Air and Styling…in Innsbruck

Last Saturday the Billabong Air and Style was on for its sixteenth installment at the famous Bergisel Olympic ski jump site overlooking the city. With a rejig of our plans for the magazine trip through the Czech Republic, we booted down via Munich to arrive in Innsbruck on Saturday afternoon to try and cheer for our mate, Robbie Walker, who was one of the invited final 16 pro-riders.

Dane and Jeremy hadn’t been to Innsbruck before, so we did a little bit of sightseeing through the old town before dinner and making our way up to the ski jump site which was lit up on the hill like a christmas tree, music echoing across the valley. The Innsbruck Air and Style is an absolute snowboarding institution, and something I have always wanted to experience. It began in 1994, quickly becoming one of the biggest and best snowboarding competitions in the world. Crowds of up to 45,000 crazy spectators were attending the event in 1999 when six people were crushed to death in a panic of people trying to exit, and so it has only been the last couple of years (afrer some renovations) that the Air&Style is being held back at it’s original home. It is now joined as a TTR World Snowboarding Tour 6 Star event with it’s sister events in Beijing and Munich.

So I had some sort of idea what to expect, but I was not prepared for the absolute party that the night was: 15,000 crazy, neon-bright mostly-teens drinking, dancing, partying, and pashing while nightclub-loud beats blared across the amphitheatre and ol’ school punk rockers, Pennywise, belted out a killer set. Then of course, there was the snowboarding…

Ridiculous is not a strong enough word to describe the antics on show. Unfortunately Robbie was knocked-out in his first round head-to-head clash with eventual second-placegetter (and last year’s TTR Overall World Tour Champion), Peetu Piiroinen. The current level of big air snowboarding is at a level that was unfathomable just a few years ago. I think I only witnessed on swtich backside 900, with all other tricks being 1080 double corks, 1260 corks and flat spins every which-way, and Sage Kotsenburg landing the first ever cab 1440 double cork in competition!!! What.The.Fuck?!! Check out the footage here.

Little Mark McMorris, who was down at Stylewars last year, was a deserved winner however, stomping super huge and super stylish 1260 double corks (or late cork according to some) all night long. Check out this footage to see how it looked from his point of view. Insane!

I was only able to hook myself up a free grand stand ticket, so all the photos below are taken frmo amongst the heaving scrum of dancing crowd. And i’ve got to say, my four-year-old Canon EOS 1D MkIIN struggled a little with ‘noise” in the low light trying to shoot at 1600 and 3200 ISO, but I’m still pretty happy with the few shots I snapped before I put the camera down to watch the superfinal four riders without being obscured by a lens. If I was to shoot more of these events it might be worth a $5000 investment in the newer MkIV Canon. And having said that, after the Innsbruck Air and Style experience, I am changing my plans so I can head up to Munich this Saturday evening for the Nike 6.0 Air and Style final. It should be epic is this footage is anything to go by.