Red Bull Playstreets re-visited

Red Bull Playstreets re-visited

Words and Photos by Chris O’Connell

I guarantee that this contest would NEVER happen in North America.

One word: Liability.

Yes, it’s super sketchy. Scaffolding built jumps with drop offs that could end thirty feet down into the crowd (best case) or maybe into some concrete and hand rails (not so good case). But after all, it’s Europe and it’s a weird concept but they actually believe that you are responsible for your own actions. There aren’t many closure signs and if you don’t know where you are going on a ski hill you could end up in an icy chute that ends in a 200 foot cliff, so what’s the big deal with a sketchy little ramp in the middle of a city? Oh well, no one got hurt because they are all pro and had plenty of time to get the course dialed and put on a good show for the 5000 people that showed up to watch.

The concept is amazing: a slopestyle course down the middle of a city street. Add to that, it’s the main winter European holiday time. Thousands of people converge from all over Europe converge on a small Austrian Town by the name of Bad Gastein. It’s a recipe for an epic comp: big crowds in a good mood and they don’t even have to leave the bar to watch.

Bad Gastein, Austria is historically known as the vacation home of the ‘Former Empire’ as one local told me (read: Hitler and his bros). But now, it’s second home to scores of Danish, Swedish and UK people on a party mission, maybe it’s just me, but I am going to say that’s much more exciting.

Athletes came from all over the world: Japan, Australia, USO (United States of Obama), and all over Europe. Russ Henshaw finally took the crown after two consecutive years of second place finishes. The quality of skiing that is happening now in Europe has advanced light years and names like Paddy Graham, Elias Ambhul and Tobi Tritscher are going to be making their way westward over the coming years.

I am going to make the call that Playstreets is one of the best comps of the year once again. Arnold Schwarzenegger would be proud of his home country. It may not have the biggest jumps or the sickest pipe, but there is nothing else like it and Red Bull does an absolutely amazing job with pulling this thing off. If you happen to be in Austria in February, it’s a must stop for a quick weekend getaway.

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