Big Air event delivers big thrills at Howelsen Hill |

Big Air event delivers big thrills at Howelsen Hill

Griffin Sides soars through a snowstorm Thursday during the Big Air event at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs. The second event in the five-event Steamboat Park Challenge circuit attracted more than 30 competitors.

— A great jump requires a clean landing.

There were plenty of great jumps Thursday at Howelsen Hill for the second event of the Steamboat Park Challenge circuit, with skiers and snowboarders flipping, twisting and spinning through the night sky as snow dumped on Steamboat Springs.

There also were a whole lot of good jumps, competitors throwing everything on the line as they flew wildly through the air to cheers from fans. Many of the skiers and riders popped up with wide miles and snow-covered helmets after spectacular crashes.

"Big Air, it's a spectacle," organizer David Poussard said.

In all, 33 athletes flung themselves from a special jump built on the face of Howelsen Hill during the Hestra Hand in Glove Big Air competition.

A steady downpour of Steamboat powder damped entry speeds, and competitors continually started farther up the steep slopes of the downtown ski hill. It did little to dampen the excitement, however, and if anything, the snow only seemed to encourage the fliers to go bigger and harder.

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"It's great we could build the jump on the Howelsen face. People could watch from the bottom. I bet they could even see it from CMC," Poussard said.

Men's open snowboarder Jimmy Bennett said it all added up just right for him.

A recent college graduate who opted for a winter in the mountains instead of a life mailing resumes in a down economy, Bennett entered Thursday's competition anything but a snowboard competitor.

He guessed he had a few college rail jams to his credit, but nothing like a Big Air event. Turns out he's got a little showboat in him. He threw down both of his runs, finishing third in his class.

After falling in each of his practice runs, he nailed both of his competition tries, landing a back 3 tail grab and a cab-5 nose grab.

"I was pretty stoked," said Bennett, who as well as anyone showcased the event's mix of beginners, experienced competitors and talented riders.

"It's just a local thing and I thought it would be fun," he said. "I recognized a lot of the guys and made some friends. I definitely got a couple new riding buddies out of it."

Jeff Wanerski was tops in the men's open snowboard field, and Jarryd Hughes was second.

Griffin Sides won the men's skier open class, ahead of Robert Brown, second, and Nick Simon, third. Leah Walorski won the women's open skier division. Cody Winters finished first ahead of Ben Larsen and Ryan Merritt in the men's junior snowboard class while Colton Creamer won the men's skier junior class, holding off Charlie Beurskens, second, and Mac Skov, third.

For some, the standings may have mattered. But for most, it was about the bright lights on a snowy night, a few delicious seconds of air time above Steamboat Springs with the biggest tricks in their repertoire.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email

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