DENVER (Jan. 25) – Giant snowflakes weren’t the only things descending from the sky in downtown Denver Tuesday night as team Armada’s Spencer Milbocker (Otsego, MI), Alex Bellemare (Westford, MA) and Ben Moxham (Boise, ID) topped the world’s best freeskiing athletes at the the Nature Valley Big Air Challenge Battle of the Brands. A crowd of around 10,000 packed Denver’s Civic Park to watch the skiers launch off the 106-foot high scaffold in the opening night event of the Denver Big Air presented by Sprint.
“This was probably the most fun event ever. You can’t even imagine how happy I am. The crowd, the energy- it was great,” Milbocker said.
The night’s competition pitted 14 teams of three seeded into brackets of two against one another for a last man standing, winner-takes-all night event in the heart of Denver- the first time the city has ever seen a winter sport transplanted into the middle of town.
Interested crowds gathered around the big air jump throughout the day as teams prepared for the ultimate big air battle. As the jumps got bigger, the crowd got louder. National music act, Switchfoot, rocked the scene and set the stage playing a concert right before finals.
In the end, it all came down to team Line, which was comprised of Joss Christensen (Park City, UT), LJ Strenio (Salt Lake City) and Mitch Gillman (Whitefish, MT). Gilman took a hard spill in round one, leaving his team of two to fend for itself in the best of two jumps judging. But, thanks in large part to Stenio’s string of three incredible double corked jumps, Line found itself in a final up against Armada.
Milbocker took the first run, landing a solid jump for Armada, but Line’s Christensen answered back with an aired out switch double rodeo 10 with a Japan grab. Bellemare upped the ante with a double 12 tailgrab – a trick he had only been able to land once before.
“I had just landed my trick for the first time today [in finals]. I knew I could have had it. I just hoped for the best and sent it,” Bellemare said. “Go big or go home!”
Strenio had one shot to push Line past Armada, and appeared to do so for a moment with a technical switch double rodeo 1080. It all came down to Moxham, who was a late addition to the Armada team, and the kid knocked it out of the park with his double 1080 mute grab.
“Being the last one on my team to jump made me just think, ‘I have to land it,'” Moxham said. “I saw everyone else land their tricks. I needed to step it up and land. I came through and it worked out. I’m stoked.”
Adding to the night was the award for “Best Trick of The Night,” which went to Colorado’s own John Spriggs (Vail, CO) whose double cork 1260 mute grab was incredible.
“I took it pretty deep. I think what impressed the judges the most was the amplitude,” Spriggs said, adding his compliments to the Big Air event as a whole. “This jump was sick. I’ve hit London, Barcelona, San Francisco and this is the best big air jump.”
The action in Colorado continues Wednesday with the LG FIS Snowboard World Cup at the Denver Big Air presented by Sprint. To catch the high-flying action on TV, tune in to NBC Jan. 30 at 1:30 p.m. EST or catch it on Versus Feb. 12 at 4 p.m. EST.
Nature Valley Big Air Challenge Battle of the Brands
Denver, CO – Jan. 25, 2011
1. Armada – Spencer Milbocker, Otsego, MI; Alex Bellemare, Westford, MA; Ben Moxham, Boise, ID
2. Line Skis – Joss Christensen, Park City, UT; LJ Strenio, Salt Lake City; Mitch Gillman, Whitefish, MT