Inaugural events are always a special challenge. When your event is a downtown Big Air in Denver, well, it's a doubly-special challenge. So many unforeseen elements go into these shows, and many variables are oftentimes are out of your control (weather for example).
With that in mind, I'm pleased to report that the first ever Denver Big Air went down without a hitch. More over, it was actually awesome. From the general chatter in the crowd, to the smiles and high fives of event organizers, to the first hand reports from athletes, it was clear that this event was a smashing success.
We also experienced record traffic on our website (most people on the site at one time) as people were tuning in to the live stream; a clear indication that people were digging the action.
I arrived at 5:00 PM yesterday just in time for practice. I had the chance to climb up to the top of the 106 ft. scaffolding; the view from up there was amazing. I spoke with the athletes in between their training runs, and they gave me the low down on how things were going.
LJ Strenio remarked, "these guys definitely did their homework on scaffolding jumps. This thing has no issues, which is absolutely unheard of for a city big air."
As the evening wore on, spectators continued to flood the base of the jump, and before too long, it was time for the exhibition rounds.
A small crowd gathered for practice.
What, no elevator?
Mitch Gillman Dropping In Hot
It was dubbed the Battle of the Brands. Fourteen teams were on hand with three athletes apiece. In the first round, each competitor had one jump to wow the judges. It was a low-pressure atmosphere, as this round was in place simply to create a bracket for the elimination rounds which followed.
Battle of the Brands
4FRNT — 1. Espen Bergh 2. Will Berman 3. Andy Partridge
Armada — 1. Spencer Milbocker 2. Alex Bellemare 3. Ben Moxham
Colorado All-Stars –- 1. Cody Ling 2. Nate Berkel 3. Kolby Ward
Faction Skis — 1. Simon D'Atois 2. Andrew Matthews 3. Grant Savidge
Full Tilt Boots — 1. Kim Boberg 2. Mike Hornbeck 3. Auden Linnerud
HEAD — 1. Christian Allen 2. Lucas Evan 3. Brendan Wall
K2 – 1. Sean Jordan 2. Aleks Aurdal 3. Ole Mustad
Line — 1. Joss Christensen 2. LJ Strenio 3. Mitch Gillman
Marker-Volkl – 1. Lyman Currier 2. Nick Goepper 3. Carson Lehouillier
Moment Skis — 1. Sandy Boville 2. Sean Collin 3. Shay Lee
Nordica — 1. Dane Grashuis 2. Evan Schwartz 3. John Spriggs
Rookie Team Revolution Tour — 1. Cody Cirillo 2. Tanner Coulter 3. Rick Keefer
Scott — 1. Karl Fostvedt 2. Tim McChesney 3. Joe Schuster
Tecnica Blizzard —
1. Charlie Lasser
2. Kiffor Berg
3. Aidan Sheahan
When it came time for the elimination round, the competitive vibe revved up big time. The format was head-to-head; one athlete per team would throw down, and a skier from the opposing team would follow up. The teams and their managers began to talk strategy, and it became somewhat like a giant game. It was fun to watch, for sure.
Match Up # 1: Faction Skis v. Colorado All-Stars
Faction came out firing, with a double flat spin from D'Artois, and a nice switch 10 mute from Grant Savidge. Matthews took a spill however on a rodeo 9, and left the gate open for the Colorado All-Stars to advance into the next round. Nate Berkel made sure not to blow their chance, and sent a nice big misty 5 for the win.
Match Up # 2: Marker-Volkl v. Scott
Lyman Currier and Nick Goepper both went down, leaving Scott with an an easy pass to the next stage.
Match Up # 3: Technica Blizzard v. Line
The Tecnica Blizzard team gave a valiant effort. Sheehan crashed on a switch double attempt, and Lasser went down too. Kiffor Berg (the oldest competitor present) sent a nice big superman front for good measure, but it was team Line who advanced.
Match Up # 4: Head v. Armada
Team Head came out swinging, with some nice jumps from Allen and Wall, and double front flip (mega crowd pleaser) from Lucas Evan. Some serious double flipping action from team Armada however trumped their efforts, and it was game over for Head.
Match Up # 5: Rookie Team Rev Tour v. Moment
The Moment team struggled, as all three competitors washed out on their landings. All that was left for the Rookies was to land halfway decent tricks, and so they did…
Match Up # 6: Nordica v. Full Tilt
Schwartz and Grashuis played it safe, throwing down 720 maneuvers. Spriggs, on the other hand, sent a double cork 12 to the bottom of the landing and stomped it clean (he ended up winning "Best Trick"). The Full Tilt boys upped the ante, throwing various 1080's, and their efforts were good enough for the win.
4FRNT and K2 advanced to the next round with a by.
