20 years of Air & Style
20 Years of Air & Style
When Charly Weger and Andrew Hourmont threw the first Air & Style "big air" contest in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1994, they had no idea it would go on to become one of the most coveted events to win in snowboarding. As the event entered its 20th year in Innsbruck last year, let's look back at the two decades of madness that came before it.
January 1994, Innsbruck Winner: Reto Lamm
Trick: Frontflip "I think the only reason I won was because I'd been filming a lot of straight airs that year," said current TTR president Reto Lamm, who won the first Air & Style, in '94. "I was super into 'Critical Condition' and really wanted to learn the backflips with Indy grabs that Damian Sanders did. So I learned them, and frontflips with indie grabs, and I ended up winning."
December 1994, Innsbruck Winner: Ingemar Backman
Trick: Backside 720 Indy This classic view of Innsbruck's old Bergisel arena gives a good indication of the scale of the event in its second year. The venue's cauldron-like dimensions created a unique atmosphere, and the riders usually rose the occasion. Fittingly, Ingemar Backman (who is now an Air & Style judge) cemented his status as one of the most progressive riders of the mid- to late '90s here in 1994.
December 1995, Innsbruck Winner: Terje Håkonsen
Trick: Cab 900 Is this youthful trio up there with the heaviest, most legendary set of podium placers in shred history? In the '90s Daniel Frank and Terje ruled competitive snowboarding, while Jamie Lynn wore the crown with ease. Franck took third, Lynn second with a set of frontside 9s, while Terje notched off yet another win with a groundbreaking Cab 9.
December 1996, Innsbruck Winner: Fabien Rohrer
Trick: Cab 900 Fabien Rohrer's clinical, self-publicizing style wasn't to everybody's taste, but for a time his contest results backed his bravado up. In '96, he bested a field that included Peter Line, Michi Albin, Johan Olofsson and Daniel Franck. This picture of JP Solberg hitting the jump in Innsbruck pretty much nails the sense of theatre and extravagance that was beginning to become the hallmark of the contest.
December 1997, Innsbruck Winner: Jim Rippey
Trick: Rippey Flip When Huck Magazine tracked down Jim Rippey in 2011, they found the legendary NorCal ripper living a humble life as a minister for the Grace Church in Reno, Nevada. It's hard to believe that 15 years earlier, Rippey was one of shredding's most high-profile stars, with Burton pro models, TB movie cover shots and, yes, an Air & Style win to top it all off. Jim's "Rippey Flip" was a precursor to today's gymnastics inverted tricks. If anyone throws one down at the old-dog "Style Session" taking place on Friday, the win is surely in the bag.
December 1998, Innsbruck Winner: Ingemar Backman
Trick: Backside 9 Indy Three guesses who the title sponsors were when Ingemar became the first rider to snag two Air & Style victories. Ingemar's backside 9 Indy saw him overtake Michi Albin and local rider Thomas Beckna Eberharter to win -- but, arguably, more interesting things were happening further down the leader board, where future legends David Benedek and Stefan Gimpl were making their first Air & Style appearances.
December 1999, Innsbruck Winner: Stefan Gimpl
Trick: Frontside 900 Indy The Gimpl era began in 1999, when he took his first win with a frontside 900. Although for many spectators (including this writer, who was there watching), David Benedek's innovative switch backside spins were far worthier. Sadly, the event was completely overshadowed by a riot-like crush in the crowd, which resulted in five spectators getting killed.
December 2000, Seefeld Winner: Stefan Gimpl
Trick: Frontside 900 melon Gimpl marked the event's move to nearby Seefeld with another victory and another frontside 900. The move to Seefeld also saw the Air & Style begin to diversify and take on a festival-like atmosphere as the organizers looked to make some changes to the format. The good denizens of the sleepy Seefeld resort, meanwhile, didn't know what had hit them.
December 2001, Seefeld Winner Stefan Gimpl
Trick: Cab 900 mute It was Austrian high fives and tears all around in 2001, as local legend Stefan Gimpl managed an unprecedented hat trick of victories, winning his third straight Air & Style with a Cab 900 mute. Gimpl beat out Ingemar Backman, Jussi Oksanen, Romain de Marchi, Chad Otterstrom and Gigi Rf for the win. His style was always going to divide the purists, but it would take a heart of stone to begrudge the likeable Austrian that achievement.
December 2002, Seefeld Winner: David Benedek
Trick: Frontside 720 + Handplant melon Was there ever a more fitting case of a rider born 10 years too early than crowd-pleasing, Nike-sponsored, invert-stomping Mike Michalchuck? Here he is taking full advantage of the new kicker to hip set up, as the event further continued to develop. David Benedek, who's progressive approach was beginning to mark him out as one of the world's great riders, stood atop the podium.
December 2003, Seefeld Winner: Shaun White
Trick: Cab 900 Melon + Backside disaster (wall ride) It might be hard to believe these days, but back in the '90s, Shaun White still liked to rub shoulders with the other foot soldiers of the snowboarding world -- rather than just enter the X Games and the Olympics and spend the rest of his time in Hollywood. His reward for making the schlep to Seefeld for the 2003 Air & Style was a first-place spot, ahead of Nicolas Mller and Joni Malmi.
