Best. Weekend. Ever.
How often do we all use those words and realize a few weeks later that, in hindsight, it might have been fun, but was it really the most fun we’ve ever had? Probably not.
In my case, after a weekend in Los Angeles as Stoli vodka’s guest for Shaun White’s Air+Style event—which brought together the world’s best snowboarders with amazing cocktails, music, culture and art—I’m not sure there have been a better four days in my entire life.
Yes, this was one of those press trips where, upon being invited by a sponsor, I immediately thought that it would be the same old thing. I’d get to interview Shaun White, maybe run into some of the other competitors of the Big Air competition, drink way too much, socialize with a bunch of random people and get to see some dope music from artists like J. Cole, Haim and Incubus, among others. What I got, though, was something that absolutely blew my mind—and I’m still trying to recover, so thanks for the three-day hangover, Stoli.
Arriving in L.A. on Thursday, I headed over to check out the event space, which, if you’ve never seen a 171-foot slope with 500 tons of snow in 70-degree weather—and you probably haven’t—blew my freaking mind. No joke, guys, just look at those pictures above and imagine looking up at that and realizing you’re in downtown L.A. Just nuts.
The party continued the next couple of days at the Stoli Lounge inside the venue, which included an airstreamed bar called the Road Soda Bar, where bartenders Mark, Ben and their crew were busy slinging custom Stoli drinks all weekend to leave us partiers with some massive hangovers—and plenty of hazy stories.
The first day of the event was spent hanging out with pro snowboarder Eric Willett, who Stoli brought in to make the first Big Air Mule, with Willett pouring the drink atop the 170-foot slope, going down at about 60 miles per hour, pulling off an epic backflip to mix the drink and sticking the landing with style. After tasting the concoction, let’s just say the dude has a career as a bartender after he’s done snowboarding, because the thing was amazing.
With J.Cole headlining to close out the night, we made our way to the stage to take in the rapper’s smooth sounds, a little more shitcanned than I think we’d all like to admit, with the night leading to some debauchery back in the Road Soda Bar that went until about 3 a.m. and ended with me singing Enrique Iglesias to some 60-year-old Spanish lady on the streets of L.A. while waiting for late-night tacos. What can I say, I guess I’m a charmer.
As incredible as the first day of Air+Style was, day two of the event was what I was looking forward to the most, as Stoli hooked up a full day with Shaun White, the President & CEO of Stoli USA Patrick Piana and a few other higher-ups from the company.
Sharing some drinks with White in the Road Soda Bar got things started, as he told us about where the inspiration for Air+Style came from and how he has put his own creative touch on the event, bringing together a perfect blend of pro snowboarders with some of his favorite tunes.
Said White, “The event started about 20-something years ago in Austria and was this very European thing where people went up to snowboard, then had an epic party to end the thing with good music and stuff like that. I went as a kid and loved it.”
Asked to be the host for the event once it expanded into China, White was blown away when he returned and saw that Air+Style was nearly twice the size, seeing the potential of it in the States.
“I started the process of me, eventually, owning the event, and once I got control of it, I put my vision of a true sports and music festival, using the original ideas and just expanding upon it.”
Leading us to the top of the slope to get a glimpse of some of the competition, which, looking back on now, probably wasn’t such a good idea considering we had a couple Stoli cocktails in us, White told me how humbled he was to be in the position he was as the sports most recognizable figure. Really, the most reasonable comparison, in my opinion, is that he’s the Michael Jordan of the sport, taking it to obscene levels that no one could have imagined possible.
Getting our feet back on solid ground, I got the chance to talk with Travis Barker of Blink 182 and chilled with Willett and White during the Finals of the Big Air event, which ended with Yuki Kadono defending his title from last year.
Sneaking my way into the artist/athlete lounge before Incubus closed out the weekend, I downed a bunch of Stoli drinks to get lit and head out with a bang, even marching backstage with White—before being told I had to leave—and then finding my way on the other side of the stage after getting hooked up with a wristband. Was it a risky proposition? Probably. Was it worth it? Definitely.
It’s not everyday you get a chance to be on stage and about 30 feet from a band performing, so of course I was going to do what I could to get back up there, no matter the potential consequence.
With the music over, I stumbled my way back to the Stoli lounge to finish up drinking, playing some dice inside the Road Soda Bar way later than I should have, before making it back to the exact same taco stand I was at the night prior.
Not realizing how messed up I really was, I felt it necessary to go ahead and run a 40-yard dash on the streets of L.A., holding a taco and just hoping that I didn’t bite it and break my face.
I was able to maintain my balance and run a surprising 5.65-second time, but, had their been a bike cop nearby, I probably could’ve been pulled over for drunk running—if there was such a thing.
As I headed home sweating from my run, nearly passing out in the back of a cab and stumbling my way back into my hotel room, the memories I had might have been hazy, but spending time with Shaun White, drinking a bunch of Stoli and being treated like an A-list celebrity all weekend is something that I’ll never forget.