Last Chair, First Run: 4 Guys, 2 Sports, 1 Great Day Out
Ever wondered what would happen when the biggest senders in two totally different sports could ride together? So have we! Well now you don’t have to wonder any longer.
For mountain bikers, waking up the day the trails clear of snow in the spring is like waking up on the first day of summer vacation for schoolchildren. For snowboarders, the day there is no more snow to ride is like the first day of September. But sometimes, there are a special few weeks in the spring when trails start to pop out of the snow, but it’s not too late to get in those last runs either. You can ride trails and snow on the same day, or even side by side with your buddies.
Carson Storch, one of the most respected freeride mountain bikers in the world, came up with the idea of riding bikes on a snowboard terrain park. After five years of Carson asking, we made it happen. 2021 might have started out with all of us riding alone, but thanks to Carson’s vision we were able to finish out the winter with the ultimate celebration of shredding with friends.
With the snow melting, we didn’t have long to create such a unique course, so we had the guys chip in and help build it. Carson and Jaxson Riddle know a thing or two about building terrain to ride, digging is a big part of Red Bull Rampage after all. Sean Fitzsimons and Luke Winkelman might not be so familiar with the shovel, but as up-and-coming riders on the US slopestyle scene, they know how to pick out the best lines on the snow. What the guys created together was truly unique. The jumps they built send one course over another, with plenty of airtime to flex on your friends below, the forested sections have them cutting between trees like they’re shredding pow in the backcountry, and the berms almost touch in the middle so they can kick mud and snow on each other as they slide around in the slop that both snow and mud become in the spring. It’s like a track you might build for slot cars, only slot cars aren’t real, and they can’t do backflips.
Riding is always more fun with someone else, you can learn from one another and encourage one another, tap into each other’s flow on the mountain. Plus, when you do land something you’ve been trying for weeks at the foam pit, there’s someone there to prove it really happened. But riding a snowboard next to a bike is far from the normal way of getting a few turns in with your friends. But after a few runs on the sloppy mud and wet snow of the 1500 foot descent the guys were cuing off each other like old riding buddies, smiling as they flew over each other’s heads and recounting their sickest tricks and nearest misses as they shared chairs on the way back up the mountain.
Carson and Jaxson both know a thing or two about riding down mountains on push bikes. Storch is a regular at Red Bull Rampage and Riddle grew up just a few miles away from Virgin, Utah, which hosts undoubtedly the biggest, baddest, and craziest event in freeride mountain biking each year. Carson, who is 27, is a “big inspiration” for Jaxson and it was Carson who gave Jaxson his Red Bull helmet. Even after coming on board with Red Bull, Jaxson still feels starstruck, “riding around him is crazy and surreal to me.” Of course, he was just as excited about the riding as he was the chance to spend a few days with one of his heroes. Virgin offers lines and loam that you can’t find anywhere else in the world, but after a year of riding there Jaxson “super stoked” to arrive at Snowshoe.
Both of them know what it means to sit at the top of a mountain and look way, way, down and work out who to get there on a bike and find a way to toss in a backflip on the way. What’s more, they enjoy it.
Sean and Luke have looked down a few mountains in their lives as well. They’re some of the biggest talents in slopestyle and they came to Snowshoe hot on the heels of solid results in the World Cup Slopestyle contest in Aspen. They grew up on the Rev tour together and feel really confident riding each other’s lines or doubling up on features. After a year with few opportunities to ride with other people, they’re both really stoked to be shredding together again. Luke grew up in North Carolina, it’s not such a snowboard hot spot but coming from that small scene really taught Luke the value of community. Rides like this reinforce that.
Getting a few days just to mess around with friends on a new course reminded Sean of “when I was younger, just ripping”. At just 20 years old, Sean and Luke still reaching their peak and every day on the lifts they get better. Just watching them shred, laugh, and push the boundaries of the sport is a pleasure. One day, both Sean and Luke hope to compete in the Olympic games. But at Snowshoe all they are competing over is who can slop the most wet snow onto Carson and Jaxson as their courses meet.
Luke and Carson are good buddies, and Carson grew up shredding snow in the winter and bikes in the summer in his home state of Oregon. “I found so many similarities between both, just ripping through trees and picking lines” he said. Riding side by side has always been a “pipe dream” of Carson’s and he has been bugging Red Bull to make it happen since he became a Red Bull athlete five years ago. For Carson, “the big mountain downhill element of our sport where you are just flowing, popping off stuff, doing tricks, it’s just shredding with two different tools. Bringing the right crew together and finding the right spot for it was the big thing, and we did that.”
Luke’s no stranger to bikes, but he’s no Carson Storch either. Luke says his first rides on a real downhill bike last summer and it had him “pretty spooked out” but “we love scaring ourselves for some reason and feeling that again in another sport you just want more of it.” Soon enough, he found his flow and realized that “we get the same feelings, when we scare ourselves or have a blast just riding down the mountain.”
Sean loves watching Carson and Jaxson ride too “when they got on the dry dirt and they were like slashing, that was sick.” The line choice is something that is very similar between the two sports and Sean has been riding bikes since he was seven and he credits his ability to pick lines to his experience on two wheels. “mountain biking helps me snowboard mainly because of line choice, picking lines through the trees. It all translates.”
These guys will line up against each other on bikes and boards and plenty in 2021 as the world returns to competition, but they aren’t competing today. Instead, they’ll be riding for fun, just like when you ride the lifts with your friends. It’s a great way to remember why we do this after a year when so many of us couldn’t. We didn’t want to waste this special opportunity picking winners and losers, we just wanted the best guys in the world to ride some unique terrain together.
With events like Red Bull Rampage and Red Bull Recharged scheduled to go ahead this year, and the calendar already looking packed for these four world-class riders, we hope you’ll enjoy seeing them send it side by side for nothing