As the crowds draw in for the big show, they arrive and see an incredible amphitheater of unfathomable huge mountain gnar. What they don’t see however, is how raw of a state the stage begins in. Red Bull does a good job of putting together some videos highlighting the behind the scenes efforts, but this year has left our jaw on the floor and we really wanted to show you just how much goes into the final product. Not only the blood, sweat and tears, but the creativity and ingenuity that goes into each rider’s line is nearly impossible to shed light on, but we tried. Enjoy.
Welcome to Virgin, Utah. Home of Zion National Park. On Saturday the riders were greeted with heavy rain. It made the digging much easier. The last few days have been dry, but it’s supposed to rain this weekend. Things could get really good or really ugly very quickly.
Where do we start? Let’s talk about Cam Zink and Kyle Strait’s line. Just like last year, right out of the gate it goes mental and drops straight off of a terrifying wall and doesn’t let up. Pictured below, Cam chips away at it without a lot keeping him safe. He and Kyle will be entering from above his head to his left.
He’s a bit hard to see in the photos below, but legendary course builder Jeremy Witek has spent the better half of 4 days chiseling out the entrance to Lyle and Zink’s lines. He’s been choking on dust while wailing on a stone cutter and chipping away with a pick axe. All while dangling from rappelling gear. Pure grit.
New course on the left with Witek grinding away, old course on the right – just as scary as ever.
Hack marks into the solid stone after day’s of wailing away.
Brendan Fairclough decided that this year, he wanted to send it over not one, but two canyons this year. Left side is the first lip that launches onto his lily pad where he has just a few feet to cork up for the next lip which he *might flip.
With a solid crew consisting of Ollie Wilkins, Christian Fairclough(his brother) as well as Ben(Brendan’s Mechanic) and their boy Liam(Bean) the brits came storming in late but still have managed to build one of the gnarliest lines on the mountain.
This boys took to some creative but heavy mountain moving. The pics speak for themselves, but they lowered each other into some compromising places to chip away and make a mind bending line come to form.
Big Ben is no joke. Yeah, he snapped this pick axe in half. It’s a cast iron piece of metal about 1.5″ thick where he broke it. Gnarly.
It wasn’t all hard work though. Sometimes you just need to relax and prevent burning yourself out. Brendog shows how it’s done.
Really pale skin and drum and bass was quite common in their area.
Lot’s of nasty things to trip on.
Flat shale rocks and a mix of heavy and airy dirt make Utah the best place on earth to build. Period.
Aggy shares a line with Andreu and Nico Vink up top. It’s still coming to form, but we were terrified just walking around at the take off.
Semenuk drops off and lands right nearby. One of his diggers chips away and get’s his landing up to par while he spends some time getting dialed back in on his DH bike somewhere off site.
KC Deane and Paul Bas share a line that drops in from the farthest point on the looker’s left. It’s right on the edge with Gooseberry Mesa in the background. Quite scenic.
You can tell by the silhouetted hair who this is. Kelly McGarry grooming his line. No surprise, it’s massive.
EMTs and Medics are on site everywhere. Just walking around here is super dangerous, much less riding. Today, a photographer fell off of a 25 foot cliff. He was fine, but it was a rude awakening.
Norbs’ line is buffed out and super buttery this year. Last year, he over rotated a 360 into some really loose dirt and blew apart. This year, his landing is impeccably packed in hopes of repeating last year’s mistake.
A few big names plan on hitting the canyon gap this year. Less creative than some of the other things we’ve seen but no less gnarly. Well branded and waiting for action…
Nico Vink got robbed last year. There, we said it. The big mountain charger who’s been front running the FEST series is going huge this year. Keep your eye on him.
Eliot Jackson showed up to just hang out with his team mate Bernard Kerr and give people a hard time.
You can thank Aaron from Freeride Entertainment for all of the sick footage you’ve seen over the years.
Let’s get back to the gnar. Zink is taking it almost too far this year. He’s all smiles and gives his drop a thumbs up though. Cam plans to 360 this one…uhhhhh….
Zink also knows when to wind down and enjoy a cold one.
A lot of eyes and cameras are on Andreu Lecondeguy this year. He’s pissed off and wants the win. It could definitely be his year.
Sketchy building and faith go a long way in Utah. One of those pieces of wood has a good size crack in it.
Kyle Strait’s crew is ruthless. He’s looking to defend his win and will do so at all costs. He has the heaviest entrance into his main line by far.
@26griz shows off his capture of Makken Haguen overshooting the Go Pro drop. Gnarly.
Talk about exposure. Maxima Bike brand manager Sean “Griz” McClendon buffs out Kyle’s line. Don’t look down.
Another angle of Kyle’s line.
Riders just started guinea pigging some lines. Tom Van Steenbergen contemplates what’s ahead of him this weekend.
See you tomorrow. We took the long dusty road out and got to shoot Brendog at the old rampage site. Pics to follow tomorrow.