. So it hasn’t been the best. But I’m heading home to go see some doctors and after Christmas I’ll be ready to get it again and hit the Snowbasin event.
Other than yourself, who should we be watching for this year in the women’s Dew Tour halfpipe? Are there any young guns flying under the radar that we’ll be knowing by the end of the season?
There are two girls from Canada; Megan Gunning and Keltie Hansen that started to do some events and are really good. I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of those girls. They’re young and getting after it, and they’re ripping.
Have you been to Snowbasin or Ogden?
I have been to Ogden, but not Snowbasin. I’m excited to check that place out. Utah is awesome. It’s not freezing cold and the snow is light. So I’m hoping to crash on Grete [Eliassen’s] floor and get in some skiing, training, and hit the contest.