Photos by Sami Tuoriniemi
When you ask someone what the Air + Style is, their answer will depend a lot on their age. Since making its debut in 1994 it’s undergone more overhauls than the Spider-Man film series and Joan Collins’ face combined.
What began as a one-off event in Austria has grown into a global series, occasionally incorporating other sports (skateboarding, motocross) and changing owners (current boss Shaun White bought the controlling interest in 2014). All the while, the snowboarding has progressed; where once a stylish shifty back 1 could get you the win (as was the case for David Benedek in 2002), now it’s triples all the way.
“Joining with FIS is an important step for Air + Style Beijing" - Shaun White
Despite the shifting sands, the name continues to ring out as one of the most important events (or as is the case these days, series of events) in competitive snowboarding - even if it still appears on Facebook as a ‘Concert Tour’...
Here’s what’s happening in 2017/18:
The Chinese stop of the tour has been going since 2010, adopting the usual early-season slot in the calendar (the Innsbruck and Munich events were moved to February).
At the time of writing, the biggest names in Big Air are already in Beijing - including, for the first time, female riders. It’s now held in the Worker's Stadium, and for the first time it’ll be part of the FIS World Cup.
Rumour has it that A+S owner Shaun White has been pushing for this for a while, and now it’s happening. “I'm very excited about the partnership!", says he. “Joining with FIS is an important step for Air + Style Beijing and for snowboarding to continue to grow here."
Sorry, no Innsbruck this year. Or Munich or Seefeld, for that matter. For only the third time since 1994, there’ll be no A+S event in Europe. The last no-show was in late 2008, when a last-minute sponsorship snafu forced organisers to pull the plug, and in 2014.
We’ve not seen any official word on why the home of A+S is getting overlooked this year - it might have something to do with the inclusion of Sydney (more on which below). Whatever the reason, it’s a shame that there’ll be no Euro stop, and we’re hoping it’ll return in 2019.
No major changes to this one, which in March will be back at the Rose Bowl for the event's 4th year. Shaun moved the action closer to (his) home, after stating that the lack of a US event was one of the reasons he wanted to get involved. He also invited skiers along for the first time in A+S history.
Up til now there have been no women at this stop, and we don’t yet know if it’ll become part of the FIS tour like Beijing, but you can expect anyone who doesn’t break themselves at the ‘lympics to attend this one.
A+S is heading Down Under in August 2019, making it the first competitive snowboard series since the Burton Open Series to run events on both sides of the equator. If they can bring back a Euro presence too, then perhaps it’ll become the kind of stable, consistent contest format that is still sorely lacking in snowboarding.
So, long story short: Innsbruck is out, Sydney is in, Beijing is FIS, and women are (hopefully) at everything. It’s all going down in China this weekend, so stay tuned for the first A+S results of the new season.