Now that the fledgling first year of the International Freestyle Snocross Association (IFSA) and its marquee FSX Tour has a season under its belt, it's ready to go even bigger for 2003-04.
Factory support, big venues, twice the number of events and more competitors has IFSA CEO Grant Reeves giddy with excitement about the coming season.
Although there were struggles along the way during last season, most folks would call the first FSX Tour a success. Several thousand fans turned out at the events last year and saw some amazing stunts on 400 pound-plus sleds.
In a smaller way, FSX is doing to snowmobiling what freestyle motocross did to motorcycle riding. Freestyle snocross might never get as big as its two-wheeled counterparts, but it's fun to watch anyway . and now more sledders and non-sledders will have the opportunity to see the likes of Jimmy "Blaze" Fejes, Chris "Big Air" Burandt and others perform as the Tour spreads across the snowbelt.
These events aren't being held in a cow pasture out behind the barn. No, the FSX Tour is hitting some of the snowbelt's biggest cities and competing in some of the best venues, like the Target Center in Minneapolis, the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, ND, the Pepsi Center in Albany, NY, the Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit and the Delta Center in Salt Lake City, just to name a few. The only outdoor event for 2003-04 is at the World Snowmobile Expo in West Yellowstone, MT, March 19.
The Salt Lake City event, easily last year's biggest in terms of spectators, was recently added to the schedule for this season, due, Reeves said, to numerous requests from the industry, fans and riders.
Already Out Of The Gates
By the time you read this, the FSX Tour will have already staged competitions in Reno and Minneapolis. There are 13 events in all this season, 12 of which count toward the high points championship at the end of the season.
And the tour is even hitting a hot spot not really even close to the snowbelt. The FSX Tour will wind up its season at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas April 23-24. ISFA is planning on giving away several free trips to the Las Vegas event. The trips will be given away during the course of the season.
What do the riders have to look forward to? The payout this season is $200,000 in cash and prizes over the 12 events. That means a winner can walk away with $2,200 for one weekend of competition. Over the span of the 12 events, top riders have the potential of winning up to $25,000. And a 2004 KTM motocross bike goes to the season points champion.
A total of 27 riders are approved to go on tour this season. This includes Burandt and Ryan Britt, both members of the Slednecks team. Britt finished second in the points standings last season. Britt is being supported by Polaris and will compete on a Pro X this season. Burandt will be competing on an Arctic Cat Sno Pro and will receive full factory support from Team Arctic.
New Kid On The Block
A newcomer to the tour this year will be Jason Semler, the newest member of the Braaap Pack. He made a couple of appearances on the FSX Tour in 2003. Other members of the Braaap Pack include Fejes, Tim Needles and Lee Stuart. Needles and Stuart will be piloting Arctic Cat Sno Pros this race season and will also receive full factory support from Team Arctic. Yamaha will be providing support for Fejes and Semler.
Heath Frisby won the high points title last season, followed by Britt and then Stuart.
For a more complete list of this season's competitors, log on to www.fsxworld.com.
Not only is the IFSA expanding to new locales and has more racers, the organization has brought an events promotion company on board to run each competition. Frontier Management Group, a global, independently owned and operated Chicago-based event management company, will be in charge of managing the FSX Tour this season.
"Brian Sharenow (FMG president) is a wealth of knowledge and experience and he will be a key component to the growth of the Tour," Reeves said. "With Brian's efforts both behind the scenes and at the events, it will have a noticeable difference to the riders, sponsors and most importantly, the spectators."
Parts Unlimited continues as the title sponsor for the Tour.
SnoWest asked Reeves how he planned to keep the momentum going for this season. "What it's going to require is to pick good markets for our shows," he said. "Aside from Las Vegas, we're in strong snowmobile markets."
He added that the riders need to continue to improve to keep the fans coming. "We also need to have our rookie riders increase their skill level," he said. In addition, "We're changing the judging format. We're bringing in extreme sports judges," he said.