The most famous air of all time?
Ingemar’s flight over Riksgransen completely revised the boundaries of what was possible on a snowboard.
It’s the spring of 1996, and a small crew of snowboarders are enjoying an impromptu quarterpipe session in the far north of Sweden, in a resort called Riksgransen. As the tinny sound system pumps out the chorus of ‘Lump’ by the Presidents of the USA, a 20 year old Swedish rider called Ingemar Backman drops into the patchy run-in, casually tailslides an exposed rock and comes hurtling through the compression in a low crouch. He then launches out of the lip into a perfect method grab some 25ft above the coping – seeming to hang for an eternity as the crowd sighs in disbelief – before clipping the flat-top on the way back into the ramp and riding out with his hands on his head – stunned by his own achievement.
Ingemar’s flight over Riksgransen was the highest ‘re-entry’ air ever performed to date, completely revising the boundaries of what was possible on a snowboard. Within months the iconic image of his feat was splashed on the cover of snowboard magazines across the globe, as well as featuring in both the Mack Dawg and Standard movies, sending Ingemar’s reputation into the stratosphere. “That jump changed everything,” says Ingemar now. “It was a big step. People who were riding back then sometimes know me from my movie parts, but mostly it’s the backside air.”
What makes this jump even more remarkable is the actual size of the transition. Unlike the Baker Gap, for instance – which looks as impressive in real life as it does on film – the famous Riksgransen ‘quarterpipe’ is really just a forgettable little snow bank not far from the piste. Sure, a handful of riders have gone bigger since (Terje Haakonsen and Heikki Sorsa at the Arctic Challenge, Mads Jonsson in Hemsedal) but these were all over massive, perfectly sculpted transitions; Ingemar squeezed an impossible amount of airtime from a rutted and slushy hit that had been knocked together with shovels in a matter of hours. Without doubt it was a moment that changed the course of snowboarding – and you have to wonder if it could even be topped today.