Words and Images: Alex Roberts
25 years after hosting the 1993 ISF Snowboard World Championships, Ischgl held the first ever ‘Banked Air’ in April, an innovative event, concept and format that is the brainchild of legendary founder and creator of the SPC camps throughout Europe, Klaus Marko.
The Banked Air brought together a great mix of competitors, from teenagers to legends –pros, former pros, industry crew and rookies, all competing in teams with individual honours up for grabs as well.
The contest ran with teams of five or more competitors, including at least one female in each team. After the qualification day there were 12 teams left to battle it out in a head-to-head format. Each rider had two runs, with their best time counting towards their team’s total. With competitors from all over Europe – and some from the United States and Canada – the mix of crew made for a great vibe, topped off by having perfect spring conditions under sunny skies. It felt almost inevitable that Terje Håkonsen would leave his mark on the first Banked Air, especially in Ischgl where he has been competing since 1991, winning the ISF Snowboard World Championships in 1993. Riding in the ‘Euro Air’ crew with Jukka Erätulli, Jonas Hagström, Sami Tuoriniemi and Jacky de Jong, they had to settle for fourth in the team event. However, Terje’s runs had him posting the best individual score to be the overall winner and he also took out the top spot in the style category as well. At 43, he is still pushing himself and it’s inspiring to see him shredding and boosting that classic method at events in 2018. He even made an hour’s cameo as event MC from the starting gate, and landed on the podium the next week at the Audi Nines in Sölden… inspiring shit!
Klaus “Captain Chaos” Marko
How did the Banked Air idea come about?
I was working on a hip slopestyle related course for several years, because these are the only snow obstacles I can still ride myself! Also, snowboarders are mostly riding the sides of a groomed slope and play with little natural hips and quarters.
We built a similar course called Actionslope four seasons ago on the Swiss side of the Ischgl resort but unfortunately, we didn’t get enough snow to make it really work for an event. Back then we already had in mind to have a match between Air & Style legends, former World Rookie tour winners and the actual rookies. An important part of the concept at the Banked Air is linking and combining generations, proving all ages can look good and not being sure who will win at the end, a 20, 30 or 40-year-old rider… pretty cool!
Would you like to see the Banked Air expand to more locations?
I see it as a global series with a pro tour and amateur events as well.
How did the old dogs compare with the current generation riding the course?
Everything turned out as I had it in my mind when it comes to the match of young and old. A 43-year-old super talent like Terje can still beat all the young Olympic and X Games riders. Steve Gruber, Gigi, Wolle or Tonton could also have taken the top spot.
After this year’s event in Ischgl, do you see any changes being made for next year?
I can’t tell the public yet which improvements we are working on, but the first Banked Air went really well and we may decide to step up the course a bit. The format itself should stay as simple as possible for mainstream spectators and we will definitely keep the three main ingredients; style, airtime and speed.
What was your highlight of the 2018 Banked Air?
That Terje won and definitely deserved it, and that besides Steve, the two best and most recognised Austrian riders worldwide; Gigi and Wolle got second and third. Another highlight was that Elena Könz showed that girls can keep up with the boys.
Banked Air and similar concepts bring contest snowboarding down to earth again and give the world’s best overall riders of the past three decades a chance to win. The average snowboarder or spectator can easily follow, understand, get stoked and be able to ride Banked Air themselves.
Are you guys ready for strong Aussie and Kiwi teams in 2019?
We were ready this time… but you were not, ha ha!
“I really appreciate the guys building the course and trying out a new format. You have to try new things. Also, I’m really proud of my team. We had an architect, a photographer, a dad and a 12-year-old, while other teams had pros and rookies. Next year we’re going to have a stronger army from Scando.”
“All the elements came together for a challenging but a fun event. A new format, pretty much go fast and take chances through the hips and banks. There are a lot of legends. It’s an amazing gathering.”