(Ed’s note: See powder.com’s Day 1 coverage, with photo gallery, from the Cold Rush here ")
By Jim Harris
The last storm to dump on Silverton Mountain cleared out more than a week ago. Since then, spring has been trying its best to get sprung in the San Juans mountains. In town, little creeks of muddy snowmelt wind down the unpaved streets; even the tops of fence posts are starting to reappear. Up high, all but the shadiest snow has been baked and refrozen into a barely rideable state. Monday's strategically located north-facing Big Mountain venue still sheltered cold powder, but a reflective sheen on adjacent slopes hinted at nastier conditions elsewhere. So, on top of yesterday's east-facing Slopestyle venue, the quality of the snow below was uncertain.
Course planner and pro skier Pep Fujas spent days five days working with a crew of a diggers to shape four massive jumps. They'd snuck into the hits from the sides, careful to leave pristine landings below the crafted hits. Still, the last two days had been warm and sunny and no one had been in to look closely.
The athletes were allowed a quick speed-check along the sculpted in-runs--but no one touched the transitions. Richard Permin was first to drop in and his quick inspection of the jumps had showed him the landings would still be soft. "I know the snow was good on the first kicker," he said, in French-accented English. "When you start first, the thing you don't know is the speed." On that first run Permin spun off the lips, linking the hits without hesitation.
Pep Fujas had laid out the course with two pairs of fat wedges; one set a few hundred feet above the other. This way the competitors had options for several combinations of booters. "The goal is to make it rider-friendly. You know, choose your line, mix and match jumps," says Fujas.
"You have to think," he continued, "there's going to be 20 athletes with two runs each. They need lots of landing space and variety."
And there was lots of variety. The biggest tricks of the day departed from the lip of The Castle, the lowest and biggest jump of the pack. At the end of the day, however, every one of the step-downs and hips had a long untouched patch below it followed by tracks from both stomps and tomahawks.
Once again, the Red Bull team put together an edit of the acrobatics for last night’s judging sessions. Twenty minutes of floaty switch cork 9's later, the lights came back up as the riders filled their score cards. Upstairs in the turn of the century bar, Red Bull’s David O’Connell announced that Tim Durtschi and Grete Eliassen had earned top scores.
After the impact of two days of aggressive competition, including some big crashes, athletes nursed whiplash-induced aches with cans of Silverton-brewed Cold Rush Golden Ale. I have no doubt that, after a few cold ones and maybe a little stretching and ibuprofen in the morning, the riders be ready to huck today's Cliffs venue.