As if bringing snow to LA wasn’t enough of an undertaking, Olympic gold medalist Shaun White is also bringing an award-worthy musical lineup to Pasadena with his Air + Style festival.

Between recently purchasing and producing the event, touring with his band, Bad Things, and competing throughout the winter months (he does still have a day job, after all), Shaun took a few minutes out to talk to me about finding balance in his life, the beauty of musical imperfection through the eyes of a self-proclaimed perfectionist, and more.

How have you changed the festival in bringing Air + Style from Beijing and Austria to the US?

This is all pretty new to me. I just recently purchased the event, so this is the first year I’ve been involved with running it. The nice part about Austria, though, is that it’s been going on there for 20 years, so they’ve got it pretty dialed in. Same thing with Beijing. That’s been going on for five years, so they definitely know what they’re doing.

For LA, I came in with new logos, hashtags, and things to modernize the brand of Air + Style and kind of give it a new look, bring in more music and things like that to shape it a little differently. Los Angeles is a big one. I’m really kind of using it as a footprint that we’ll then go back to the other events with. It’ll be a much larger music event, like Coachella-type where there are multiple stages, and you can walk around.

Right now, those events [in Beijing and Austria] take place in stadiums, so there are the floor seats where you can stand and walk around, but the majority of the seats are up in the stadium seating, so this is a unique event of the three. It’s kind of like our big blowout at the end. This is a tour, and LA is the last stop, so all of the riders are there pretty much to win the title of Air + Style.

That’s why we went really heavy with the music lineup, went heavy with getting the bold areas that we’ve gotta fill, but it’s exciting. It’s quite an undertaking. There are the mundane points of “Where do the bathrooms go?” and “Where are people going to park?” or “How do they get there? What’s going to happen?” and educating people on what the event’s even about.

It’s almost going to take one year of the event happening for people to really get the idea of it. So far, so good, but then the upside is when you land Kendrick Lamar, and you’re like, “Alright, that is going to be something right there.”

I read quite a while ago that you were thinking of bringing Air + Style to the US. What made you choose LA as your host city?

I grew up here somewhat. I grew up mostly in Southern California in the San Diego area. When I made my way up to Los Angeles, it was just such a fun and exciting place. There are a lot of musicians and people already from here, and I think people forget that I grew up in these areas.

It’s so nice to snowboard in these conditions. The weather’s nice for the concert-goer, and as a competitor, the snow is soft. It’s definitely not as intimidating as being locked up in the mountains, trying to hold this event. It’s a lot nicer venue than you would imagine. People think, “Why would you do that in LA?” and that’s kind of why we’re doing it in LA, to be honest. A lot of people in this area haven’t even seen snow, so it’s kind of like us bringing the mountains to the city and showing them something maybe they’ve never seen before.


It’s definitely unique to the area. I heard the ramps could even survive in up-to-90-degree weather.

Yeah, we even had thoughts of doing it at the beach almost as a stunt, as a way of saying, “Look, we can do it wherever,” but how would we contain that? [Laughs] Maybe we will end up there one day, down in Venice or Santa Monica, but we thought for the first year, Pasadena would be great.

The snow is Los Angeles will be pretty cool. We went out to test the sound and make the first bit of snow the other day, and it was really exciting to see people jogging by, probably thinking, “What is going on?” [Laughs] We were just shooting snow all over the grass. It was pretty funny.

You mentioned the heavy music lineup. How much were you a part of the music curation?

Pretty in the thick of things. It was great. I basically made my wish list of bands that I’d like to see, and then I went and called friends.

I play guitar in a band, Bad Things, and we’ve toured and made friends along the way, and it’s been great because you get to bump into these people. We played a show with The Flaming Lips in San Francisco at the Warfield, and I pretty much just told them backstage, “Look, you guys have got to come to my event.” [Laughs] They were actually one of the last additions to the event.

With Kendrick Lamar, we happened to be in the right place at the right time. He was coming out with his new stuff, and we booked him on the bill, then he landed SNL and all these other things, so we caught him on this cool rise up that he’s currently in.

Then on the other side of it, there’s Steve Aoki. He loves to snowboard. He loves that sport and the culture behind it. It’s a real funny thing how close the world of sports is to music. A guy like myself, I’m excited to see the music lineup, and he’s just like, “Can I hit the jump?! Who’s going to be there? Which riders?!” He’s pumped. I flew to Vegas and caught him right before he left for Ibiza or wherever he was on his way to, and I convinced him to come to the event. He’s been a real helping hand in everything. I’m super excited for him to be a part of this.

Then there are some locals. There’s Cults, who grew up in the San Diego area, and we know a lot of the members of the band. I actually think some of my band members went to school with them. We toured last summer with Phantogram in the South and throughout the US.

Selfishly, there’s The Black Lips. I’ve never seen them perform, but I’ve heard they have a great show, so I just said, “We’ve got to get them on the list.” Then there’s Edward Sharpe… This is somewhat selfishly the way to get all these acts I wanted to see into my life at one big event. [Laughs]

Air and Style Lineup

Up next: Shaun talks balancing Bad Things and boarding…