By Melanie Wong
Who needs dirt to mountain bike?
Not the riders competing at this weekend’s Winter Teva Mountain Games. The games will feature several extremely unique events, including a best trick competition, where riders get big air and try to pull the best stunt. Expect to see soaring jumps, flips, “supermans,” and all manner of twists and spins.
According to bike event coordinator and pro freerider Jeff Lenosky, the on-snow bike competitions will be a bit of a historical event. While there are an abundance of elite summer freeride competitions in North America, this will be the first snow event in America in the last decade, he says.
Even Lenosky, a veteran pro best known for his accomplishments in trials riding – a discipline where extreme bike handling skills and balance are the focus – says he’s never competed on snow.
“It's going to be totally awesome,” says Lenosky, a summer Teva Games champ. “I’ve been coming to the Teva Games in summer for the past 10 years. Summer’s always been a blast and the volume of people there in winter will be even more. It'll be fun to build a nice huge jump and pull some sick stunts. It should be a good time.”
Sam Pilgrim, a pro rider from England, will be making his Teva Games debut and will be one of the “snow specialists” in the field.
“We have an event over in Europe called White Style – white as in snow, of course. I have won that contest twice,” says Pilgrim. “I'm new to the Teva Games, but I've heard about it before and they were good things I heard, so I'm very excited to be there.”
Of course, most riders are used to launching off dirt, but the terrain park crew at Vail Mountain has been working all week to come up with a launch-worthy course made of snow. Lenosky says a snow jump actually allows for much bigger jumps and tricks.
“You can have massive jump with a lot smaller consequences on snow,” he says. “For slopestyle or big air – if you get it right – (snow is) the safest way to do it. On dirt, you're landing on dirt, rocks and harder things.”
According to Shawn Carney, terrain park manager at Vail, riders will start on a wooden ramp that leads to a jump with a 60-foot long deck (the gap). The jump will be quite wide – 80 feet – so that the big air telemark competition can take place alongside the bike contest.
That’s double the size of many dirt jumps in the summer, Lenosky says.
The jump was made possible by nearly a week’s worth of snowmaking, along with a crew of snowcats and winchcats, says Carney.
“It’s a pretty big pile of snow,” he says. “A 60-foot jump is a good-sized jump. That’s bigger than our largest terrain park jump. We haven’t had something like that since the Session and Ski Classic (former Vail pro ski/snowboard events) went away. We’re excited to have the opportunity to build a big jump here and put on a show.”