Japanese companies jump on board with Abrams
Heavenly Roller team member to launch his signature model ski next season
By Steve Yingling
He should have been in bed trying to shake a flu bug that was sapping his strength and stealing his voice.
But freestyle skier Brent Abrams didn’t have time to slow down.
Last month, Abrams was spending one of his final days on the South Shore creating a cooperative marketing strategy between ski industries separated by the Pacific Ocean.
His efforts weren’t part of a Lake Tahoe Community College class project. Instead, the rising halfpipe skier was trying to bring together the Japan and U.S. skiing industries as he makes plans to launch his signature model with “Strictly” next season.
Abrams signed a two-year deal with the Strictly, a Japan-based ski company this summer.
“He negotiated this completely on his own. That is super impressive and a credit to his ambition and his intelligence,” said Russ Pecoraro, director of communications for Heavenly Mountain Resort.
The Heavenly High Roller team member carved a niche in the Japanese market through success in international competitions and spending personal time in the country to learn the culture and language. He is the first American to be marketed by Strictly.
“They believe I’m going to be the next-best thing,” Abrams said. “I can reach both markets. They are hoping that I’m going to be the golden boy for them and open up this market for them.
“When I make it to the top, I’m going to make some changes throughout the industry because I’m not your average skier.”
His focus, drive and determination convince a reporter that he’s talking to a Wall Street executive rather than a 21-year-old skier. His favorite book is a dictionary and his long-range plan is to receive a law degree at Harvard. Hardly the qualities of your typical pro skier.
“To get into Harvard you can’t only have a 4.0; you have to have a little more. I’m continuing to build my profile,” said Abrams, who has been accepted to the University of Massachusetts, where he will major in international business.
“If I’m not doing a million things at once, it isn’t enough fun. I enjoy so much more than skiing. I’ve always been multitasking: skiing, training, school, part-time jobs.”
Abrams had become frustrated that he couldn’t procure more American sponsorships, even though he had proven that he was one of the top 10 halfpipe skiers in the world.
“American sponsors never showed their appreciation. Heavenly has been with me since the beginning and they are as frustrated as I am with other American sponsors,” Abrams said. “I’ll balance the publicity I’m getting in Japan with what I get in America.”
The deal with Strictly trigged two more sponsorships for Abrams – Goldwin clothing and SIGR8 gloves.
“They understood the position I’m coming from. My main idea is promotion,” he said.
Now that Abrams has the financial support from at least one ski industry, he can focus on getting ready for his competitive season. And that hasn’t been easy. He’s spent seven months rehabbing his latest knee injury but has returned to the snow and will begin jumping in the pipe later this month.
Abrams’ progression has been evident the past three years. He won the East Coast Open Pipe in 2005, was third in the Aspen Open in 2006 and placed sixth in last year’s U.S. Open.
“Brent has the drive and ambition to succeed and be the best in whatever he does. We’re thankful he’s chosen skiing for right now,” Pecoraro said. “I definitely see him as someone who will make it big on the national stage.”
He also has won competitions in Japan to build a following in that country. All that is missing on his resume is an appearance in the Winter X Games.
“I want to be in the X Games. If I make it through one season without being hurt, I guarantee that I’ll be there the next year,” Abrams said. “But building my profile for Harvard is more important than going to the X Games. The X Games won’t benefit me in the long run, Harvard will.”