The TTR, or Ticket To Ride, is the world’s premier snowboarding tour. Forget the Winter Olympics, leave that spectacle to the curlers and scary-looking ice-skaters, as this is where you come to see the real stars of snow. The TTR crowns the world champion, and every freestyle snowboarder in her or his right mind aspires to be a part of it. It’s a place where hopes and dreams are realised, champagne is sprayed on podiums and giant cheques are brandished. And it’s a place where sponsors, riders, media and fans come together in a big smoochy love-in for their sport.
Snowboarding has come a long way since the hard-booted and day-glo early days, though there will always be a place in our hearts for those who pioneered that special look. The snowboard competition circuit was once somewhat chaotic, and not a worthy showcase for the awesome talent that the sport had to offer. So in 2002 a group of industry veterans put their heads together and formed the TTR, a huge global umbrella organisation, which unites the world’s top snowboard events under one flag.
The TTR revitalised snowboarding, creating stars out of champions, bringing order to the proceedings and signifi cantly helping to progress the sport. With a founding committee that reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of snowboarding – including legendary rider Terje Hakonsen – the Tour was conceived to be a credible and respected platform that now attracts crucial sponsorship from a number of core and mainstream brands. “The TTR committee took elements of the ASP surfi ng model, FIFA football, ATP tennis, PGA golf, the World Rally and Formula One to make a system that best suits professional snowboarding,” says TTR CEO and industry guru Drew Stevenson.
In 2005 the women’s Tour launched and the level of girls’ riding went stratospheric, which also raised riders’ profi les way above anything that had ever gone before. “The level of women’s snowboarding today is amazing,” says Stevenson. “Their technical ability has gone through the roof, with the majority of female riders not only nailing spins, but doing so with grabs. The power and style has seriously stepped up and a new breed of female rider is emerging. I don’t think there is a professional sport out there where the women have the same power and style, matched by an incredible grace.”
The women’s TTR is in now in its third season and is bigger, better and badder than ever before. Over 19 events are crammed into a 10-month schedule in four geographical zones. “The women’s Tour is exactly what the sport needed,” says sponsor Karsten Mohr from Volkl snowboards. “The girls can show their individual style and class in a credible ambiance. It’s a good feeling that our industry got an authentic contest and ranking format and that the women are so well integrated. We’re sure that it’s a great motivator and attracts new girls to the sport.”
Not to mention catapulting those already involved in snowboarding into the limelight. “Torah Bright won the TTR Tour last winter, and I see how much coverage she got out of that, it’s definitely given a massive push to her career,” says Roxy’s snow team manager Stine Brun Kjeldaas.So how does it work..? How does it work?
Each of the 19 events is given a star rating to denote its importance on the Tour. Smaller events have a lower star rating, while the biggest and most respected the maximum six stars. Each event has different disciplines, for example the Air & Style is purely slopestyle, while the Burton European Open is both slopestyle and halfpipe. It’s up to each rider how many disciplines they compete in, and results from each format are counted in their scores.
Riders earn points based on their finish positions at each event, and those points are then weighted according to the event’s ranking. For example, a fi rst place finish at a 6* event earns 1000 points, at a 3* it would earn 550, and at a 1* it would be worth 250. Competitors need to place six scores to be eligible for a complete end of season ranking, which is the average of those six scores. If a rider posts less than six scores, it’s still divided by six, so in this way the Tour respects those who attend the most events. The men’s world champion is crowned at the US Open, but the women’s world crown is decided a week later at the girls-only 6* Chicken Jam in the US. After the Jam, another fi ve events take place, which allow all other competitors the chance to score more points, and these are used to define the overall world rankings.
So not only is the Tour a democratic system, it also brings another important element to snowboarding – the transition from rookie to pro. “The champions of tomorrow can measure themselves against the champions of today, and understand what it will take to get there,” says Stevenson. This means any girl is eligible to take part in the lower star events, but she will need to work her butt off to progress up the rankings and qualify for the bigger events.
This is just one of the ways in which the TTR is different from the Olympics, the behemoth which polarises snowboarders’ opinions. At the Games, four years of preparation are channelled into two runs in the pipe. If a rider is sick or injured, then competing at the highest level, watched by the world’s mainstream media, comes with an incredible pressure and stress, while the less talented can often fluke a win. As Stine Brun Kjeldaas says, “It’s a Tour that is true to the spirit of snowboarding. To be the TTR Tour champion, you need to be the best overall snowboarder.”
The Tour also respects that pro snowboarders are very busy in winter, with commitments to sponsors, filming video parts and magazine shoots. With more lower star women’s events planned for this season, and more than 30 possible result postings, the TTR allows riders more opportunity to fulfil other career obligations so they can develop their career holistically. In this way, the Tour is true to the essence of what being a total snowboarder is all about.