Now in its fifth year, Red Bull Cold Rush - one of the most progressive contests in freeskiing - made the move out of British Columbia for the first time in 2011. Silverton Mountain in southwestern Colorado was chosen for the stateside move of North America’s premier skiing event, and the field of fifteen men and six women arrived in sleepy Silverton last Sunday. Monday brought the start of three days of peer-judged competition, along with some of the wildest freeskiing action ever seen.
The venue change for Cold Rush proved to add a new dynamic to the event with regard to the level of difficulty. Colorado snowpack is notoriously fickle and produced variable conditions throughout the three-stage competition. The other contributing factor was Silverton’s steeper and more technical terrain.
“The Big Mountain venue here was a legitimate big mountain venue,” competitor Sage Cattabriga-Alosa said. “It was cool, because it made everyone take the time to think and be cautious and wise in their line selection.”
Three Days, Endless Possibilities
The “Big Mountain” portion of Cold Rush kicked things off on Monday. Under blue skies and bright sun, athletes chose lines from the Pequenos, Grande Couloir, and Gnar zones at Silverton. Normally accessed via a significant hike off of Silverton’s only lift, skiers were “bumped” to the top of their lines via helicopter.
On the men’s side, Dave Treadway easily took the top spot with a line down the Gnar face that included significant exposure over cliffs hundreds of feet tall, impressive route finding, and a solid 50-foot mandatory exit air. For the women, last year’s Cold Rush champion Suzanne Graham scored just slightly better than newcomer Shelly Robertson with a fast and fluid line down a Pequenos couloir, capped off by a stomped 20-foot exit air.
Day two of Cold Rush dawned sunny, just like the one before. The contest moved over to the Mando zone at Silverton where Red Bull employed the skills of the recovering Pep Fujas to build the slopestyle course. Fujas spent two weeks in Silverton with a 14-man crew building four gigantic backcountry-style hits. Competitors could hit one of two jumps on the top of the course, and choose one of another two at the bottom.
Tim Durtschi edged out 2010 Cold Rush champion Sean Pettit for the men with a smooth switch 900 up top and switch 540 on the bottom. For the women, Grete Eliassen easily took top honors with a stomped 720 up top and 360 at the bottom of the course.
The third and final day of Cold Rush was comprised of the “Cliffs” portion of the event and was held in the heli-accessed Zone 7 at Silverton - basically an amphitheatre of four distinct cliff zones. With multiple lines available on the top coming in, the performances were simply amazing.
Pettit took the top spot by hucking and stomping a solid 70-to-80-foot 360 off of the biggest cliff in the venue. “That might be the biggest cliff I’ve ever done,” Pettit said right afterwards. Again, Grete Eliassen took top honors in the women’s field by floating a lazy 25-foot 360 off a natural diving board and landing in a chute between cliffs.
Other notable performances included Dane Tudor’s 60-to-70-foot 720 off the biggest cliff, Treadway’s enormous 70-foot laid-out backflip, and newcomer Alex Prochazka impacting a dead tree during a backflip off of the same cliff Treadway hit.
Each day all of the skiers reviewed video of the day’s runs (pictured above) and ranked each other in order of performance at each venue. At the end, points were added together to determine a winner. Results are as follows:
1. Sean Pettit
2. Sage Cattabriga-Alosa
3. Dane Tudor
4. Dave Treadway
5. Tim Durtschi
1. Grete Eliassen
2. Shelly Robertson
3. Michelle Parker
4. Suzanne Graham
5. Jackie Paaso
Winning a contest judged entirely by your peers is especially rewarding, a point not lost on the winners.
“I don’t have words to describe winning,” Pettit said. “People went crazy this year and I still can’t believe I came out on top.”
“This is the biggest competition of the year for me, because this is the kind of skiing I love to do,” Eliassen said after results were announced. “I focused all my training on Cold Rush and to win it is awesome.”
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