Snowboarders and skiers will launch themselves a mile high — and then some — when Denver’s Civic Center park is transformed into a “Big Air” venue in January with one of the largest man-made ramps ever constructed. The two-day Denver Big Air presented by Sprint event, which is expected to draw some of the top on-snow athletes in the world, was announced this month by Mayor John Hickenlooper and officials with Denver Sports and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.
Denver marks the first-ever U.S. stop for the LG FIS World Cup Snowboard Big Air event. In the past, competitions have been held in Moscow, Barcelona, Quebec, Seoul and London, putting Denver in pretty impressive company.
Organizers said they will manufacture a layer of crushed ice with snow. In the event of a warmer-than-normal January, the required material will be made early and stored elsewhere until show time.
Unofficially, the ramp for the event will be 10 stories tall and nearly as long as a football field (officially it will be 102 1/2 feet tall, 300 feet long and 80 feet wide). It is expected that the event will attract top competitors from each sport.
The event will feature one day of World Cup snowboarding competition. The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association will add a day of Big Air ski competition to complement the snowboarding action. Negotiations are underway to try to bring Shaun White, the Olympic gold medalist in snowboarding, to the event, organizers said.
The Jan. 25-26 event will also cement Colorado as the center of the snow sports universe in late January, as it precedes Snow Show, the SnowSports Industries America annual exhibition in Denver, as well as ESPN’s annual X Games in Aspen, both of which are scheduled Jan. 27-30.
Big Air is expected to draw at least 20,000 spectators and should visitors from throughout the Rocky Mountain region, said a spokesperson for Denver Sports, which recently changed its name from the Metro Denver Sports Commission. The organization has pushed to attract sporting events to Denver as a way to help fuel economic development. The organization helped bring to Denver the Sportaccord convention, an international gathering of the world’s sports federations. It also played a role in bringing the Olympic trials for curling to Broomfield.
Big Air is expected to be the first of at least four such annual events. The economic impact is not yet known, but officials hope it will further showcase Denver as a destination for both winter sports and international events and further burnish Colorado’s chances for eventually hosting the Olympics.