Words Dan Wakeham, Photos by Damian McArthur
Several of the best riders on the British scene gathered recently in Avoriaz for an epic session which saw them hitting the mother of all park jumps. Dan Wakeham, who was one of those with enough balls to get involved, sent us this report on the session:
“Avoriaz built this absolute monster of a jump for a Burton photo shoot. I didn’t see any of the Burton guys hit it, but I was told that not too much happened on it apart from a few of them nailing themselves. It was closed off for quite a while, as the Avo big boss man wanted it knocked down – they are really scared in Avoriaz about people hurting themselves at the moment, as a local guy died on a big kicker earlier in the season.
The head park shaper Jean-Noël Calvet told me that he wanted to see people hit it again before they had to squash it – the only deal was that whoever hit it had to have a photographer and a filmer to record the action. The Westbeach crew (Andy Nudds, Matt Macwhirter and Billy Morgan [and Laura Berry – thanks Ms Greer ;-)]) were all keen to hit the jump, so it was decided that we would meet early the next morning. I woke up early before my alarm with butterflies in my stomach thinking what the day would bring. I drove over to pick up Nelson Pratt and we were on the hill for about 9.30.
A crew of people assembled and every one just kind of stood around and looked at the terrifying gap. It was probably 2 piste bashers wide and about 40 ft high! To get over this chasm of doom, we had a step-up on the far left, a 25+ meter kicker in the middle and a hip on the left. With things like this it is always hard for someone to man up and guinea pig it. You never really know how high a jump is going to through you or how fast you need to go.
I took it on myself to be the first person to take on the hip. All that was going through my head as I dropped in was that I just wanted to clear the gap. I cleared the gap alright. I flew to the far corner! As I landed my nose sank in to the already softening crud and I tumbled down the landing. I saw a flash as I hit my head… but luckily I was wearing my helmet so I was ok.
On the lift I had starry eyes but I was buzzing with adrenalin. I dropped in again and got it good. People started to session the hip. Some came very close to the edge which was scary. Billy Morgan stepped up and was the first to take on the middle kicker. People must have been hitting that jump at about 50mph! It didn’t throw the riders too high, it was more like a long jump. Billy didn’t hang about, and threw down a tasty double back fairly quickly. Nudsy wanged a 1080 off it and Nelson Pratt was stomping just about everything he tried.
I started to throw a few tricks on the hip. On a McTwist, I could see the wall as I went past it upside down, it was a real buzz! People seemed relieved as they shut the jump because everyone was starting to look tired. That night, the big boss got what he wanted, the park crew bashed the jump down after the session and were left with a huge pile of snow. So what better to do than shape it in to a quarter pipe?
They finished it for the mountain closing day, which was the 25th of April. So as you can imagine, the conditions were very summery. With the reggae blasting out of the sound system and the snow softening up quickly, everyone was in high spirits.
The quarter was small, with quite a lot of compression and cos it was under vert, people were flying out the top and splatting like lemmings! In between the splats of people bouncing off the coping, but there were also some good tricks being thrown down.
After a few hours of riding the snow got slow and the quarter started to fall apart so every one went down to the bar and enjoyed the closing day festivities. A good day for all involved!”