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High-Alpine Freestyle: Red Bull Cold Rush

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As big-mountain ski comps are concerned, the Red Bull Cold Rush is unique. The annual three-day event, held earlier this month at Colorado’s Silverton Mountain, mixes steep faces and high bowls with avalanche potential together with rails, ramps, and other features found in a freestyle park.

Rail slide in the high wild terrain of Silverton Mountain

The only real spectator viewpoint is from the port of a helicopter, putting a premium on solid video footage to give television audiences a window into a very dangerous world. Even judging is done by video, and by the competitors themselves.

You can see the whole crazy show this weekend, as the Red Bull Cold Rush is airing nationwide on TV tomorrow, Saturday, March 24, on NBC. It starts at 1p.m. ET.

To get into the mind of one of the Cold Rush competitors, and to snoop a little on the gear, we spoke with Dane Tudor, a 20-year-old who won the overall title. Tudor is a diverse skier, competing in big mountain and slopestyle events in venues such as the Dew Tour. Like all Cold Rush competitors, Tudor brings the tricks he learns in the park to lines on big mountains.

Cold Rush starting area high on Silverton Mountain

Tudor said his skis are crucial to his big mountain success. He is sponsored by Salomon and rides the Salomon Rocker Two, a ski designed for powder with a twin rocker shape. Tudor said he rides a much softer boot than many of his fellow big mountain riders. He chooses the Salomon SPK Pro boots. “They are quite a bit different from most people’s boots,” he said. “They are a park-specific boot that stands a little straighter without as much forward lean. It gives me a more centered stance when skiing. For me it’s a much more playful boot and I like the energy I can generate through my skis.”

Dane Tudor, center, accepting first-place trophy at Silverton. Pep Fujas, on left, took 2nd; Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, right, 3rd place

For safety, Tudor recently started wearing an avalanche airbag system. He chose a Snow Pulse Protech Vest because he said it fits closer to his body than most backpack designs. The vest is specifically designed for snowmobiling, but Tudor said he likes the security it provides while carrying all his necessary safety gear.

Big air on a Cold Rush feature

He wears goggles from Scott, the Fix model. Another Salomon piece, Tudor wears outerwear with his own personal touch. The GoDane Jacket, designed specifically for Tudor by Salomon, is a long-fitting jacket with removable sleeves. “When it gets warm you can keep rocking it [by removing the sleeves] and it is a little longer, which helps keep snow from going up your back.”

While Dane relies on his equipment, he said experience and the right mindset are the most important things about big mountain skiing. “You can have all the gear in the world and not have a good time,” Tudor said. “It’s all about picking the proper line and managing the snow conditions. It’s easy to get caught off guard so you really have to be aware of what’s going on and taking it one step at a time.”

GoDane Jacket

At Silverton this year Tudor said there were steep faces and “super icy landings.” The second jump had a little more soft snow on it, he noted, adding that you had to stay on your feet and “try to kill it at the same time.”

Tudor said there is a large contrast between powder riding on big mountains and ripping up the park. “Everyone in the pow approaches the mountain a lot differently,” he said. “In the park, you get three days practice and things are adjusted for you. Every slopestyle course is pretty similar. You end up doing similar things on each route. In backcountry events, it’s always changing. The snow is changing and there are big lines. If you fall it’s a lot different than falling in a park.”

About the Cold Rush’s peer-judged format Tudor says the results are always fair. “By the end of the day we are stoked by who got what place because we picked it. I think anyone who has every podium’d or done well has deserved that spot, everyone agrees.”

—Sean McCoy is a contributor based in Denver.

Sliding off into the abyss: Rail feature high on Silverton Mountain

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