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Shaun White

Shaun White, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, has started a new snowboarding league. Photo: Aika Lau

The Inertia

Shaun White, the three-time Olympic gold medalist in snowboarding, is starting a halfpipe league called The Snow League. According to the Associated Press, White has “hopes of pulling together what has long been a spread-out, confusing action-sports calendar.”

White, who is 37 years old, retired after the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2022. The first season of The Snow Games is set to start next March. In all, it will include five events, all on snowboards — for now. There are plans to add freeskiing at some point in time.

White is hopeful that his event series will be on par with other respected sports leagues.

“In the end, we really want to be that premier thing, where it’s amazing to go to the Olympics and win a medal, but this is like winning Wimbledon or the NBA finals,” he said. “It’s almost more prestigious.”

The Snow League will include 20 men and 16 women in the events. The winners will be chosen like many other sports leagues, with a championship day, a quarterfinal, a semifinal, and final rounds.

As it stands now, most halfpipe events are generally standalone contests. Take, for example, the X Games or the Dew Tour. As prize purses dwindle, White aims to bring back more money to the competitors.

“It feels very much needed right now,” said Ian Warda, a longtime Burton employee who will be taking on the role of The Snow League’s COO. “The sport is in an interesting, transitionary phase, sort of at a critical point, where do we go from here? I couldn’t be more thankful that Shaun is taking responsibility on this, and sees it as something that’s important to him to foster the next generation and build a better platform.”

White went on to explain that he isn’t attempting a take over from other tours like the X Games. Instead, he wants to “give the sport a more reliable calendar with more lucrative cash prizes.”

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In the future, he would also like to add The Snow League to the list of events that help riders qualify for the Olympics. As of this writing, White and the rest of those involved are still in talks with resorts that could host events. They are also considering multiple distribution options regarding  the content from those events.

“It’ll be great to have competitions that focus more on the athletes, giving us more opportunities to shine and do what we do best: snowboard,” said Sophie Goldschmidt, who once acted as the CEO of the World Surf League. Now, she is the head of US Ski & Snowboard. “I’m grateful to Shaun for giving back to the sport and his unwavering mission to uplift it.”

Like many pro athletes, surfers included, a large portion of their pay comes from sponsors instead of prize money. White sees that model as something that could stifle potential up-and-comers who may be talented enough to compete at the highest levels of snowboarding but, for one reason or another, aren’t able to attend events because of the financial burden they take on when sponsors aren’t knocking down their doors.

“A lot of athletes are, like, ‘Man, I just don’t want to fly to New Zealand and participate in a competition that’s going to make me $5,000 when the flight down there and the hotel costs more than that,’” White said. “And who is going to see it? I can post it on my social page, but that’s about it.”


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