Big air, mile-high prices

The ramp, which will be built in front of Denver's Civic Center, is said to one of the biggest ramps ever constructed. Courtesy of Metro Denver Sports Commission

Updated Dec. 9

Since publishing the story below, the Metro Denver Sports Commission announced new ticket prices for the Jan. 25-26 Denver Big Air. Single-day tickets are now $45; two-day passes are $80. Daily VIP passes are available for $100, which includes food, beverage and premium viewing. Also, limited no-charge, semi-obstructed viewing outside of the paid viewing area will be available in designated areas on a first come, first served basis the day of the event. Tickets are on sale now at


The inaugural Denver Big Air presented by Sprint is set to take place Jan. 25-26 in downtown Denver, the same week as Winter X Games 15 in Aspen and the annual snowsports trade show in Denver, but the recent announcement of the event's ticket prices has caused some commotion.

Including booking fees, the price to attend the freeskiing competition is $62 and the price to attend the FIS World Cup snowboarding event is $82. Or you can buy a ticket to both for $107.

The response to these numbers has flooded the online world, with commenters not-so-delicately making their opinions known.

From Denver Big Air's Facebook page: "For ski bums and college kids with a passion, i'm pretty let down for all of us. i understand the event is pricy but you're excluding way too many people that were pumped on your event."

From newschoolers.com: " ... nobody will pay that unless it includes free lunch and beer."

KieAnn Brownell, president of the non-profit Metro Denver Sports Commission, or Denver Sports, is in charge of organizing Denver Big Air. She said the reason for the high prices is simple: They have to cover exorbitant costs associated with hosting a FIS World Cup event, which includes building a ramp that is 101 feet tall in the heart of downtown Denver.

"We wish the tickets could be free, but unfortunately we don't have a big pile of money in the next room that we can pay for these events with," Brownell said. "We've got to make the revenue just to hold the event."

Brownell added that they're seeing "a very good response to the ticket sales and ticket prices. We've sold numbers in the high hundreds already." The expected capacity is around 20,000 spectators, she said.

When asked if the price would decrease if spectator numbers remain low as the event nears, Brownell said: "I realize there's a certain population that's unwilling to pay this, but I don't ever anticipate there being a $10 ticket to this event. It's sort of like, you can go to a local high school football game for considerably less than you can go to the Super Bowl. But wouldn't you rather see the Super Bowl?"

Thus far, Denver Sports has not secured any sponsorships of its own to help pay for the event, but anticipates doing so in the next two months. "Most of the sponsorship rights belong to USSA and FIS, who bring along companies like Sprint, LG and Nature Valley, plus six others," she said. "We have to fulfill the sponsorship benefits for them but don't receive the associated revenues. This is not uncommon."

The backlash to the prices has included claims that dissenting comments have been deleted from the event's Facebook page, an accusation Brownell said is untrue. "We asked our third-party firm that runs our Facebook page, and they said no," she said.

When queried on why attending Denver Big Air costs up to seven times as much as it did to attend the now-defunct Icer Big Air in San Francisco, Brownell responded: "Are you familiar with where that event is now? It's gone away because it was a business model they couldn't sustain."

Tom Kelly, vice president of communications for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, said his organization had "no specific comments" on the ticket prices. "As you know, Metro Denver Sports is producing this event and we have respect for its knowledge of the marketplace as well as recognizing the vast infrastructure investment necessary to produce a world class event," Kelly told ESPN.

Of the potential conflict with the X Games, Brownell said Denver Sports is trying to limit overlaps. "We've been working with them because, honestly, we don't want to take them on or have them view us adversely," she said.