Running a ski contest is hard. That is something that was firmly established last week when tempers flared at the FIS World Championships, and reaffirmed this weekend at 10 Barrel Brewing's Hella Big Air contest at Mount Bachelor. The weekend did not feature yelling FIS officials, but instead brought bad weather as snow, flat light, and slow speeds that made hitting the massive 82' cheese wedge of a jump difficult. The riders still managed to put on a show for the crowd, however, and huck their meat for the chance to take home the $10,000 first place prize.
The Mount Bachelor park crew put together a really big and scenic jump right at the base of the mountain, and set up two beer gardens for the watching crowd courtesy of 10 Barrel Brewing. While the location certainly added to the speed issues for the skiers, it's hard to beat a big air contest right at the base area, it really brings the crowd into the event.
With the contest set to begin in the afternoon and a fresh coating of a couple inches of heavy snow overnight, it was clear from the get-go that speed would be a major issue throughout the day. The most telling moment of the morning came when a snowboarder came up about 20' short, landing flat on the uphill side of the knuckle and likely doing some big time damage to his knee.
The skiers continued to try and find the speed early in practice, but a handful of other heinous meetings with the knuckle brought on a delay to figure out how to fix the speed. During this break a fun little quarter pipe session broke out on the backside of the jump. It was maybe just the riders trying to take their minds of hucking to flat. $10,000 to the winner is a strong carrot to fight through problems like speed and weather, however.
After free waxes offered by 10 Barrel, and some work by the Bachelor Parks crew, things got under way again. The skiers had to do everything they could to juice the most out of the long, sometimes flat inrun, but everyone was clearing the jump now. This is where the contest really got going, and in the end, where it was decided, as a snowstorm later in the day would call off finals.
Some highlights from the action:
Jonah Elston stepped up to hitting the jump switch, bringing some stylie 5's, a 7, and switch 10 mute, a throwback big air trick.
These put him into third place.
Jake Mageau, AKA Mista Mango went really big all day long. He threw a double flatspin, and a double cork 12 that were good enough to help him into second place. Some of his smaller spins were super stylish, too.
Nicky Keefer killed it with some classic stylish Keefer rodeos, and uncrossed mutes. The trick that helped seal the victory was the double 12 bio, with its crazy downward facing rotations. That is one wacky trick that not a lot of skiers can pull off.
The local Bend crew, aside from Jake and Jonah, threw down with some style and no fear stepping up to the giant jump. The mountain isn't necessarily known for its park scene, so it was cool to see the local riders skiing well. Hunter Hess went big all night, including a double in his runs, which could have arguably put him onto the podium.
After getting things going in the long jam style qualifier the ominous clouds that had been circulating all day began dropping snow (as of Monday morning, 22" have now fallen in the past 3 days). Combined with the variable speed issues throughout the day, this snow and the resulting flat light made conditions too dangerous for such a big jump. Props to the organizers for hustling to get the qualifiers in, and for listening to the concerns of the skiers.
Overall, it was a fun event. It was awesome to have 10 Barrel putting on the event, I know the media crew and the announcers were doing some product sampling throughout the weather delayed day. It was also great to see Nicky Keefer take home the big check. He flew in last minute, encouraged to go for it by his wife, and showed that he's no doubt one of the top skiers in the game. On the flip side, the local Bend crew threw down hard, making a case for their strong future in skiing. As for the conditions, it definitely put both organizers and skiers alike in a hard position. The skiers don't want to get broken off, and the organizers want to justify giving away the big money. In situations like this there's no easy answer as to what to do. Despite the difficulties, we saw some great skiing, and had a hella good time.