There are lots of jumps that can rival the buildings in downtown Denver for height — but not many that are actually right next to those buildings.
That jump is being built right now in Civic Center Park, and on Jan. 25 and 26, it will be the host to a lot of big air.
Big Air Denver is one of a series of ski and snowboard events held around the world, usually at ski resorts, but recently occurring in larger city settings. The most recent was held in Spain, in addition to events in London, Stockholm and Seoul.
Now Denver is the setting for the 106-foot-high, almost 300-foot-long jump, in conjunction with Mile High Snowfest, going on Jan. 25–30.
A collaboration between the Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS), the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA), and the Metro Denver Sports Commission, Big Air is an event unlike any other.
“The idea isn’t to bring another skiing event to the mountains, but to have it in a young, fun event in the city,” says Sue Baldwin, director of new business development for the Metro Denver Sports Commission.
There are two nights of competition. The first, held on Jan. 25 from 5 to 8 p.m., is the Nature Valley Big Air Challenge featuring the Battle of the Brands. This event features three-man teams in a head-to-head single elimination challenge. The three brands committed to sending skiers so far are Icelantic, Armada and Volkl. Athletes competing for each team have yet to be announced, though Tom Wallisch, Freeskier’s Skier of the year for 2010, has committed to the event.
The second night will feature the LG FIS World Cup Snowboard Big Air. This event is unique because it’s the first snowboard World Cup Big Air to be held in the United States. It will be an individual competition, with teams from Austria, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Switzerland and the United States all sending competitors.
“That’s kind of exciting because it is the first World Cup Big Air in the U.S,” says Eric Webster, event coordinator for USSA. “People are coming from all over the world to compete in Denver.”
USSA, the national governing agency for skiing and snowboarding, is handling the competition aspects of the event, and in doing so, hopes to encourage more slopestyle events.
“The effort on our side is to support FIS freestyle events in North America with a long-term goal of getting slopestyle into the Olympics,” Webster says.
Slopestyle events are those in both snowboarding and skiing where participants try to land tricks with style and height. Slopestyle has gained popularity, and is especially popular at the X Games, another ski and snowboard competition, which will be held in Aspen Jan. 27 through Jan. 30. Many athletes will fly into Colorado for both events.
As far as Big Air goes, though, participants should be able to get a lot of air — and a lot of exposure. As many as 10,000 tickets can be sold to the event, and it looks like the park will fill up, Baldwin says.
“Denver is a last-minute market,” she says.
“As soon as that construction started, it’s been mad here.”
Adding to the madness, Big Air just announced concerts to accompany the events. The ski competition on Tuesday will feature Switchfoot after the awards, and the snowboard competition has OneRepublic as its top billing, playing between the heats of the competition and the finals.
The SnowSports Industry America Snow Show will also be going on Jan. 27-30. Not open to the public, the SIA Snow Show is the largest snow sports retail exhibition in the world, and garners a lot of attention and around 19,000 exhibitors hungry for more snow-going activities.
“SIA was looking for more activities around that time,” Baldwin says.
So Big Air, nestled between the Snow Show and the X Games, is ideal for observers, but not as great for athletes.
“The USSA has done a Herculean effort of lining up practice and event schedules so that if the athletes wanted, they can do both,” Baldwin says. “It’s not ideal for them to be one day apart, but it really works around SIA.”
Between Big Air, the SIA Snow Show and X Games, Colorado is cementing its reputation as a hotbed for snow-related activity.
“It only helps to grow skiing and snowboarding’s profile into a bigger community,” Baldwin says. “Our goal is to make the event a little more mainstream, and widen the fan base.”
Tickets to the event are available at www.bigairdenver.com, and are $45 for each night, or $80 for both nights. The Denver Sports Commission has issued a promotion to Boulder Weekly readers that takes $15 off the ticket price, and offers a $99 family four-pack, hoping to widen that fan base even further. Enter “15offbigair” in the promo code box on the website before making any purchases.
Big Air promises to be a big event for anyone interested in skiing and snowboarding, or just for an event unlike any other Denver has seen before.
“In normal cases, [Big Air events] are at a resort,” said Webster. “Because this is a steel structure in downtown Denver, it brings a lot more attention to it. It really sets this apart from other events scheduled throughout the season.”