By Jim Harris
"What did you think coming back to the Cold Rush would be like?" I asked 17-year-old Logan Pehota after finishing his two runs. After a pause he replied with a shrug, "I didn't think it'd be this rocky."
Earlier in the day, the two of us had crested Silverton Mountain's chairlift and stood inspecting the steep walls of Velocity Basin at Monday's Big Mountain venue. The athletes gathered on the ridge pointed to the aftermath of an overnight full-depth natural avalanche that had carved the snow from a portion of today's venue. In the past week Silverton, Colorado, received more than two feet of powder plus a good dose of post-frontal wind. One outcome of that weather was a bus-sized cornice that clung to the rocky ridge until it capriciously collapsed in the night, triggered a slab that explosives had failed to cut loose, and in the process clipped some prime terrain from the competition.
The realization that today's course area would be curtailed followed a similar predicament earlier this week when avalanche control work cut loose a slab that left last year's Cliffs venue unusable. A replacement for the Cliffs venue hasn't yet been established, but after two inspections on the Big Mountain runs by Sage, Pep, Treadway, and Silverton Mountain staff, the steep chutes and rocky faces were green-lit for competition.
"I think some of the skiers were worried about more avalanches and skied cautiously because of it," Pehota said at the end of the day. "I thought Silverton did a really good job with avalanche control, so I wasn't too worried about them."
From the perspective of a non-pro like me, it still looked like plenty of balls went to the proverbial walls as skiers like Dave Treadway billygoated down improbable snow patches while Dash Longe and Andy Mahre not just hucked, but stomped, multiple airs between start and finish line arches.
In its sixth year, Red Bull has changed up its judging format. In the past athletes ranked each other every night based on video edits of that day's skiing. This year Red Bull is channeling their aerial, slow-mo video magic into a NBC special that will air on Sunday March 24 from 1-2 PM ET and the intensity of that production has caused a shift away from nightly athlete and web edits.
Today the skiers are headed up to the Slopestyle venue where a build crew headed by Pep Fujas spent weeks shaping features so large that athletes murmured about some being too large. If there's one lesson to be pulled from skiers bringing park tricks to the backcountry, however, it's that it only takes one person to guinea pig an impossibly large hit before that jump is no longer impossible.
Stay tuned to Powder.com for exlusive coverage of the 2012 Red Bull Cold Rush.