The challenges associated with producing a three-day, three-venue, 20-athlete competition in the backcountry run deep. But if there’s any company who can pull it off with military like precision, it’s Red Bull.
The sixth annual Red Bull Cold Rush will again be staged on Silverton’s backside, where hand selected athletes like Sean Pettit and Michelle Parker will be shuttled daily via helicopter to compete in slopestyle, cliff and big mountain disciplines.
“Running three disciplines over three days really establishes the best all around skier,” says Red Bull’s Ryan Snyder.
Last year’s highlights included Dave Treadway’s first decent of a line down 13,640-foot Storm Peak to win the big mountain event, Pettit’s perfectly stomped 360 off a 60 footer and Suz Graham throwing a double backflip to win the overall women’s title.
“I was really excited that all the athletes said it was the best event they’ve ever attended,” Aaron Brill, owner of Silverton Mountain, says of last year’s event. “We’re excited to step it up this year.”The unique format enlists the athletes to judge each other every evening after video analysis.
After an ankle injury prevented him from competing, Pep Fujas was brought on as course designer in 2011. Beyond designing the slope course, he selected the venues for the big mountain and cliff competitions, taking into consideration snow quality and stability, transport distance, light, and weather forecasts.
This year, Fujas has already made three trips to Silverton. During the most recent visit, he helped build the slopestyle course over four days with an 18-person crew. “It’s the same location as last year’s course, but I wanted to completely change all the jumps,” says Fujas. “And everyone wanted to upgrade the features and play up the mining theme of the event.”
Denver-based project management firm The Public Works spent a week in their shop building the physical features of the jumps for the three-hit slopestyle course.
The first jib on the left line consists of 24-foot-long railroad tracks built from beetle kill timber, which was inspired by a tour through Silverton’s mining museum
Following a 60-foot gap after the rails, the second feature is an air over a cornice complete with a timber-framed mineshaft built into the face of the jump.
“There’s a space under the lip where you can actually go inside,” says Ian Fohrman, partner at The Public Works.
The right line kicks off with a 30-foot step-down over some rocks, followed by a step-over that parallels a cliff band. Third is the Castle jump, a step-down similar to the one Fujas constructed last year that boasts the façade of a cabin.
The Public Works built three 16-foot walls that were long lined up in the heli and then arranged to enclose the jump before the jump crew filled it with snow. Fujas says you can send it from 80 feet to “however big you want.”
“It was crazy watching those guys wrestle 800 pound log cabin walls off a long line from a heli,” says Forhman. “There were tasks you’d normally use a forklift or a machine for, but because we were in this environment, we had to use man power.”
“It’s a ton of work, but it’s super fun playing lumber jack in the high alpine,” says Forhman who practiced skiing while carrying 16-foot 2x4’s over his shoulder. “The slope course is bigger and manlier than last year,” he says. “It’s all pretty huge and scary. It should be a good show.”
Fujas says he looks forward to seeing if all the jumps work out. “The allure and challenge of the event is that everything is fresh. We might have athletes test the rail jib, but the jumps will be fresh.”
The big mountain and cliff courses depend on Silverton’s legendary natural terrain. Brill has been monitoring the big mountain venue the entire season. The area has received around 150 inches of snow in the past month. “It’s a season-long prep,” he says. “The bulk of the work happens in the week leading up to the event. It takes a lot of people.”
For instance, there will be 20 guides staged around the mountain on the big mountain competition day.
“For a lot of the athletes, last year was their first time to Silverton,” says Red Bull’s Ryan Snyder. “Now, going back, we’ll see how they step it up and continue the progression.”
There won’t be any video footage online, but Nelson based Freeride Entertainment will be filming the event for an NBC show set to air March 24.