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.


Last week the yearly installment of Stylewars rollicked drunkenly up through the snow-laden streets of Falls Creek to the Snowdrift Lodge, and I was fortunate enough to secure a berth in the party house. Stylewars is not quite the same since the glory years in at Silverski, and this year it was dealt even harsher cards with Thredbo’s MTV SnowJam cutting it two days shorter, and then four days of whiteouts and blizzards. Reuben and Matto had built some excellent and photogenic features over on Ruined Castle: a 70 foot step-down jump into an 80 foot true-table/step-down jump, alongside the big wall-ride, 40 foot down rail, and raised gap-to-butter box. Take a look at the photos that were snapped on Sunday here. There was perhaps a slight, short weather-window late Monday afternoon, but for basically the whole event window the low clouds swirled and the snow fell…hard.

So no competition could be held out in Ruined Castle, and the only snowboarding action for Stylewars was a two-hour rail jam practice session, and then the short Wednesday night “28 Stairs” rail jam held under puking, dumping snow.

So with the weather not cooperating, take a guess as to what 50 or so pro-riders, photographers, videographers, journalists, judges and organisers did for four days cooped up in a hotel? I think Ryan Tiene’s Facebook status said it best : “big week in falls did 4 runs in 4 days and drank way 2 much!

The lazy days were spent forlornly looking at the falling snow which cancelled the comp, then amping up to take some free pow laps through the trees on slow-running, wind-affected chairlifts, then coming back inside when your face became too frozen and getting into the swing of the nightly music and parties…and maybe finishing it off with a sneaky late-night spa. A lot of the crew entered the Room of Doom where feverish games of the Devil’s Dice were running continuously, forcing the unlucky roller to smash down shots of some sort of evil spirit or another. Before even many of the crew had arrived on the Sunday night, the Devil’s Dice had taken its toll, forcing the eviction of several drunken riders from the pub, leaving one knocked out when his head was used to open the front door, and another with a police warning for smashing a beer bottle and threatening to use it on the offending meat-head bouncer. Demon drink indeed! Others got off more lightly, but still paid the price for choosing alcohol over snowboarding. Tuesday night was Dane Tiene’s 21st birthday, and we all threw in some money to get a special show from Albury. We all waited patiently in the Snowdrift’s lounge while the boys played dice, but while the wait was too much for some, eventually the devilish weather even put a stop to these extra-curricular shenanigans, closing the road from Albury with too much snow! So it was off to the pub again…

Fortunately, as an elder statesmen, I took it a little easier, but still managed to get into trouble, ollie-ing over a snow bank on the home trail and failing to notice a branch up above, smashing my head and requiring 5 stitches down in the medical centre. Feeling a little dazed, and with the craziest snowfalls I have ever seen in Australia falling on Wednesday, I gave the 28 Stairs rail jam a miss. Officially, 54cm of snow fell at Falls that Wednesday, the biggest since 1993, and when I went to get my car out Thursday it was almost totally buried by the more-than-a-metre of fresh that had fallen since Sunday. It took over two hours to dig my car out and get chains on – not great when you’ve been told to keep your stitches dry and to not exert yourself too much.

But all was salvaged when I returned to Falls Creek for the weekend for a perfectly sunny couple of days to shoot the re-opened big jumps with the local park crew rippers, NSW’s Clint Allan and Jye Kearney, and skiers Russ Henshaw and Johnno Lipsker. It was five hours of shooting out in the park, getting multiple angles for photos to be saved for magazine publication. The chopper even hovered over the park for a while with snapper Alex Roberts poking out the door, making it seem like the Stylewars of old: sunny skies, music blaring and the boys throwing down on big jumps while the rotor-wash of the heli whipped snow off the jump. I can’t wait till next year…