The Toyota Big Air is one of the world's highest-prized snowboarding straight jump competitions and it happens each February just down the road from Niseko in Sapporo. The list of past winners shows the caliber of this event – Shaun White, Peetu Piroinen, Nicolas Muller, and Eero Ettala have all stood on the top of the podium.
Last year was the competition's last at its long time home at the Makomanai Open Stadium. Despite the great atmosphere at the stadium, there were a couple of issues with the venue: The low temperatures for those standing around on snow for hours on end, limited attendance and uncontrollable weather meant that on occasions poor weather impacted on rider safety and confidence – dragging the levels of tricks being landed down.
This year the TBA is celebrating a "Full Model Change", with a change in venue moving indoors to the Sapporo Dome, and bringing the event forward to February 11 & 12 to coincide with Sapporo's internationally famous Snow Festival. The head-to-head format keeps things interesting and ensures that riders are pushed all the way, and they'll need to be at their best to drive away with the brand new Toyota given, which constitutes part of the first prize. The invited riders this year include the top four from last year including defending champion Chas Guldemond and a handful of riders, who are foregoing the 2012 World Snowboarding Championships in Norway to make the journey to Sapporo.
For those thinking of heading down, the Sunday night final is the most obvious highlight, but the after-party at leading Sapporo club "A-Life" is also definitely worth a look. There will be a variety of Niseko operators offering day trips down for the TBA, but consider staying down in Sapporo overnight and using the chance to see the internationally famous Sapporo Snow Festival.