At 33, Tell A Friend Tour founder Andy Parry can hardly be considered a kid. But he knows how to connect with youngsters in terrain parks throughout New England, and from coast to coast, which makes him something of a Pied Piper to the next generation of tricksters.
“The Tell A Friend Tour was created out of a need,” said Parry, who helped launch the Line Traveling Circus in 2008. “Skiing at one point had no demo-style tours, no events that were just about having fun and progressing your skiing with a group of like-minded people.
“If I wasn’t going to do it, no one would,” he said.
Parry, a Buffalo native who now calls Portland, Ore., home, and Timberline his home mountain, spends a considerable amount of his time with the Tell A Friend Tour, which annually kicks off right after New Year’s Day and includes a number of New England dates in January. The cross-America tour, he said, is the perfect vehicle to give back to the sport.
“If you get kids stoked on skiing, hopefully they’ll keep skiing, and make it part of their lives,” Parry said. “They’ll in turn make it part of their kids’ lives at some point. That’s good for everyone.”
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Parry was introduced to skiing relatively late in life. Born in western New York, Parry grew up in Victor, N.Y., and was 14 years old when he made his first turns at Bristol Mountain.
“I went a few times that year, and the next year got a night pass, and joined the school ski club,” said Parry. “During my second year of skiing I started to try jumps, and stuff like that.
“I think the freedom (that skiing offers) really drew me in,” said Parry. “There’s something primal about being able fly down the side of a mountain that’s really attractive. I think that makes up part of the fun for me.”
Things clicked quickly for Parry. He never really got into snowboarding (“but my friends and I would trade every once and a while”) or racing gates. It was the terrain park that called its siren’s song to Parry, early and often.
“The fun is the challenge of learning a new trick, being around friends, and the freedom to develop your own unique style/tricks,” he said. “It’s really awesome to see kids learn new tricks, because I know how good it feels to land something that you’ve been thinking about or tried for a while.”
Parry admittedly was never an aficionado of huge air. Instead, he found an artistry within the confines of the park elements.
“Rails are definitely my thing, mainly weird and different grinds that helped me stick out,” he said. “It was out of necessity, because I was getting hurt too often trying the biggest spin, or an urban rail I had no business hitting.
“I figured small and creative was the way to go if everyone else was going for big and gnarly,” said Parry. “If you’re not the best, be different.”
Parry was different enough, and talented enough, to do something most skiers only dream about — travel the world and make a living on the slopes and in the parks. Early on, he was influenced by Canadian Dave Crichton — “probably my all-time favorite skier” — and the Line Skis team, which he eventually joined.
At the urging of Parry and a high school friend, Will Wesson, Line launched the Traveling Circus. The project was envisioned as a counterpoint to big-budget ski films and online webisodes, documenting the adventures (and misadventures) of professional skiers both on and off local hills. The series epitomizes the “ski bum lifestyle” and the ultimate quest for snow, eventually expanding from North America resorts to include European locations.
“My biggest achievement is being a ‘pro’ skier without ever doing a double,” said Parry with a laugh. “At a time when it’s common to see 15-year-olds doing Dub 12s after three years of park riding, I think it’s an achievement that I’m still relevant.”
Film, and video, of course, can help make anyone a star, and help keep them relevant. Parry was and is a fan of ski films, studying them as a teenager.
“Filming was a big part of my progression as a skier,” he said. “We used to watch old Poor Boyz and Level 1 movies, and then want to go out and try the stuff they did.
“In the end, I think those really helped push our group of skiers, because we wanted to be just like the skier in those movies,” said Parry.
Soon, Parry was showcasing his evolving skill-set in similar movies and videos. “I filmed with Meathead films for a few years, and started Line Traveling Circus in 2008,” he said. “The Tell A Friend Tour came about three or four years after we started Traveling Circus.”
Today, Parry continues to spend much of his time on the road, supported by long-time booster Line and a number of sponsors, like Kulkea ski bags. During the New England leg of the tour, Killington remains one of Parry’s favorite destinations, a “Back to the Future” nod to his college days.
“I went to Green Mountain College — rest in peace — which had a partnership with Killington, so it’s really fun to go back,” he said. “A lot of our location choices over the last few years have been skier-driven.
“I think the best vibes are at the rope-tow parks,” said Parry. “Everything is in a smaller space, so you can see what everyone else is doing.”
Ultimately, the goal of the Tell A Friend Tour, said Parry, is to celebrate the camaraderie that skiing, and playing in the parks, naturally engenders.
“We want to create a fun and mellow environment for people,” he said. “You can come and try to keep up with the ‘pros,’ or just hang back, watch and grab a slice of pizza.
“It’s a way to get people together, and that is one of the fundamental aspects of freeskiing,” said Parry. “It leads to people progressing their skiing, meeting new people and having fun.”
There’s little question that skiing is a part of Parry’s DNA. As much as he loves the park, he’s not a one-trick pony. If there’s snow, and an incline, he’s good to go.
“I like skiing powder over anything else,” he said. “I think any skier or snowboarder would say that.
“It just stinks that you need to be in the right place at the right time to get a good powder day,” said Parry. “I also spend two months out of my ski season in the East Coast and Midwest, so my pow days are really limited.”
Parry’s loss is undeniably a big gain for young freestylers. The tour is clearly a labor of love. It also gives Parry, who readily admits he has “no idea” what he’ll be doing once his professional ski career concludes, a clear sense of purpose. But it has its challenges.
“Every year I say, ‘This is it. Company X bailed, or I lost X sponsor,’ ” said Parry. “But here I am, planning on traveling 15,000 miles in a van going to two dozen ski resorts to hang out with the future generation of freeskiers.
“I’m not sure how long this is going to last,” he said. “The interest for the event grows every year, so I think it can go on for a while longer. And I might as well see how long I can go.”
Tell A Friend Tour — 2020 Northeast, Leg 1
Jan. 4 – Killington, Vt.
Jan. 5 – Mount Snow, Vt
Jan. 9 – Wachusett Mountain, Mass.
Jan. 10 – Ski Sundown, Conn.
Jan. 11 – Waterville Valley, N.H.
Jan. 12 – Cannon Mountain, N.H.