The Federation Internationale de Ski (FIS) is adding a Big Air competition to its West Coast tour this year, a $40,000 prize event on Grouse Mountain that will piggyback on the World Cup halfpipe, snowboard cross, and parallel giant slalom events at Whistler-Blackcomb.
The list of athletes has yet to be finalized, but since many of the best snowboarders in North America and from around the world are already in Whistler to compete for Olympic berths, organizers are confident that fans wont be disappointed. Local big air champion Kevin Sansalone has already signed on.
The action runs from Dec. 6 to Dec. 9 when the Nokia FIS World Cup tour comes to Whistler-Blackcomb for the annual Winterstart Festival. Canadian athletes to watch for include Mike Michalchuk, Trevor Andrew and Lori Glazier (halfpipe); Maelle Ricker and Drew Nielsen (snowboard cross), Mark Fawcett (PGS) and overall snowboard world champion Jasey Jay Anderson, who is competing in both the PGS and snowboard cross.
The Big Air competition will take place on Grouse Mountain on the evening of Dec. 11.
With the addition of the Big Air contest, the total prize purse for this FIS stop has jumped to $160,000, which is higher than any other FIS World Cup snowboard event in North America. Its also the first World Cup Big Air on the continent, with medals for the competitors.
Although the FIS has been criticized in the past for taking the fun out of snowboarding and freestyle skiing by regulating the contests and imposing safety measures, the Grouse Big Air is the real deal.
Sponsored by Grundig and D2 Vodaphone, the Big Air will be a night event complete with a 20-metre table top and music by Mix Master Mike of Beastie Boys fame.
Thursday, Dec. 6 Audi Snowboard-Cross.
This event will be held on Whistler Mountain, with the first heats getting underway at about 10 a.m. The finals will happen that afternoon at approximately 2 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 7 Halfpipe Qualifier, PGS training runs
Saturday, Dec. 8 Halfpipe Finals
Halfpipe events will be held in the terrain park on Blackcomb Mountain from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on both days. PGS training runs will also take place on a Blackcomb run to be announced.
Sunday, Dec. 9 Parallel Giant Slalom
Tuesday, Dec. 11 Big Air and Concert
Grouse Mountain, times still to be announced.