Olympic fever is running high in Steamboat, not only because the 2022 Beijing Winter Games are right around the corner, but because the best ski and snowboard athletes from all over the world descended on the Park Smalley Freestyle Complex in early December to vie for a coveted spot on the U.S. Olympic Team in the first qualifying event of the season. In a town steeped in Olympic tradition and history, Steamboat was thrilled to have the opportunity to host the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix Visa Big Air, one of only three Olympic qualifying events.
“Steamboat’s Olympic heritage runs deep, and we were so excited to honor our longstanding partnership with U.S. Ski & Snowboard in hosting the Visa Big Air presented by Toyota event leading up to the 2022 Olympics,” said Rob Perlman, President & Chief Operating Officer, Steamboat Ski Resort. “Producing Olympians is part of who we are, so this was a natural fit for Steamboat to kick off the qualifying event calendar ahead of the winter games.”
Over 200 Olympic hopefuls from 33 countries flocked to Steamboat for the competition that took place on December 2-4, 2021, on a 60-foot Big Air jump. The slopestyle freeski athletes and freestyle snowboarders gave it their all for what was the only big air qualifying event for the 2022 Olympics. Freeski big air is making its debut in Beijing 2022, while snowboard big air is making its second Olympic appearance.
The Toyota U.S. Grand Prix is the longest-running winter action sports tour and has served as a major part of the U.S. Freeski Team and U.S. Snowboard Team Olympic qualification series since 1998, launching Olympic medalists including Chloe Kim, Jamie Anderson, Red Gerard, Shaun White, David Wise and Nick Goepper toward medals. The Visa Big Air and Toyota U.S. Grand Prix events are sanctioned by the International Ski Federation (FIS) as World Cups.
“The Olympic history and top-notch facilities at Steamboat Ski Resort for the Visa Big Air presented by Toyota made for an outstanding Olympic qualifying process,” said U.S. Ski & Snowboard Freeski & Snowboard Director Jeremy Forster. “We can’t wait to announce the athletes who will represent Team USA in Beijing this winter.”
In the snowboarding finals, Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi climbed to the top of a World Cup podium for the first time in two seasons with the women’s win, and Su Yiming (CHN) made history by becoming the first Chinese rider ever to win a big air World Cup with a mind-blowing performance in the men’s contest. Alex Hall, a Park City skier, finished second in the VISA Big Air freeski finals behind winner Matej Svancer of Austria. Freeskier Eileen Gu, who hails from California but skis for China, won the women’s competition with a score of 184.25. Tess Ledeux of France finished second while Johanne Killi of Norway took third. No American woman made the finals.
The event was a huge success, with sunny skies throughout the competition and hundreds of spectators in attendance to cheer the athletes on. “It was so exciting to watch the athletes that are on their way to the Winter Games compete right here in front of us,” said Maren Franciosi, Steamboat Resort Communications Manager. “We were watching history be made, right here.”