PORTLAND – Many of the spectators who tried to watch from slippery snowbanks or the parking garage at Monument Square said the crowd at Friday’s Downtown Showdown was bigger this year.

There appeared to be as many as 2,000 people watching at any one time. The 15 skiers and 15 snowboarders performed a variety of aerial stunts during the two-hour performance on the rails and ramp Friday from 5 to 7 p.m.

Many of those who stood in the cold saw only part of the show — either the flying, spinning tricks or the landings — but they said they didn’t mind.

“You can’t see it unless you’re right (in the front row). But there’s people, and music. It’s cool,” said skateboarder Trevor Camden, 28, of Portland.

“Portland needs more things like this.”

Now in its third year, the music-and-light-infused show, put on by Sunday River and Sugarloaf ski areas, hasn’t changed much.

The 30-foot rails and 20-foot-high ramp were basically the same setup as last year, but many onlookers said the crowd seemed bigger. One improvement many spectators said they would like to see is better viewing opportunities.

Those who watched from the Monument Square parking garage were thrown out an hour into the show by security, who said the garage is private property and not an appropriate balcony. They had trouble finding a decent vantage point after that.

“We can’t find a place to watch. We’re just going to walk around and try to find one,” said Jake Mello, 15, of Windham.

Others such as Rick Brown of Windham and Dave Bernier of Gorham could only see the start of the tricks.

From where they stood, eight rows back, the landings — and the falls — weren’t visible.

But these avid skiers didn’t care. They just listened for the crowd’s reaction to learn what they missed.

Brown, 45, said the urban display was a spirited and encouraging event.

“Those kids look untouchable,” Brown said. “This is nothing for these kids. They make it look easy.”

After ending in a face plant on one run, freestyle skier Philip Curll, 21, said the falls look worse than they feel. Curll, who came from Vermont to compete for the first time, said falling is educational.

“It’s how you get better,” he said. “This event is fun because it gets freestyle skiing up there, and gives a lot of people the opportunity to see it who wouldn’t normally get to.” 

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: [email protected]