FREERIDING, an extreme snowsport in which enthusiasts launch themselves off cliff edges and down steep slopes on skis and snowboards, is to include a Scottish event as a qualifier for its world tour for the first time.
The Coe Cup, hosted last month at Glencoe, will be included as an official qualifying event for the Freeride World Tour from next year, it was announced yesterday.
The sport, which attracts daredevil skiers and snowboarders for whom conventional downhill slaloms are too tame, is attracting a growing number of participants in Scotland. Andy Meldrum, owner of the Glencoe resort, said winning a place on the world tour would bring the sport to wider attention.
Mr Meldrum said: “We are delighted at winning official qualfying status.
“The world’s best extreme skiers and snowboarders will now be descending on to the slopes of Glencoe to fight for points and win a place in the Freeride World Tour.
“We did not have the best of conditions for the inaugral Coe Cup, but the competitors and spectators had a great time. It is a captivating sport with a huge following. It is just great to see the skill of these guys up close.
“They were hurling themselves off 20-ft cliffs upside down, and doing it with style and landing upright without getting injured.”
Andrew Phyn, of freeride ski manufacturers White Dot Skis, said the “heart-in-mouth” extreme sport would bring a massive economic benefit to Scotland. Mr Phyn, who came up with the concept of the Coe Cup, said: “This was the first freeride competition in the UK and was such a success it has become a qualifier.
“This puts Scotland on the map in terms of extreme freeriding.
“These qualfiers get up to 300 applicants for a limited number of places and attracts all the top skiers and snowboarders from around the world.
“And it has a huge following, so will be a major tourist attraction with economic benefits not only to Glencoe but Scotland.
“We will be looking for major sponsors for next year’s event, and there will be media coverage including television and live links broadcast at the time.
“It will be the biggest snowsport event ever held in this country and we are delighted to have become a qualfier for the world tour.”
The inaugral Coe Cup, which took place on 24 March, attracted former US Olympian-turned-freeride legend Jeremy Nobis and top freeskier Fred Syversen to act as judges.
Mr Phyn added: “This is fast becoming a major sport and will attract a huge number of tourists to Scotland.
“It is not only a major coup for us and Glencoe, but for the whole of Scotland.
“The qualifiers will see 30 skiers and 30 snowboarders travel to Glencoe to compete for points in a bid to qualify for the major world tour.
“In a football sense it is like competing in your national league in a bid to get to the European football competitions.
“To get a qualifying event in to Scotland has been a big goal for me for the last five to six years.
“We will now enter discussions with sponsors like Swatch and there is also the media coverage – with events being broadcast on Eurosport – which will hopefully show Scotland at its best.”