Usually a haven for skiers and snowboarders, the ski trails of Mount Snow in southern Vermont hosted another type of fast-and-high-flying enthusiast the other day.
It was a 900-horsepower truck driven by off-road champ Ricky Johnson.
Part of the progressive winter sports Red Bull Frozen Rush, the West Dover ski resort in the Green Mountains—the site of early Winter X Games before the contest left for Aspen, Colorado—blocked off a figure eight course with jumps and berms Friday so Johnson could drive his truck outfitted with specially designed spikes for traction on steep terrain that included an expert black diamond 30-degree slope called Yard Sale.
Johnson plowed upward in the frozen playground while hitting jumps in the soft snow. The multiple TORC Series Champion took three practice runs and two final charges up the mountain to conquer the track as thousands of spectators looked on.
“When I first walked through the course and saw how steep it was, I knew it was going to be a challenge,” he said.
With each run, Johnson learned more about the track and its conditions.
“Snow is like water; it has a mind of its own and it’s continually changing. You really need to work with the mountain to keep control,” said Johnson.
He said the experience “was a dream come true, freestyling on a mountain with my Pro-4 race truck.”
Fighting against an engine that hates the cold, less responsive shocks and a transmission that needed an hour of “getting ready” time, the off-road Pro-4 racing truck proved itself well. Looking for an extra challenge, Johnson requested an extra jump built below Yard Sale’s crest, which sent him airborne over the top.
Johnson had specially designed spiked BFGoodrich Mud Terrain KR tires.
The exhibition came a week after a winter storm dropped about 18 inches of snow on the Vermont slopes but the ski area also increased its snowmaking arsenal for the event.
“We traditionally make a ton of snow in the area where the event was held, but once plans were finalized and the event was a go we parked a couple more fan guns over there to ensure there was plenty to work with,” said Mount Snow Communications Manager Dave Meeker. “We had some of our best groomer pilots out there including Day Franzen, our freestyle terrain manager, and Dan Cherkis, the winner of this year’s National Ski Areas Association Phat Cat Challenge, and it took them just a couple days of pushing the snow around and sculpting the features on the course before it was ready for Friday.”
Meeker said a lot of work also went into surrounding the course with fencing to keep spectators at a safe distance but also providing them with great viewing locations and having ample staff in place to provide information, point people in the right direction and deter anyone wanting to get too close of a look.
The event not only drew the snowsports faithful, but motorsports enthusiasts too.
“We discovered there is a pretty decent amount of crossover, but with an event like this it’s really the amplitude of the wow factor that sparks people’s interest whether they’re a gear head, hardcore skier or anything in between, he said. “Having a household name like Ricky Johnson here was a huge draw and he couldn’t be a more approachable superstar so families came out to see him.”
Mount Snow is the only mountain in the eastern U.S. to host a Winter X Games. Its Carinthia area is the only all terrain park mountain face in the east. The $8.5 million Bluebird Express is the only six-passenger bubble lift in North America.
“We hosted the first ever event in which a 900-horsepower Pro-4 pickup truck navigated a course built completely on snow,” Meeker said. “Pretty cool. We have a great mountain here that has something for everyone. Don’t be surprised if there are many more ‘firsts’ and ‘onlys’ in our future.”
Images courtesy Mount Snow