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When the sun sets, the skiers rise to session the huge scaffolding jump rearing up into the Northern sky like a child’s dream.

For the first time, a European city is playing host to the Winter X Games. The halfpipe is off on a distant hilll, and the massive big air scaffolding jump is parked between a park and some buildings, swimming into the insane red Northern sunset of the evening.

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-6

It’s 5pm, and I leave the streets behind as I enter a large park, looking for some otherworldly metal structure between the trees. Arriving at the top, here it is, this impressive construction tearing at the sky, the same way that the roller coasters did when my mom drove us to the amusement park as a kid. It wasn’t a big park (about 1% the size of Disney World, but I was a kid, and those roller coasters fascinated me. Looking at this big air today, wrapped in X Games-branded fencing, I felt just like a kid again. Most everyone else seemed to feel the same—well, not everyone.

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-4

“I’ve been looking at this for two weeks now, because I live right next to it,” says a woman who’s filming with her phone. “Seeing it already makes my heart beat because it’s scary, but I’m not really interested in it, I won’t come tomorrow.” Maybe this is what happens when you try to bring skiing to the people, but whatever, she’s probably not in the majority.

I enter by a back door into the contest area, and since the eliminations won’t get started until tomorrow, it looks fairly desolate, only a few people working in the dark. Thankfully, the sunset and the skiers are still making the scene beautiful.

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-9

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-13

The sound of skis thwacking onto the landing is almost like music, and I have to admit that I’m excited by this almost as much as I am by the view from the kicker in-run. It’s such a pleasure to be surrounded by so few sounds, knowing that tomorrow this place will become a madhouse.

Here is the joy of the practices sessions: some friends skiing together, dropping from something like a 70-meter-high tower onto a three-meter-wide strip of snow, before launching a kicker with 25-meter gap, and landing in front of a nearly-empty viewers’ area. No screaming fans, no girls with indecent proposals, no music, and still the skiers are doing doubles, triples and weird tricks (thanks Vinnie Gagnier). We could say that the show is insane — but you watched the video, so you already know.

See you at the eliminations!

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-2

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-3

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-4

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-5

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-7

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-8

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-10

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-11

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-12

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-13

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-14

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-15

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-17

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-18

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-19

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-20

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-21

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-22

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-23

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-25

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-26

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-27

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida-28

- downdays Freeski  - -david malacrida


big air, Bobby Brown, city

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