QUEBEC CITY—The Canadian sport organizations for freestyle skiing and snowboarding have the same problem: lots of talented athletes and too few resources to develop them all.

That’s why Freestyle Canada and Canada Snowboard have started looking at ways to work together to reduce costs and boost programs. It makes good business sense — running a joint competition for slopestyle skiing and slopestyle snowboarding would save money and a bigger event could draw more sponsors — but it is not without its challenges.

Skiers and snowboarders aren’t always the best of friends. Skiers routinely complain that snowboarders scrape up the hill and a few ski resorts still ban them altogether. For their part, snowboarders have never gotten over the fact that the FIS, the international governing body for skiing, runs their World Cup circuit and controls their Olympic inclusion.

“We’ve got slopestyle and big air listed as race events on the program — it’s not a race,” national snowboard coach Elliot Catton says with a sigh that sums up the general annoyance some snowboarders still have with the FIS’s ski roots and rules.

“Culture between the two organizations can be a challenge, I won’t lie,” says Bruce Robinson, chief executive of Freestyle Canada. “We perceive our cultures to be different, from my point of view, I don’t think they really are . . . but, at the end of the day, we’re running businesses. It’s not about running the organization by snowboarders or freestyle skiers, it should be just that you run an efficient organization.”

Patrick Jarvis, chief executive of Canada Snowboard, echoes those sentiments.

“I’ve been involved in the Canadian sport system for way too long,” says Jarvis, who was a runner in the 1992 Paralympic Games in Barcelona and held various sport roles before moving to Canada Snowboard a year and a half ago. “There are way too many groups sitting around different tables talking about the same thing and/or working on the same thing.”

But, rather than starting with any kind of formal agreement, which could lead to blowback from some of their members, Robinson and Jarvis are developing a closer relationship between their organizations slowly, starting with back-office administration. So far, they are sharing a director of operations who deals with finances and can act as a bridge between the two organizations and spot areas ripe for joint work.

One obvious step is to run national competitions together — why build two courses when you can build just one — or bid on a joint World Cup event, like the one happening this weekend in Quebec.

Saturday’s big air competition in Quebec City and Sunday’s slopestyle event at nearby Stoneham mountain have drawn the world’s top skiers and snowboarders to one place for the World Cups put on by Gestev, an event organizer with a $3.5-million budget.

This is the way of the future, says Marcel Looze, the FIS marketing manger for freestyle skiing and snowboarding.

“We’re trying to create economies of scale and find efficiencies by hosting events together where we can,” Looze said. “More and more organizers are willing to do so.”

Here, it has meant the big air jump — a 14-storey tall scaffolding structure that took eight weeks and more than 50 people to build — can be used for a freestyle World Cup and not just for snowboard, as it has in past years.

A five-day event for freestyle skiing and snowboarding is far cheaper to run than two separate four-day events, Looze says.

Next month in Sierra Nevada, the FIS will hold freestyle skiing and snowboarding world championships together. That’s something the FIS started in 2015 and intends to keep doing.

Looze knows some snowboarders still resent the FIS but says that’s an old attitude that’s changing.

“Freestyle skiers and freestyle snowboarders have way more similarities than differences,” he says.

Here in Canada, both national organizations are far more reliant on government funding than they’d like to be. Over 60 per cent of their budgets come from Own the Podium, Canada’s high-performance sport agency that funds Olympic medal hopes, and Sport Canada.

Government money, Own the Podium in particular, is fickle and the organizations are never sure, from one year to the next, how much money they will have to run programs.

With plenty of strong medal hopes for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics — many of them are competing this weekend looking to qualify for the Games — the high-performance athletes are doing well. But it’s harder to find the money to develop programs farther down the line to encourage young skiers and snowboarders into the sport and support them in their early stages.

That’s why saving money by working together and, hopefully, being able to attract more corporate sponsors to bigger, joint events holds such appeal to Robinson and Jarvis. But it’s still too early to say how far this will go or whether the two sport bodies could ever become one, they say.

“At some point it will become abundantly clear, or not, that you should progress into some type of formal arrangement,” Jarvis says, noting that cultural change will play a part in that.

“There are the (snowboarding) purists who see (skiing) and don’t want to go there, they have resentment and see themselves as unique; on the other end there are those that say, ‘Yeah, we’re still unique but we’re not giving up anything to be collaborating with others’,” he says.

“I think a lot of our athletes are more pragmatic than maybe it first appears.”

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