Words: T. Bird
Photos: Sami Touriniemi

It seems that in today’s current contest landscape, the vernacular is comprised of the words “double cork” and “triple cork” far too much. By no means am I taking away from the athletic prowess of those tricks and the sheer ability required to complete them. I’m old enough to remember when certain individual moments in an event defined it, not simply full runs or how many corks a rider completed. Like when Ingemar Backman poked one extra time. Or when Terje hit the rafters. Or even when Kazu tossed his bib into the crowd and sideslipped down the pipe with his hands in prayer position. Moments that define more than the moment itself, if only for an instant, are the ones that ultimately live on forever.

At the 2013 Billabong Air & Style tonight, the event organizers put together a special event that harkened back to those days. With the help of Burn Energy, the Air & Style promoters decided to pay tribute to the 20th anniversary of the contest with the Burn Style Session. Comprised of riders whose history with the event has made it what it is today, the Style Session was a jam format judged by Ingemar Backman, Jim Rippey, and the winner of the first ever Air & Style, Reto Lamm. The rules were simple: style wins. The rider who most impressed the judges with their trick would walk away with $10,000 cash. In other words, Marius Otterstad’s double backside rodeo could, in essence, be beaten by Jamie Lynn’s method. Yeah, Jamie Lynn was there, as was Marius. Joining those two in this session of legendary proportions were Mike Basich, Stefan Gimpl, Terje Haakonsen, Bryan Iguchi, Marko Grilc, Sani Alibabic, Arthur Longo, Devun Walsh, Max Plotezeneder, Werner Stock, David Pitschi, Iikka Backstrom, Frederik Austbo, Elias Elhardt, Peter Konig, Christoph Schmidt, Frederik Evensen, Oliver Gittler, and Michi Albin. Yeah, that’s right. I said Michi Albin.

For two heats totaling an hour’s time, the thousands of fans in attendance saw Marius’s double back rodeo. They saw Jamie’s method. They saw Terje do a backflip method straight out of Subjekt Haakonsen. They saw Mike Basich send it to the bottom of the landing multiple times, and Devun Walsh do front threes. They saw Gigi’s switch 90 rolls, and boy, do they love Gigi over here. They saw 41 year old Max Plotzeneder’s publickly intoxicating washout-to-underflip (which was hands-down the best thing I saw all night). Arthur Longo put down some back seven melons that wouldn’t place top 50 in a USASA these days but in my opinion, should be winning the Air & Style. For one hour on Friday night, snowboarding finally slowed down. Thank God. Oh, did I mention that Michi-fucking-Albin was there?

In the end, it was Marko Grilc who walked away with the $10,000 and a well-deserved win. His Cab five off the toes was the most stylish trick of the night, and Grilo’s gonna have some extra cash to start a college fund for his newborn son Maxx. Congrats, Grilo. Second place went to Werni Stock, third place went to Elias Elhardt, and fourth went to Sani Alibabic, who took a night off from his job as Nike’s European Team Manager to show the world that he’s still got what we all witnessed in David Benedek’s “91 Words for Snow.” To put it simply, the Burn Style Session is exactly what I needed and wanted to see in a snowboard contest, and I hope that the impact of these events was felt by everyone who considers themself a snowboarder.

While Friday night at Bergisel Stadium in Innsbruck was a celebration of those who sowed the seeds of snowboarding’s imminent progression and the contest that catered it, Saturday evening was the personification of said sowed seeds. Twenty-four of the best jumpers who have ever strapped in, stood atop the 50 meter in-run set at a 42 degree slope. The night prior, the contestants had chosen their opponents in the rider draw, as the Air & Style is a head-to-head elimination format. Those match-ups were:

Petja Piiroinen vs. Yuki Kadono
Maxence Parrot vs. Clemens Schattschneider
Jorn Aaboe vs. Sebastien Toutant
Ethan Morgan vs. Eric Willett
Eric Beauchemin vs. Niklas Mattsson
Sage Kotsenburg vs. Seppe Smits
Ulrik Badertscher vs. Stale Sandbech
Victor de Le Rue vs. Mark McMorris
Mathias Weissenbacher vs. Antoine Truchon
Emil Ulsletten vs. Roope Tonteri
Sven Thorgren vs. Gjermund Braaten
Alek Ostreng vs. Peetu Piiroinen

The initial round of twenty-four was whittled down to the twelve who qualified and four “lucky losers” who held the four highest scores in Round One behind those who qualified. So it was Sven, Yuki, Clemens, Sebastien, Niklas, Willett, Petja, Seppe, Peetu, Stale, Mark, Antoine, Roope, Gjermund, Mathias, and Alek who moved on, maintaining the head-to-head format as the sixteen got cut down to eight. Once those eight riders were announced, the entire atmosphere in the stadium changed. The crowd was significantly louder, the bass from the speakers thumped your chest. It was electric. It was intoxicating. And it was exactly what I thought the Innsbruck Air & Style would be.

The third round started and the conditions worsened throughout the night. However, that didn’t deter the semi-finalists standing above the crowd from reaching deep down into their bag of tricks in search of the top podium spot and the coveted Air & Style ring of glory. Sebastien Toutant toppled Beijing Air & Style winner Yuki Kadono with a second run score of 89. Eric Willett beat Seppe Smits with a third run score of 81 as Seppe was sitting on an 80 and Eric put one down at the buzzer. In the most heated battle of the night and arguably the best heat in Air & Style history, Mark McMorris continued his winning ways to best young Norwegian Stale Sandbech in a triple cork-off in which both riders landed backside 1440 triple corks. However, McMorris’s 96 was the highest score of the evening. Innsbruck A&S rookie, Alek Ostreng, came from behind to beat veteran big air contender, Roope Tonteri, on his third and final run, to round out the big four heading into the Super Final.

In the final round, each rider had three runs and the contestant with the best score would be declared the winner. In other words, the head-to-head format was done and this was a whole new contest. Although he was the favorite, Mark McMorris was the recipient of an unfortunate Air & Style rule that you can’t try a trick more than two times in a best of three run format. Mark couldn’t put down his backside triple on his first two attempt and sitting in fourth place on his third run, McMorris stomped a Cab 1260 double cork but then in a shocking turn of events and very unlike the best stadium jumper in the world today, he fell on a Cab 270 on the bottom rail feature. The crowd was stunned and so was Mark, but that’s the way it goes sometimes and McMorris ended the event with the best score of the night in Round 3. Alek Ostreng ended up in third place with a back 12 on his first of three runs and the kid couldn’t have been more stoked. Alek showed everyone in the final that he is officially an international force to be reckoned with and he also walked away with an extra $2,000 for winning the Burn Energy Best Trick award. French Canadian phenom, Sebastien Toutant, was the last rider to drop as Eric Willett sat atop the podium, but he failed to land his double backside rodeo, thus Willett was crowned Air & Style champion, while Seb settled with his first run score of 83.3, the product of a Cab 12 double cork. Eric Willett had a night for the ages and earned his win with a switch backside double cork 12, the most technical double cork of the competition.

The 2013 Billabong Air & Style is officially a wrap, and aside from the fact that this was the 20th anniversary of the event, it was one for the record books. That’s all from Innsbruck. Be sure to check back to snowboardermag.com as we’ll be reporting live from the 2013 Burton European Open in Laax, Switzerland this week.

RESULTS:
Burn Style Session
1. Marko Grilc
2. Werni Stock
3. Elias Elhardt
4. Sani Alibabic

2013 Billabong Air & Style
1. Eric Willett
2. Sebastien Toutant
3. Alek Ostreng
4. Mark McMorris

Burn Energy Best Trick Award
Alek Ostreng