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A ski challenge worth celebrating

click to enlarge The North Face Ski Challenge Tour
  • The North Face Ski Challenge Tour

JP Baralo and his vision for kids

The comic book says it all. Sure it’s a bit corny. And yeah, it’s not all that sophisticated. But the kids loved it! They loved seeing their own mugs in it. Loved comparing their action shots in the park and on the slopes. It was like they were all rock stars or something…

And wasn’t that the goal of this enterprise in the first place?

It’s pretty simple really. To actually see themselves as part of the story — to understand that the contest really was all about them — well, for the 73 young athletes gathered in Val Thorens from all across Europe, that home-produced little comic book showed more than anything that JP Baralo’s ski challenge event was the real thing.

It’s not like he was the first to think of it. The idea of creating a continent-wide contest for young New School skiers had already been thoroughly explored by Jack Turner in the U.S. with The Next Snow Search (see Alta States Dec. 6, ’07). Still, when French ski-impresario Jean-Pierre Baralo decided to launch his own pan-European circuit last season, the wily old events pro decided to take a much different route than did his American counterpart.

“The situation in Europe for young skiers is not the same as it is in the U.S.,” says the much-travelled Baralo. “Over there, it’s a lot easier to become a rock star. But not here. In the Alps, for example, every mountain town boasts dozens of kids who should be ‘sponsored’. Yet few of them will ever get the chance to showcase their talents...”

That’s why, he says, he decided to take a more “roots” approach with his new freeskiing series. “I really had no choice,” he explains. “I knew that the financial demands of teaming up with a big media partner would be too big a burden to bear,” — (as Jack Turner found out to his bank manager’s ongoing chagrin) — “so I decided to find an event sponsor who understood the importance of developing young skiers’ overall talents. Somebody who really got it, you know. Who really appreciated how crucial this new generation of kids was to the continued growth of our sport — and didn’t mind investing a little bit in the future...”

There’s nothing all that sexy to working with kids. They’re unruly, chaotic and totally unpredictable. At the end of the day, you’re never really sure what kind of “product” you’re going to get. That’s why most big sponsors would rather stick to Olympic or X-Game or World Championship promo packages. That’s also why Turner, despite all the big talk in our industry in support of The Next Snow Search , lost his shirt trying to deliver suddenly-invisible sponsors to his voracious NBC Sports partners.


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