2nd Elimination Round:
Match Up # 1: K2 v. Colorado All-Stars
Kolby Ward sent a switch dub 9 and nearly caught his tips. Woah! Ole Mustad threw a rodeo 5 to ensure a solid landing, and a point for team K2. Nate Berkel threw a cork 9 double tail grab that made all the ladies comment on his flexibility. Sean Jordan followed up with a massive switch dub 10 mute. Cody Ling dropped in next, sending an epic dub 12 mute that resulted in lots of cow bells filling the air with noise. Aleks Aurdal was last to go, and launched a stellar dub 10 mute.
The athletes gathered in the corral and waited on the judges. Each team was designated a color (green or yellow), and the way they'd announce who won was to light up the city hall with the corresponding color. Pretty neat, eh? Props to whoever came up with that idea. Anyways, the building turned green, and K2 won!
Match Up # 2: 4FRNT v. Armada
Spencer Milbocker opened things up with a nice Kangaroo Flip. Will Berman hoped to keep things even, but went down on a switch dub 10. Bellemare went dub 12 tail, and 14-year-old Partridge sent a nice cork 9. Moxham then dub 10 muted, and Bergh followed up with a cork 10 mute.
Once again, the athletes huddled in the corral, and all of a sudden, the building flashed yellow. Armada advances.
Match Up # 3: Scott v. Line
McChesney wowed the crowd with a double 12 mute, and LJ said, "not so fast" throwing an equally impressive switch dub 10, landing immaculately. Karl Fostvedt took a hefty spill, getting mixed up somewhere between flip #1 and flip #2. Joss Christensen played it safe with a cork 5, and Line advanced.
Match Up # 4: Full Tilt v. Rookie Team Rev Tour
Swedish sensation Kim Boberg crashed on a switch 10, and Cirillo barely hung on to a double cork 12. Hornbeck sent a perfect cork 9 mute (as he had done all night long, and in my opinion he had the most consistent "good style" throughout the whole night) while Coulter threw a switch 9 nose. Linnerud went 10 tail, and Keefer finished up with a switch cork 10. It was a close call, but Full Tilt advanced.
When the elimination rounds had finished up, the band Switchfoot came out to play a set. They rocked the crowd, and snow began to fall during the show. Chill music, amazing lights all over the place, people having a good time with their friends, snow gently falling… it was sort of majestic. Can I say that out loud?
Nice view from the deck.
Taken a few nights prior to the event. Gives you an idea of what it looked like from up top. P: Sue Baldwin
Hornbeck Cork 9 Mute.
Front row, baby! Actually this is more like 2nd row, I guess.
Epic light show.
Quick video of the light show… since the photos don't quite do it justice.
Match up # 1: K2 v. Line
That majestic feeling quickly disappeared when semis started up. Joss opened things up with a switch dub 10, but he crashed. Ole Mustad could have landed an easy trick to secure a point, but he sent a double flat spin, caught his tips, and took by far the worst spill of the night. LJ came next and landed a clean switch dub 10. Sean Jordan bobbled on his landing, and so it all came down to Aleks Aurdal. He landed a nice double cork 10 mute, but it wasn't enough to beat LJ… Line moves on!
Match up # 2: Armada v. Full Tilt
Spencer Milbocker said, "what's up Denver?" as he soared through the air on a Kangaroo flip. Boberg went down once again on his Switch 10, and Bellemare put an exclamation point on his double cork 12. Solid execution. Hornbeck did what he does best (epic cork 9's) and Ben Moxham sent a double 10 mute that made the crowd go wild. Linnerud finished things up with a cork 10 tail. Armada advances.
Milbocker opened 'er up again with nice kangy. Joss said, "try this one out for size," and sent a nice switch dub 10 and landed perfectly. Bellemare landed an epic double cork 12, and LJ said, "no way, José," as he laid down a flawless switch dub 10.
Moxham was next, landing his double cork like he had all night long, and boom, that was it. (You may notice Line had only two riders, that's because Mitch Gillman got hurt in the prelims… but the team continued to advance, and they thereby had only had 2 chances each round to best the top 2 scores from the other team's 3 guys. Makes sense? Perfect).
The crowd eagerly awaited the judges decision, and then, breaking the silence, announcer-extraordinaire Luke Van Valin belted out into the night, in that deep, rumbling voice of his, "and the winner is… team Armada!" [Enter imaginary fireworks here].
The fans went wild, prizes were delgated, podium photos were taken, and interviews were conducted. The crowd slowly began to clear out, many of them headed to the bars to continue celebrating. Although it was a Tuesday night, there was some Saturday night fever in the air, for sure.
"For a scaffolding jump, it's the best I've ever hit. The landing was immaculate. For sure the best Big Air that's ever been held in the U.S." – Joss Christensen
"So legit, funnest event I've ever done." – Spencer Milbocker
Armada's Spencer Milbocker, en route to the podium.
Awaiting the judges decision in the corral.
Joss Christensen and LJ Strenio of Team Line.
"Best Trick" winner, John Spriggs.
Ben Moxham, Alex Bellemare, and Spencer Milbocker of Team Armada.