OLN announces Gravity Games qualifiers
COPPER MOUNTAIN – The Outdoor Life Network (OLN) has announced its comprehensive qualifying criteria for the Winter Gravity Games in March, which will take place at Copper Mountain.To qualify athletes must fare well at one of a variety of top-tier competitions, or receive one of the few wildcards offered in each of the 11 events. OLN, which bought the Gravity Games from NBC this year and will broadcast the Copper games two weeks after they’re completed, has spread out the qualifiers geographically, offering equal opportunity to talent from all reaches of the globe. In addition, some of the qualifying events took place last season (the Winter X Games, for example), while others take place this season (the U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix stops in Breckenridge and Mt. Bachelor, Ore., for example).Gravity Games competition director Dave McKay said the diversified qualifiers were done intentionally, to give as many athletes as possible an opportunity to take part in the games.”A whole lot of thought went into this,” McKay said. “It really gets us the best athletes. The geography part is especially important to us, because we want an international field.”
There are three events each for men’s skiing (superpipe, slopestyle and skiercross), men’s snowboarding (pipe, slopestyle and boardercross) and women’s snowboarding (same as men’s snowboarding). Women’s skiing will have two (pipe and skiercross).A qualifier in any of the 11 events sends, at most, six competitors to the Gravity Games. Most of the qualifiers, in fact, send only two or three. Still, to prevent any overlapping, OLN organizers have designed the qualifiers to punch tickets for the “top three previously unqualified” athletes, for example.McKay said equal consideration was given to big events and small events, so that up-and-coming “blue collar” athletes wouldn’t be shut out of a chance at qualifying if they didn’t do well at the X Games, for example.Qualifiers by sportThere are nine qualifiers for the men’s skiing events, four of which have yet to take place. This includes the Core Freeski Tour, scheduled for Feb. 5-6 at Breckenridge.
In men’s snowboarding, there are 17 qualifying events. Eight have yet to take place, including the closest to home, the Session at Vail (Jan. 14-16).Women’s skiing includes eight qualifiers, with three still to happen. The U.S. Freeskiing Open, scheduled for Jan. 19-23 at Vail, is the closest to Summit.Female snowboarders have 11 qualifiers for the varying disciplines, including the closest to Copper yet to take place, the women’s Roxy Chicken Jam in Park City, Utah.Wildcards will be awarded in two forms. As a nod to home-state competitors – and to the state’s deep snow-sports tradition, McKay said – OLN will give out one “Colorado wildcard” in many of the 11 events by the middle of January. The network also will award up to five “Gravity Games wildcards” to unqualified competitors by Feb. 1.Even though there are still plenty of opportunities for athletes to qualify, according to the Gravity Games Web site (www.gravitygames.com) 101 of the 202 total slots already have been filled.
This includes a number of local athletes, most notably Breck snowboarders Steve Fisher (men’s superpipe) and Chad Otterstrom (men’s slopestyle), and Minturn’s Clair Bidez (women’s superpipe). McKay also said Frisco freeskiing pro Greg Tuffelmire was recently awarded a Colorado wildcard in men’s superpipe.For a complete listing of all Gravity Games qualifiers, or for a listing of qualified athletes to date, visit http://www.gravitygames.com.The Winter Gravity Games were held only once while NBC owned them, at Mammoth Mountain, Calif., in 2000. McKay said he hopes to make the games an annual event under OLN, beginning with the March competitions.With regard to that, Copper Mountain spokesperson Katelin Hill said Wednesday negotiations are “ongoing” between the resort and OLN for a multiyear contract agreement that would keep the games at Copper for years to come.Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 231, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.