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Lifting off like never before

2019-11-28 15:20:00 chinadaily

Beijing's one-of-a-kind Big Air ramp ready to debut with all-star World Cup cast

The world's elite snowboarders and skiers are raring to give Beijing's stunning new Big Air slope a debut to remember next month.

Ready for liftoff three years ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics, the world's first permanent Big Air ramp will host the FIS Freeski and Snowboard World Cup's annual stop in the capital from Dec 12-14.

The event promises to be a true treat for fans of extreme winter sports, with a rock concert featuring local bands on the final day set to enhance the festival atmosphere at western Beijing's regenerated Shougang Industrial Park, the venue for the Big Air disciplines of freeski and snowboarding at the 2022 Games.

"We keep sharing the pictures of the slope with the athletes, and everyone gets really excited to be here. This is a unique venue which will help take the sport to the next level," Saskia Schnorrenberger, the director of global operations for event co-organizer Air and Style Company, told China Daily at Shougang on Tuesday.

"For the athletes it's always good to get a feeling and to practice to know the venue even though they can't get any points for the Olympics yet."

Big Air, which made its Olympic debut at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, involves athletes hurling down a snow-covered ramp to perform aerial tricks off a massive kicker before landing.

Four World Cup gold medals (male and female for both freeski and snowboarding) will be up for grabs at Shougang, the only snow sports venue for 2022 in Beijing's downtown area.

All the other snow events will be held at co-host Zhangjiakou in surrounding Hebei province.

"There is no better way to unveil an Olympic venue like this than by hosting a high-profile World Cup event for its debut," said Chen Jie, a deputy director of Beijing Municipal Sports Bureau.

"I believe it will be a great test for the facility, our services and our operational team to make necessary remedies and gain experience for staging the Olympic competitions successfully and many other events to come in the future."

The final installation of the slope's ancillary facilities, including spectator stands, broadcasting blocks and media areas, will be completed by Dec 1 followed by a 10-day snow-making and course-grooming process, according to the bureau.

Elite field

Over 160 skiers and boarders from 30 countries and regions, including Canadian greats Mack McMorris and Max Parrot and Austria's Olympic champion Anna Gasser, will show off their daredevil moves and compete for FIS ranking points at the World Cup meet. After two days of preliminary rounds for freeski and snowboarding respectively, the finalists will each perform three runs on Dec 14 to decide the medals.

Towering over disused smokestacks at the former steel-mill site, the 164-meter-long, 64-meter-high slope is the world's first permanent construction of its kind. Big Air events elsewhere in the world have always used temporary facilities.

"The permanent venue here provides a year-round training facility," said Schnorrenberger. "For me, being an old-school snowboarder, it's so crazy to see that we have this landmark. And then you can actually see the opportunity for more events to happen here after the Olympics, which is so important for the sport to grow."

Founded in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1993, the Air and Style global series first arrived in Beijing in 2010, with the stop upgraded to a World Cup event in 2017. It was previously staged on detachable ramps at Beijing's Bird's Nest and Workers' Stadium.

"To see how the sport has grown in the last 10 years is just so exciting. It always fills my heart with pleasure to see the spark is coming to China," said Schnorrenberger. Now with such a unique facility on their doorsteps, China's young snowboarding and freeski teams are more determined than ever to close the gap to the world's best.

"With the Shougang slope available, our athletes can stay at home to train systematically instead of traveling around, which wastes time," said Yang Dong, a deputy director of the National Winter Sports Administrative Center.

"The ramp will significantly help them increase their jump volume as well as improving their routine consistency."

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