There is sponsorship, and there is being a rep. I've been both and none, both have their advantages and disadvantages.
First, sponsorship exists at many levels. At the low levels - folks just recieve a board or skis every now and then, and maybe some T-Shirts, hats, stickers and such. For enthusiastic kids this is a big deal and so its worth it to them.
As was mentioned by C-Dubs above - you get into this loop through shameless self promotion. You need to make it clear that not only are you good, but that LOTS of people are *seeing* you be good (on film, in competitions and such) so that it will benefit the company to have you seen on their products.
If you are not getting media coverage, and/or entering and doing at least fairly well in lots of competitions - you'll find that even low level sponsorship is not going to happen.
The levels of sponsorship go up from there, with folks getting lots of equipment, plane tickets and other travel expenses and even straight paychecks from the sponsoring companies. You need to be getting LOTS of media attention and placing in the top of LOTS of compeitions to get to this level.
Being a rep means that you are essentially an on-snow salesperson for a company. You get free and discounted gear from a company, and you can give discounts to other competitors/professionals. You need to either be a serious competitor or an on-snow professional to be a rep. The benefits are not as big as being sponsored, but then again you don't have to be winning stuff and be in the limelight to qualify.
All of this of course varies greatly from company to company, its a private agreement between a company and a skier - so there are no solid rules concerning this.
<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 26, 2002 09:30 AM: Message edited 1 time, by Todd M. ]</font>