Just a handful of the scary crashes from last night’s Big Air event.
This morning at 3:00, Swedish time, I had my alarm set for what I used to consider one of the most exciting events in snow sports, the X-Games ski Big Air. I’ve had the fortune of being a participant a total of 5 times, and there’s really no contest like it, with tens of thousands of people under the lights of Aspen watching a fun format of 15-20 minute jam sessions. The pressure on the athletes is low because of the many attempts you get on your big trick, and it’s an easy concept for the audience to follow, with the feeling that it’s all a big show and not as serious as the pipe or slopestyle events.
This year, however, felt…different. Over the last couple of years, the physical limits of the athletes have rapidly been pushed forward, to a point where a mistake no longer means a face full of snow and a wave to the camera at the bottom while waiting for a crash score. Last night, a mistake resulted in exploding bindings and helmets, concussions and injured body parts, and this was true for at least 30% of the field. I was no longer enjoying watching, I was seriously worried for my friends, Big Air had turned into an absolute bloodbath.
Every year after the X-Games Big Air event, the freeskiing community collectively asks itself if the peak is reached, is it possible to progress the sport further from here? Every year, those predicting it is not are proven wrong, with yet another 180 added to the biggest trick, or another triple cork landed. I’ve always been a firm believer that the spin-to-win progress will continue as long as the judges reward those endeavours, and this year, suddenly they seemed to look for something else. Unfortunately there’s always this delayed response from athletes, who have prepared themselves to be judged like the year before, but with a little luck, we just saw the peak of the flip-to-win era, and next year everyone can show up with a fresh bag of unique tricks to choose from, not necessarily containing 3 inverts and 5 rotations. Call it wishful thinking, but watching Jossi Wells, Kai Mahler and Vincent Gagnier get rewarded big scores for tricks that very few (if any), other skiers are capable of sparked a flame of hope in an otherwise dark and scary night. Thanks guys, for pushing the envelope in a much safer direction.
Decades ago, quadruple flips were banned in freestyle aerials competitions, deemed to dangerous for the sport. Any sort of restrictions, be it mandatory or banned tricks, or a cap on rotations is in my opinion the last thing out sport needs. Instead, let’s use this opportunity of learning from our past mistakes, and take a different path into the future, without having to sacrifice human bodies along the way.
What did you think of the contest, and what is the best way for Big Air skiing to progress from here, without people dying, and without limitations and rules being implemented?
Thanks for reading