Words by Ryan Snyder

Photos by Christian Pondella, Erik Seo, Ian Fohrman & Mike Arzt

Like a scene out of the movie Groundhog Day, day three of Red Bull Cold Rush dawned just like the previous two: sunny and blue in the quaint, quiet, and historic Silverton, Colorado. The competition field of 15 men and 6 women ferried out via helicopter to the final venue of this year’s Red Bull Cold Rush: the “Cliffs” portion of the competition. Set in “Zone 7” at Silverton Mountain, the venue was comprised of four distinct cliff areas for competitors to choose from. Each skier had two runs and the starting order was reversed for the second run to be sure everyone had a fair chance at a fresh landing.

Scouting the zone.

Red Bull Cold Rush base camp.

Athletes getting ready to send it.

Suz Graham in Silverton Mountain's Zone 7.

Like the day before, so many mind-blowing things went down on skis that it’s nearly impossible to predict how the results of the rider judging will come out when the athletes sit down to review the footage from the day. Newcomer Leo Ahrens kicked things off by stomping a smooth 360 off of a solid 30-foot cliff.

Leo Ahrens' backflip.

Shortly thereafter, last year’s Red Bull Cold Rush champion Sean Pettit held nothing back and launched off one of the bigger cliffs in the venue. Pettit floated a slow 360 over a set of pine trees and stomped a landing a good 70+feet down from his take off. “That might have been the biggest I’ve ever gone off a cliff,” Pettit said afterwards.

Sean Pettit spinning off the 70-footer.

Dane Tudor stuck a corked 720 off of the same cliff as the spectators and competitors below erupted in cheers. Grete Eliassen took a line off of a natural diving board and transitioned a smooth 360 into the gut of a chute coming down between cliffs. Jackie Paaso employed the classic “spread eagle” off of the same cliff Pettit and Tudor hit, again to an explosion of cheers from below.

Jackie Paaso on the 70-footer.

And in a scary moment of miscalculation, Alex Prochazka hucked a backflip off the 80-footer only to get hung up on a protruding tree sticking out from the cliff face, separating Prochazka from one of his skis 60 feet in the air and sending him head first into the snow. Luckily Alex was ok, and with a mouth full of snow, was able to wiggle out to safety on his own.

Alex Prochazka's backflip off the 80-footer.

The second run of the day was no less impressive than the first. Josh Bibby and Alex Prochazka returned to hit the big 80-footer on the skier’s right of the venue, with a 360 and big backflip, respectively. After another rough landing, Prochazka radioed up to Dave Treadway with a bit of advice, who stuck the most laid out backflip of the day off the rock face. “That’s possibly the biggest backflip I’ve ever done,” Treadway said, nearly echoing Pettit’s earlier statement.

Dave Treadway's laid out 80-foot backflip.

Pettit took the same cliff on his second run as he did on his first, going for a very big cork 720, but he was not quite able to stick the landing. Grete Eliassen charged into a technical line on her second run, taking a solid, fast straight air over a 15-foot section of rocks.

Grete Eliassen's unique line.

On the women’s side, Grete Eliassen will most likely take the Cliffs portion of the event, but the men’s results are really, no pun intended, up in the air. Skiers judge themselves after reviewing video in the evening and rank each other based on “overall impression.” Pettit, Treadway and Tudor all stand a fair chance of taking this portion of Red Bull Cold Rush. Results will determine the overall winner of what has been a very close competition. “It’s going to be a real noodle scratcher,” Sage Cattabriga-Alosa said. “We might need to watch the footage twice to be able to figure this out.”

Dylan Hood and Sage Cattabriga-Alosa scouting their lines.

Updates, photos and video of the 2011 Red Bull Cold Rush can be found at http://www.redbullusa.com/coldrush. Head there to check out the daily highlight video and vote on your favorite skier for the People's Choice Award.