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Icer Air packs in 25,000 for big-air theatrics


The San Francisco Giants may be the city’s most popular sporting entity, but when 25,000 people stormed the Giants’ AT&T Park on Nov. 4, baseball season seemed like an abstraction. No, these folks were not brooding over Balco bombs and Barry Bonds — they were thinking snow.  
    The second annual Esurance Icer Air Competition took flight at the plush major league stadium featuring some of the world’s premiere big-air skiers and riders — X Games and Olympic medalists such as Danny Kass, Jon Olsson and Peter Olenick — alongside popular bands and hundreds of snowsport retailers. While last year’s inaugural event showcased some of the same athletes, it was a big-air show only, and organizers turned the volume up a notch this year.
    “We really wanted to take this to a whole new level,” said Icer president and founder Glen Griffin. “We brought in the best ski and snowboard talent, got headliner bands to perform and saw hundreds of industry [vendors] come together to create a one-of-a-kind festival atmosphere.”

THE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS may be the city’s most popular sporting entity, but when 25,000 people stormed the Giants’ AT&T Park on Nov. 4, baseball season seemed like an abstraction. No, these folks were not brooding over Balco bombs and Barry Bonds — they were thinking snowActive Image.  
    The second annual Esurance Icer Air Competition took flight at the plush major league stadium featuring some of the world’s premiere big-air skiers and riders — X Games and Olympic medalists such as Danny Kass, Jon Olsson and Peter Olenick — alongside popular bands and hundreds of snowsport retailers. While last year’s inaugural event showcased some of the same athletes, it was a big-air show only, and organizers turned the volume up a notch this year.
    “We really wanted to take this to a whole new level,” said Icer president and founder Glen Griffin. “We brought in the best ski and snowboard talent, got headliner bands to perform and saw hundreds of industry [vendors] come together to create a one-of-a-kind festival atmosphere.”
    Though the majority of spectators came from places in northern California, vendors included representatives from winter resorts throughout North America, in addition to nearly every company that makes any kind of gear for playing in the snow. “This is a really cool event, and we wanted to be a part of it,” said Tabitha Boot, a communications officer from Intrawest’s Whistler Blackcomb.
    Indeed, the amalgamation of big-air competition, industry show and live music proved potent and all-inclusive. Attendees humped bags filled with free and purchased schwag, racing from one part of the stadium to another with boots, bindings and boards as well as posters, T-shirts and hats from mainstream consumer companies including Yahoo! and Toyota. When headlining band Jurassic 5 hit the stage shortly before the main big-air event, yuppie families got their groove on with folks flaunting low-riding pants, painstakingly offset caps, multiple piercings and tattoos.
    Constructed by 100 workers throughout the course of three days, the jump at the 2006 Icer Air competition was erected from scaffolding and was covered with more than 200 tons of snow, standing higher than 100 feet tall and extending 350 feet from the AT&T Park scoreboard. Though both the lip and the landing turned out to be a little sketchy for some, most of the athletes were very positive about the festival and all that it included.
    Travis Rice held off Andreas Wiig and Danny Kass to win the snowboarding category. After finishing third, Kass, also a two-time Olympic silver medalist in the halfpipe, said, “This is my first Icer Air, and it’s been great … hanging out with the freeskiers, who we don’t see that much, has been a total blast.”
    Skateboarding icon Tony Hawk and Jonny Moseley, who won gold in the moguls event at the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan, were recruited to play hosts for the day; though, neither could resist stepping away from the color commentary to partake in the action. Hawk, of course, stayed away from the snow — instead putting on an exhibition at a halfpipe below Levi’s Landing in right field, where he Mctwisted and kick-flipped his was through an impressive half-hour of skating. Moseley grew up in the Bay Area, and the spectators went wild when he interrupted the final round of jumpers to lay out a huge iron-cross back flip.
    “It’s been an awesome day,” gushed Moseley at the bottom of the slushy run out. “Tons of people, tons of big air.”
    While the Esurance Icer Air festival was the first stadium big-air ski and snowboarding competition in the United States, it clearly owes its structure and success to predecessors such as ESPN’s Winter X Games and the Vans Warped Tour, both of which have fused high-level action sports, live music, retail and promotions. But this is the first time such an event has been wholly dedicated to skiing and snowboarding, and because of its success, the 2006 Icer Air format will likely be duplicated.
    “I’ve been to events like Icer Air before,” said Jason Benig, an attendee from Oakland, “but not in a place so big, and not for snowboarding. …  At the Warped Tour, the vendors are attractions, too — all gnarled and tattooed and stuff.  Here … well,  the Colorado tourist bureau people just weren’t that exciting.”  
    By evening’s end, Vancouver freeskier TJ Schiller, who finished third at Icer Air 2005, took home the winner’s $10,000 check and a new Toyota SUV.  Swedish X Games gold medalist Jon Olsson finished second, followed by Aspen native Steele Spence.Active Image

Women's show a no-go
Though male skiers and riders had few problems with the jump at AT&T Park, the women’s event was over almost as soon as it started. Because of soft snow on the ramp, the lighter-weight women had trouble getting enough speed to clear the roughly 40-foot gap between the kicker and the run-out. Big problem. 
    When snowboarder Bev Vuillemiere from Incline Village, Nevada, fumbled her takeoff, the only thing between her and the center-field turf was about 70 feet … and one tiny net. Twenty-five thousand people never got so quiet so fast.  
    “I was just trying to make it to the jump, but I caught an edge,” said Vuillemiere. “It was sketchy and I was scared —-less.”
    How was she planning to shake it off?  “I’m going to dance tonight, all night,” then adding, “and then I’m gonna get back on it during opening weekend at Mammoth.”
    The women’s competition was canceled after workers spent 30 minutes fishing Vuillemiere from the net.

Icer Air 2006
Final results (top score)Active Image

Men's skiers
1. TJ Schiller – 87.75
2. Jon Olsson – 86
3. Steele Spence – 84
Men's snowboard
1. Travis Rice – 88.25
2. Andreas Wiig – 81
3. Danny Kass – 78
Women's skiers
1. Michelle Parker – 65
2. Kaya Turski – 50
3. Shidasha Holmstead – 30
Women's snowboard
1. Jamie Anderson – 65
2. Laurie Currier – 40
3. Bev Viggue – 20
 

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