December 2004, Seefeld Winner: Shaun White
Trick: Cab 900 Melon + Frontside 720 stale Shaun White's second win came at the very last Air & Style held in Seefeld. It had been a tumultuous five years in which the event format progressed and evolved in an effort to keep crowd and riders interested. White's win cemented the run of competitive dominance that has shown little sign of slowing down since, further underlining the Air & Style's status as the bellwether of competitive snowboarding.
December 2005, Munich Winner: Hampus Mosesson
Trick: Backside 720 shifty + Corked frontside 540 mute The move to Munich's impressive Olympic Stadium in 2005 marked yet another change in emphasis. The event rebranded as the "Air & Style Games," and FMX claimed an equal billing with the snowboarding contest. Swede Hampus Mosession was a popular winner, his smooth style getting his just desserts. But looking back, what's more interesting is the rider just beginning to make his mark on the scene who came in at eighth place: none other than Travis Rice.
December 2006, Munich Winner: Travis Rice
Trick: Double backflip backside 180 A whopping 27,500 spectators crammed into Munich's Olympic Stadium to see a stoked T-Rice take his first Air & Style win with one of the most celebrated tricks ever performed at the event: his double backflip late backside 180. It had to be something special -- Shaun White's Cab 12 to backside 720 hadn't even been enough to make the final, while Benedek's double corked 12 had been enough for only fourth place. Yes, snowboarding progression was officially beginning to go through the roof.
December 2007, Munich Winner: Kevin Pearce
Trick: Cab 12 melon to crail air Another changing of the guard was captured in this poignant podium shot of winner Kevin Pearce, and second- and third-place finishers Mikkel Bang and Torstein Horgmo, respectively. By this point, if you didn't have Cab 12s, switch back 10s or frontside 10s in the locker, you might as well have not turned up -- although Heikki Sorsa did mix it up nicely this year with an insane one-footed frontside 360 to take fifth place.
February 2008, Innsbruck Winner: Kevin Pearce
Trick: Backside 540 inverted Indy Pearce joined Ingemar, Gimpl and White in the celebrated club of Air & Style winners with multiple rings, just a few months after snagging his first. The event was notable in another way, too, as it moved back to Innsbruck and the new Bergisel arena nine years after the disaster that had precipitated the move in the first place.
January 2009, Innsbruck Winner: Colin Frei
Trick: Backside 540 inverted Indy (height 6.5 meters) Dark horse Colin Frei took the win in '09, beating Peetu Piiroinen and Olivier Gittler. Elsewhere in the contest, Piiroinen won the Highest Air award with an 8.80-meter effort that fell a scant meter short of Terje Haakonsen's world record. Speaking of Terje, the Norse legend came in fifth -- just the 15 years after his first Air & Style in 1994.
December 2009, Innsbruck Winner: Marco Grilc
Trick: Switch backside double cork 1080 The return to Bergisel saw the return of the original "straight jump" format, and likeable Slovenian Marko Grilc -- a late replacement for an injured Sebastien Toutant -- was a hugely popular winner. He beat fellow heavies Peetu Piroiinen, Andreas Wiig and Iouri Podlatchikov in a shootout final that was as exciting as it gets.
December 2010, Beijing Winner: Sebastien Toutant
Trick: Cab 1260 Double Cork Stalefish Beijing, China? We're not in Kansas (well, Innsbruck) anymore, Toto. The 2010 event saw Air & Style join forces with Oakley for this Shaun White-branded mission into new territory. With only 8,000 odd spectators in the arena, it was clearly early days for the Sleeping Giant's appreciation of snowboarding, but the riders delivered anyway. Seb Toots, back with a vengeance from his injury the year before, took the crown with a Cab 12 double cork stale.
February 2011, Innsbruck Winner: Mark McMorris
Trick: Cab 1260 Double Cork Forget McLovin' winning, what about Pennywise headlining? If the music was a throwback for old-school shred connoisseurs, McMorris's performance proved equally classic. His Cab 12 double cork underlined how far the event had come since Reto Lamm first bagged the original Air & Style title with a frontflip Indy.
February 2011, Munich Winner: Peetu Piroiinen
Trick: Cab 12 mute to front-blunt 270 After years of near misses, Piroiinen finally chalked up the win at this kicker-to-jib combo version of the event that was held in the Olympic Stadium in Munich. Fast-rising Seppe Smiths, who was already becoming a fixture on podiums worldwide at this point, took second.
December 2011, Beijing Winner: Ulrik Badertscher
Trick: Switch backside 1260 rodeo Ulrik's winning trick was yet another Air & Style first -- although the jury was out whether the locals in the crowd truly understood what they'd witnessed. Either way, they were truly spoiled by the riding on display, with Torstein Horgmo's cab 1080 double cork and Stale Sandbech's backside 1080 mute rounding out the podium.
February 2012, Innsbruck Winner: Peetu Piroiinen
Trick: Backside 1260 mute After half a decade of near misses, Peetu Piiroinen suddenly couldn't stop winning. His score bested the new "always the bridesmaid" Seppe Smits' by a mere point. The rest of the tricks thrown by other riders on the leaderboard were telling: no spin under 1080, and Nils Arvidson threw a frontside 1440 in there for good measure.
December 2012, Beijing Winner: Yuki Kadono
Trick: Backside 1440 triple cork mute Two decades after it started, and the Air & Style is still delivering -- here to 15,000 slack-jawed spectators in Beijing's Olympic Bird's Nest Stadium in the event's second year in China. The rider providing the headline this time was Japan's Yuki Kadono, who became the first Asian winner of an Air & Style by sticking the event's first triple cork.