10/11/2011 | 1 comments
At the Women in Boardsports retreat in Saas Fee two weeks ago, we caught up with Freeride World Tour champ and combatant for female snowboarders, Anne-Flore Marxer
Interview by Anna Langer, all photos by Swatch (Freeride World Tour photo by C. Margot)
You won the Freeride World Tour last year and fought for a lot of changes. What happened during the summer?
Summer? It happened during the winter while we were competing! In 2011 the FWT tour had decided to put the girls on the qualifiers tour, saying that it would be better for us. But what it really meant was that we had to deal with even more tracks on the competition face (there were 100 competitors from the men’s divisions on the same face on the same day before us), there was no media on site, making it harder to get new sponsorship deals etc, we had to pay even more expenses for travelling, lodging, food, entry fees and even lift tickets! And there was no prize money! The Top 3 women on most stops received 800, 500 and 300 US Dollars, while the guys were earning 6000, 3000, 1500 US Dollars – but of course the guys had lodging, food, entry fees and lift tickets covered!
So what’s gonna be different this season?
They announced that they will bring the girls back on the World Tour, which is great news. We will only have four stops instead of six like the guys, but it’s still much better that way. We are still waiting for the announcement for the prize money, we clearly request equal prize money for both skiing and snowboarding and for both genders for at least the Top 4 riders.
How did you bring the changes on?
Team work! We stuck together as a group. The issue was about all the girls, not just one person. So I was not the only one sending emails to the FWT, most of the other girls did too, like this it was not always the same one arguing for changes. And the other girls would add comments to the one email that was sent in a group reply. That way we could see we were all together. Next step was approaching the sponsors of the event, Swatch and Nissan, who were backing us 100%. I ride for Swatch of course and so taking part in the FWT events is also for them. So when I realized the organization had no intention in making things better for the girls, I started putting swatch in copy of our long and romantic discussions with the FWT. When Swatch realized what was going on with the girls, they stepped in big time supporting us. Nissan was also a big help, the marketing manager was a women and she was just as fired up as I was! A great asset for us. They’ve done more than anyone in this as they decided to add two cars to win for both females champions, skier and snowboarder! And last but not least we started raising media and public awareness. When no one knows what’s going on, of course nobody cares, but that’s making the deal without the media, who supported us greatly by printing stories about the whole deal. That was a major pressure, as no event wants bad media! In the end it came down to this: happy riders give great feedback which gives good publicity leading to good media coverage, bringing more product sales, which make the sponsors happy, who give more money to make a better event, which makes the riders happier and so forth… With bad press the whole process would have been in jeopardy, so they had to listen to our inquiries.
I was fighting so hard on this whole thing that it put a lot of pressure on my shoulders, I knew that if I wanted to make sure they’d listen to me, I had to win the tour. Because if I finished second to last, they wouldn’t care much what I said. In the end, it felt like the only reason I was taking part in those comps was to make thing better for the girls, at least it was my motivation, as winning comps has never part of what makes me happy. Especially in rocky, icy faces with no prize money or media… But what really helped me through all of this, was knowing that I had won that same battle years ago with the TTR end of the year prize purses. I knew I could make a difference and I had gone through most of the arguments already years before.
What still needs to change?
All the European competitions that still don’t have girls riding, like Air&Style or freestyle.ch. Those city events sell as many tickets to women and girls tees on site as guys stuff. There is no reason what so ever not to have women in those events.
Do you have a plan on how to do it?
I’ve put a petition together on this issue a couple of years back. Unfortunately girls are still not on. I hear the argument, that “girls are not good enough” a lot, which is total bullshit. First of all, the kicker at Air&Style and freestyle.ch are quite small, much smaller than any X Games or European Open kicker, and we see more than 20 girls killing it at the X Games every year with 9s and switch 7s! With girls like Kimmy Fasani stomping doubles in the backcountry in the US and Aimee Fuller over here in Europe stomping backside rodeos with her hands in her pockets it’s becoming quite difficult to use that argument.
In the end the progression of the sport for both genders goes through the opportunities and the financial support you get for it. With no contests for women and no prize money as well as very small sponsorship deals for most girls etc, it is much more difficult to raise the level on the women side nowadays. And still women are killing it and it’s only the beginning!
We all live from marketing budgets (riders, events, magazines, videos etc) and if all the brands really put the same percentage of the women sales into the women side of the sport, and not into models etc, the level of women would explode!
Are you going to compete again this year?
I’m still waiting on that prize money announcement…
Which of the stops would you look forward to most?
Verbier offers the most exciting terrain for sure, and King of the Hill is a fun comp in Alaska I’d like to go back to… I also really like the No Board World Championship in British Columbia.
What else do you have planned for this winter?
My favorite thing in snowboarding is filming in the backcountry, that’s the only place I can ride and really push my limits. That’s what I want to do…and probably get a bit more of my newly added freeride skills in there.
Thanks loads for the insights Anne-Flore, very interesting!
You’re welcome! I’d like to thank my sponsors who support me a 100% in this battle and without whom I wouldn’t have been able to follow this non earning Freeride World Tour and become a World champ: Billabong, Swatch, Oakley, Neff, Etnies, 32, Dakine, TSG, Blue Tomato and Les Ettes.