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August 8, 2002 Towering 40 feet above the adventure village, Huck Mountain is one of the most impressive and imposing attractions at the Jeep World Outside Festival. But as remarkable as the giant ski ramp may be, it’s dwarfed by the daring of the athletes who brave its slopes everyday.
During three daily exhibitions, Team Manager Brad Suey and his hand picked assemblage of world-class skiers aim high, displaying an arsenal of unbelievable tricks and aerial maneuvers. And while they make it look simple, the skiers are quick to explain that what may appear easy is actually the result of years of dedication and continuous training.
“Everyone here has jumped World Cup for at least six years,” says Suey, a former member and coach of the Canadian National Team.
“It’s a lot tougher than it looks,” adds teammate Lance Rouleau, also a former Canadian National Team member.
In a typical show the skiers each make four runs down the artificial slope —composed of tiny plastic teeth and lubricated with water and dish soap—launching at least 25 feet into the air and reaching distances of nearly 20 feet. While in orbit, the jumpers flip, twist, roll, and float their way to their landing pad, a 30-foot wedge-shaped air bag. Although the pad is softer than the pavement below, it doesn’t provide as much cushioning as one might think.
“It’s closer to a brick wall than a pillow,” says professional freeskier Tommy DeAngelo. “This ramp is harder than anything else that‚s out there to jump on.”
So while ski jumping may not be for everyone it has become a full time job for these athletes. Their skills have taken them around the world and landed them opportunities to perform at high profile events like the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Utah. Watching them perform at the Jeep World Outside Festival is worth the price of admission alone.
A highpoint in a festival full of activities, the Huck Mountain aerial show offers a bit more than fancy tricks on sticks. Below the launch ramp, two top-notch trampolinists, Yahueni Bialiaybu of Belarus and John Ross, a stuntman from L.A., demonstrate the technique necessary to execute the moves and stick the landing. Bialiaybu wows the crowd with his optional program while Ross straps on a snowboard to test the limits of the sport.
“People always ask, ‘How do you learn all this stuff,'” says Ross. “Everything we learn on the ramp we learn on the trampoline first.”
You can witness the hucktastic antics of Brad Suey and his teammates firsthand as the Jeep World Outside Festival makes a loop through the Midwest before heading back to the East Coast for the final four shows.