Steve Fisher, 28, was cut from the pro team at Sims Snowboards and according to an article on espn.com claims that he was dropped due to his age, instead of his performance.
Fisher placed third in this year’s Winter Dew Tour, just one week after being cut from Sims. This is his third year on the podium at the Winter Dew Tour, placing second during the previous two years.
Fisher claims that Sims’ decision to cut him is illustrative of the industry’s habit of “actively pushing out” the older, veteran snowboarders because they lose their marketability and do not work in the youth-driven market.
Sims team manager, Carly Williams has disputed Fisher’s claims, arguing that his performance has not been up to par. She cites that Fisher’s editorial coverage has decreased and that he has not been sufficiently active in team camps and volunteer days. Williams has also argued that Fisher does not compete on the Grand Prix circuit and that he was not invited to the X Games.
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“There’s just a real misconception that snowboarding is based on family values, when in actuality, it’s just like any other industry — it’s cutthroat,” he said. “They are willing to sell you out for the next big kid, the moment he starts winning amateur contests.”
“It’s pretty amazing what these companies get away with,” he added.
JJ Thomas, Fisher’s teammate on the Breckenridge Freeride Team, wasn’t ready to go that far, even though he experienced a similar fate two years ago. After representing Ride Snowboards for most of his pro career, Thomas, the 2002 Olympic bronze medalist and a past X Games champion, was dropped by the brand in 2009. He then went on to win the 2010 Dew Cup and placed second overall this year.
Thomas, however, presents a different case than Fisher in that he spent five years in the middle of his career filming strong segments in the backcountry instead of riding halfpipes. “When I went back into competitive snowboarding in my later 20s, that’s when my sponsors kissed me goodbye,” he said.
“They don’t tell you your age is an issue, but it’s just like any sport,” added Thomas, who turns 30 in April and plans to try and qualify for the 2014 Olympics. “What they tell you is they’re looking for a future for their brand, and the future is cheaper.” In essence, brands can often get two upstart riders for the price of one established one.
Thomas continued: “Here’s what I will say about age: It gets tougher as you get older. When you’re 19 or 20 and you have a bad year, you can keep your sponsors. But if you’re 27, 28 and you slip up, people are quicker to write you off.”