Interview: Melanie Schönthier
ONBOARD: The Austrian Rookie Challenge (ARC) is attracting some of the best European rookies each year. Since when is the event taking place and what makes it different to other contests?
Thomas Alton: The ARC exists since 6 years and a major difference to other contests is the international invitation happening, which means “only invited riders can attend the contest. Every brand sends its best rookies and we´ll make a park, night and backcountry sessions. In the evening we are having dinner all together and the whole atmosphere is like being on holidays - no contest stress at all.
- Why do you have three different sessions and do the riders like this concept?
We have a completely different approach than usual contests. We want to give those upcoming new talents the chance to ride without any stress. This year´s winner David Bertschinger comment on the event: “I was never ever treated that well at a contest!“ Riders and press are enjoying a relaxed weekend, that´s how it should be. Just chasing contest after contest and wait nervously at the start doesn´t have anything to do with snowboarding for me.
- What is your aim with the ARC? Which possibilities do the riders get by attending the ARC?
Most important is that all kids are riding together and having fun and that rookies from different nations meet each other. There is also the chance for the kids to bag some nice shots, do some interviews and catch up with the finest European magazines. All of this and especially the cooperation with the Ästhetiker are pushing the kids to the next level. Besides some cash, they can win a ticket for the WÄNGL TÄNGL jam, the Rookie Festival Final Ticket, a Rockstar drink contract and more…
- Are there any champs who attended the ARC when they were still young?
For sure, for example Peter König, Marc Swoboda, David Bertschinger or Niki Korpella – all of them already have a nice career and their level is still increasing.
- The ARC 2009 was accompanied by heavy snowfalls! How was the contest in general?
We were lucky as things didn't turn out worse. In the beginning of the week we got 70 cm pow at only one day... AS if the 1,10 m we got the days before were not enough, ha ha!
- How did this year´s ARC weekend look like?
Friday: Everybody arrives. Saturday: 4.30 waking up / 5:00 am in the park, another 20 cm snow over night. But the guys from the park did such a good shape job that all 40 kids were just stoked (thanks Gottfried, you are the world´s best cat driver)! Park session started, sun came out until 1 p.m., perfect visibility and everybody stoked. For the night session we had a sick set up with new wooden obstacles and the riders didn´t want to stop! Puuh Saturday done! 18 hours in my boots, that´s enough. My feet were wrinkled, you don´t want to imagine what they looked like. Some party, then it was time for bed. Sunday: More fresh pow and still super motivated kids…. In groups of four they hit the backcountry and we had to delay the price giving for an hour because the kids didn´t want to leave the poweder! In the evening I was so happy that the rookies were all happy about their sick prizes and that the ARC once again was a successful event!
- How many riders participated and who was killing it?
There were 40 riders from all brands but here is the official ranking:
Overall Winner: David Bertschinger (Volcom) Best Railtrick: David Struber (Rome) Best Trick: Simon Pircher (Völkl) Best Style: David Bertschinger (Volcom) Best Youngblood: TK Tim Kevin Ravnjak (Burton) Best Chicken: Miriam Hoffmann (DC)
- The ARC is your “baby" – when was the idea for this event formed and how did convince the industry of your idea? Why is it still called Austrian Rookie Challenge when there are riders from all over Europe?
The idea was born during the time of my civil service… But not out of boredom, I just tried to create an easy, stress free contest with a programme, like the three sessions of the ARC. Through all the contacts I made while working in a shop, I was able to the team managers directly and show them my concept. I was stoked that most of them liked it. In the beginning it was just an event for my fellow countrymen. Because of the positive vibe at the contest word spread pretty fast, riders from other countries got interested and wanted to join as well. Like that it became an international contest. But there’s one good reason to leave the name as Austrian Rookie Challenge: the contest takes place in Damüls in Austria! So it’s still an Austrian challenge!
-Does the ARC continue 2010 and in which direction do you want this event to go?
We were part of the TTR for two years, but that didn’t bring us many advantages. So no we’re thinking about doing it without such a big association. Lack of ideas or concepts is our least problem. We’re looking forward to our next ARC in 2010 and with some media support we’ll have an amazing challenge once again.
Thanks a lot!