If Simon Dumont ever wonders what his impact is on the sport of free skiing, all he has to do is look at the growth of his annual event, the Dumont Cup at Sunday River.
In its sixth year, the Dumont Cup has become a can’t-miss for the sport’s brightest stars. This year’s slopestyle event, to be held Friday and Saturday on T72 – Sunday River’s new 15-acre terrain park – will include the three slopestyle medalists from the recent Sochi Winter Olympics: Joss Christensen (gold), Gus Kenworthy (silver) and Nick Goepper (bronze).
That those three also boasted podium finishes at last year’s Dumont Cup – Goepper first, Kenworthy second, Christensen third – says volumes about the talent that will be on the mountain this weekend.
“It’s going to be a good one,’’ said Dumont, who has spent several late nights this week getting the course ready. “It’s nice to have those guys back. And it’s really just gravy that it comes after the Olympics.’’
That’s because this event features more than just some of the top slopestyle skiers in the world vying for $20,000 in prize money. It gives a chance for an unknown amateur to make a name or to prove himself. There are 97 amateurs slated to compete in Friday’s qualifier. Forty will advance to Saturday’s semifinals.
“This is an opportunity to showcase our young talent,’’ said Dumont.
Among that talent is Goepper, who just turned 20. He has competed in four Dumont Cups, finishing fourth his first year, then first, second and first again last year.
Contacted on his way to Bethel and Sunday River, he said this event has “turned into a professional level that is the same as the X Games.
“All the big players are going to be here this year,’’ he said. “It’s going to be real exciting. Coming after the Olympics, it’s the next big contest.’’
One of the things that attracts the big players, he said, is the location.
Most of the sport’s biggest events are on the West Coast. “I love coming to this event because I love coming to Maine, to get away from the craziness of the West Coast,’’ said Goepper.
He’s also here because of Dumont.
The sport of free skiing is a close community, where competitors are friends. The 27-year-old Dumont, who was raised in Bethel and attended Telstar Regional High, is called the godfather of the sport by his younger rivals. He created many of the moves they now use. So when he calls – and he invites each professional personally – they come.
“When he first called, it was like, ‘Man, this legendary free skier is putting on his own event,’ ’’ said Goepper. “I had to be there. To be affiliated with an event put on by Simon Dumont was a big deal.’’
Dumont created the Dumont Cup because he wanted to showcase his home mountain and give young skiers a chance to compete against the best. Originally it was created for regional skiers, but it is now recognized as a platinum-rated slopestyle event by the Association of Freeskiing Professionals and attracts some of the best in the world.
“I was hoping to just make it better every year,’’ said Dumont. “I know we don’t have a huge prize purse. But I’ve tried to make this the best course I could to keep everyone coming back and having fun.’’
Sunday River gladly jumped on. “They built their own run for the Dumont Cup,’’ said Dumont. “It was cool to see their commitment to not only me, but free skiing. It’s nice to see that their vision was aligned with mine.’’
Darcy Morse, the director of communications at Sunday River, said it was an opportunity the mountain couldn’t pass.
“It was an opportunity to work with Simon and promote our terrain park for what is the largest free skiing event in the East,’’ she said. “We’ve put a lot of focus onto our terrain park the last couple of years.’’
And this year they’ve made it even better, with the construction of T72. Dumont, working with Snow Park Technologies of Nevada (one of the world’s top course manufacturers), designed the course.
Goepper said the Dumont Cup simply gives the sport more exposure.
“It’s cool because it gets a lot of the top riders to come to New England,’’ he said. “But it’s also good for our industry. There are a lot of good young riders in the East and they’re the pipeline for our sport.
“My brother (12-year-old Jason) is going to compete. It’s an open format and if you’re an up-and-coming rider, if you think you’ve got what it takes, this is kind of like a proving ground.’’
In addition to the Olympic medalists, the Dumont Cup will feature Olympians Bobby Brown and Torin Yater-Wallace, McRae Williams, Alex Schlopy, Matt Walker, Alex Beaulieu-Marchand, Chris Laker, Vinnie Gagnier, P.K. Hunder and Kai Mahler.
Dumont won’t compete. He was vying for a spot on the U.S. Olympic half-pipe team when he tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in the next-to-last Olympic qualifying event. After six surgeries in the last two years, he has semi-retired. He will be an announcer at his event.
Recovery is going fine.
“It is what it is,’’ said Dumont. “Everything feels good. It’s just nice to be able to be on the mountain rather than in the gym every minute of the day.’’
Mike Lowe can be reached at 791-6422 or at: