Shaun White's Legacy | The Snow League

There's a new game in town. The Snow League contest series is armed with Shaun White and a 1.5 million total dollar prize purse (the largest in snowboard history) and aims to solve the fractured and stagnant state of competitive snowboarding. With aspirations of unification, The Snow League will host its first half pipe contest in 2025 with an updated format and is committed to five events in its first season. Oh, and there will also be skiing.

Read the press release to absorb the details. But, alongside Shaun White is Burton's former VP of Global Integrated Marketing, Ian Warda. Over 17 years at Burton, Ian impacted everything from running the US Open and partnerships to athletes and products. As the Chief Operating Officer at Snow League Ian says his passion has always been in creating shared experiences through events and bringing people together to rally around snowboarding.

There's no debate that competitive snowboarding needs a kick in the ass. We caught up with Ian to get it straight about where The Snow League is coming from and what the future looks like.


What's missing from snowboard events, what they offer, and how will the Snow League be a better experience for competitors and fans?

The idea of a professional league is needed. When I think about other sports out there, the ever globally celebrated sports, and most people could tell you pretty quickly what the professional league is. Who are the top teams or athletes? Where do I watch it? How do I consume the content and follow the competitions? How do I engage as a fan and sort of 'get in'? Who covers it? Where do I buy the merch? All those questions that ladder back up to the organization of the sport and having a defacto league at the most elite level, our sport doesn't have that. If you were to ask that question about snowboarding, it'd be a pretty convoluted story. You have events that have mattered and have been longstanding institutions, but not all of them are still around. So there isn't consistency, there isn't the end-all-be-all platform for competition at the highest level, and you don't have the athletes consistently competing event in, event out and competing for anything meaningful like a world title.

That is what we see that's missing or broken [and what] we're looking to address with The Snow League by introducing our sport and the athletes to a much wider audience, trying to bring in a new fans, and do it in a way that's simple and relatable.


What are the challenges to creating a universally accepted and dominant competition circuit, and why doesn't this already exist?  

It hasn't been possible because everyone's coming at it from different angles with competing priorities. Our issues were always finding common ground and alignment on sponsorship rights, media rights or just simple things like formats and how the events should be run and operated. And everyone always has such strong opinions. So, I realized the likely path was for someone to come in, lead by example, and build something from the ground up.

"there's so much intrigue and drama that's happening. It's our job to really highlight some of those rivalries and stories and the human interest side of things and expose them to a wider audience."

—Ian Warda


What does it take to make that a reality? 

It takes a good amount of capital, it takes the right idea and it takes the right team. All those ingredients need to come together perfectly. It makes a whole lot of sense that it's Shaun [White]. I think he's uniquely positioned to take on the role to galvanize the industry and all the people outside of it who need to see snowboarding as a viable sport and something that has the same potential as any other sport out there from a competitive standpoint with a professional ecosystem, and a business standpoint. And now, with him in a post-retirement place, he wants to give back to the community and the sport that gave him so much. It's clear to me that this is his most important legacy, providing this platform that he knows the next generation of athletes deserves and really solidifying the future of winter sports competition as we charge ahead.


Is there a comparable competition circuit or league you're trying to emulate that you see within or outside of action sports?

I think it's pretty unique in action sports to be honest with you. When we think about reference points and who we aspire to be like I start thinking about entities like Formula One, not really looking too close to what's been done [in action sports]. How we've operated within the sport is a bit of old thinking and needs to be modernized and reimagined. When we think about an international field of athletes, athletes who are stars in their own home countries. These athletes have tremendous star power and they all collectively have this global footprint. We compete and host these events in these incredible resort destinations around the world in places that people dream of going to. Places in Switzerland, the Rockies, in the US and Canada, over in Asia, down in Australia, New Zealand, all of those ingredients combined I think has had successful interest in other sports, whether it be golf or F1. And I think we need to pull ourselves out of some of the old stigma that snowboarding is this counterculture thing that's so hard to understand that people aren't going to attempt to get in under the hood and try to learn more about it because it just seems a bit crazy or that we can't possibly understand what these athletes are doing. I think humanizing the stars of our sport and building protagonists and antagonists and heroes and telling their stories both on and off the snow—there's so much intrigue and drama that's happening. It's our job to really highlight some of those rivalries and stories and the human interest side of things and expose them to a wider audience.



Is there a plan to include events other than halfpipe, and when do you see that happening?

Our first league season will start March of 2025. That event will be in the US and then rolls from there, five events that make up that first league season in about a 12 month span starting in March, 2025. All of those events will be snowboard half pipe events. But ultimately the vision out of that first season as we get into subsequent seasons is to expand across disciplines. So, absolutely, the vision here is to use the platform and bring in slopestyle and then think about including big air and rail events, in fact, and doing that for both snowboarding and freeskiing.


What are you, Shaun, and the team most excited about when introducing Snow League?

Great question. I mean, we've kind of been in stealth mode for quite some time here. I'm incredibly stoked to get it out in the wild and drop this on everyone and start the discussion. Hear from fans, hear from more people connected to the industry, what they want to see as part of it, what the things they love the most about our sport that they want to see more of? What are the things that are missing that they want to see come to reality? I think that discussion and that two-way communication is really exciting to me. And we've recently spoken to all the athletes eligible for spots to compete, everyone is saying the same thing. It's, this is so needed right now. It is so timely. Our sport, snowboarding, from a sport perspective, is at a crossroads here, and this is such an important piece to look into the future and sort of strengthen it and grow it. That's what I'm most excited is trying to do the right thing, what's best for the athletes, what's best for our sport overall, and what's best to bring fans in that care about it that are going to keep it going. One of the things that I'm incredibly proud of is our prize purse. We're going to have a prize purse of a million and a half dollars in the first league season. That's the richest prize purse in the sport. And that's gotten the athletes really charged up. I want to keep pushing that and showing that this is a viable path for athletes to make a living, competing and focusing on their athletic performance and the sport. So they're not feeling like they always chase commercial opportunities to make it work. [For riders] to be completely devoted to their craft, and snowboarding, and being the best you can at that, is a goal of ours.


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