In stark contrast to the 2015 winter season, the snow has been piling up in Western Canada since early December and already holds the promise of monstrous conditions for the return of Red Bull Cold Rush, taking place at Revelstoke, BC from February 2-5, 2016.
Revelstoke Mountain Resort (RMR), which will host the multi-discipline freeski contest for the first time, has already received over 590cm of the white stuff this winter. With an average snowfall of 5cm per day this season, RMR is experiencing the third-best snow year in the Resort’s nine year history.
The trend bodes well for Red Bull Cold Rush which will challenge athletes in just about every type of terrain RMR has to offer – from big mountain, cliffs, and slopestyle to touring. With a blend of natural features and man-made elements integrated into the mountain’s profile, slopestyle skiers who are more accustomed to throwing big spins in the park will find themselves negotiating the steep alpine and cliff drops of Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s upper area on Mount Mackenzie.
On the flip side, traditional big-mountain participants will take on the massive kickers, step-ups, and custom-built features created by an expert crew of builders led by Riley Leboe. To help balance the playing field, the 2016 event will integrate a gruelling ski-touring element that will allow athletes to potentially recoup points lost in disciplines that are not necessarily their strong suit.
Riley Leboe, one of 15 men competing in this year’s competition, knows a thing or two about building jumps – he’s been doing it for as long as he can remember. He started by building jumps for his local mountain freestyle club, before eventually going on to oversee the course design of the first three Red Bull Cold Rush events.
This year, Leboe is back at the helm of a six-man crew tasked with the job of designing, building, and preparing the various venues for the multi-day contest which took five straight days to complete.
With the new location at RMR, Leboe is excited to flex his creative muscles on a new mountain that offers him a lot of room to play. “Revelstoke’s terrain gives us so many options. There’s a combination of amazing resort terrain, heli access and cat access – it’s the best combination you could ask for and covers such a large area,” he says. With playful terrain from cliffs to rolls and senders, Leboe believe RMR caters exactly to the Red Bull Cold Rush style of freeskiing.
Of the three main contest zones, it is the slopestyle arena that demands the majority of Leboe’s attention and time, as his crew digs, moves, and builds by hand the enormous kickers that will be the centrepiece of the contest.
“I worked on the Red Bull Cold Rush course in Retallack a few years ago where we used snowcats to push up massive jumps in the backcountry. But this year, the venue is too remote to get a snowcat into, so everything is built by hand. But doing so gives us more control of exactly where we want each feature,” says Leboe.
The slopestyle zone features three step-downs and five massive jumps that each take an average of eight hours to build, complementing the other natural features like wind lips and step-overs that competitors can integrate into their runs.
One of the largest features will be a step-over, measured at roughly 25m, that Leboe predicts will be where the biggest tricks go down, believing that “with the length of the landing, athletes will easily be able to take the jump 100-plus feet.”.
From those features, competitors will be able to link together three to four jumps in their line, with multiple lines to choose from. The end goal for Leboe is to build each feature large enough to allow the most progressive tricks, such as double flips that will truly test competitors’ skill.