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Zion Freeride Festival- October 1 & 2

Oct 17, 2005
by Tyler Maine  
When Gale Dahlager first invited me to the Zion Freeride Festival, I wasn't sure what or who to expect there. I made a last minute decision and boxed my bike for Vegas. After a wicked but exhausting week at Interbike I wasn't completely stoked on the idea of driving the 2 hours to Utah to ride. But I decided to make the best of it and reserved a PT crusier convertible to travel through the desert in style. Saturday morning I woke up as early as the night before would permit, threw my bike into the backseat and cruised into Virgin with the sun beaming down and the wind blowing through my hair (it's not like the movies show- it actually blows straight up). After 3 wrong turns, 2 national parks and 5 hours later, I pulled into the parking lot.The idea of the Festival was drawn up and arranged by Lance Canfield (www.canfieldbrothers.com) and Michelle Good. They wanted to provide participants with the same opportunity as Red Bull competitors- the rare chance to creatively develop lines in a zone that offered fresh terrain to potentially challenge every level of rider. This was the first open event of its kind, and although insurance restricted the numbers of riders permitted on each ridge and the use of tools (to prevent too much impact on the land), everyone in attendance would get to experience the incredible terrain of Zion. With 4 years of Rampage experience under his belt, Lance was definitely the right guy to deal with any red tape issues and round up the local freeride community.

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Upon my arrival I ran into Dahlager and Britnee White- both wicked riders with a ton of potential (Gale competed in Slope Sistair and watch for Brit in 2006). I hadn't realized it until then but the event was created and organized by Lance, one of the Canfield brothers and his lady Michelle. He organized the crew and entertained the crowds while Michelle took care of all the minor details at base camp. After suiting up, a van full of 4 girls and 5 guys (how often does that happen?) were shuttled up to ride Flying Monkey by Zion Canyon Shuttles. I had only seen this trail on Drop In and expected it to be pretty gnarly. With multiple bouldery sections and roll downs you have to be able to carry your speed and know where to hit the rocks to ride it smoothly- you have to know your trail. After that warm-up (and heck was it warm, melting degrees celcius) I decided to go hike the terrain sectioned off for the festival. I rode a couple drops to get a feel for the dirt and then traversed across the peaks checking out the never ending lines. Everyone else had rode all morning and were all at the ‘lake’, in the lot, or hitting up the Red Bull course on the other side of the mountain.

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Back at the tents, people were already lining up for a BBQ supper provided for all the riders. The food, the athletes, the band, and the free massage (by Southwest Academy of Healing Arts students), after a great day of riding under the sun, created an energy typical of only road trips and non-competitive events: low stress, no pressure and a great feeling of rider camaraderie.

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Sunday morning everyone broke into 3 different groups based on skill and comfort levels. I joined nice Jeff from Grande Junction, Jean, one of the oldest pro dh'rs on the scene, and Willy our ‘guide’ from Kona USA. We started sessioning a nice drop that Jeff and Jean had scouted the day before until Jeff spotted a bigger line about 10 feet to riders right, where you could actually rip in and hip left to the same tranny. After watching all 3 of the guys send it I knew it couldn't be that hard. As I hiked back up after a mediocre first attempt I watched Jeff come flying off the drop with a suicide no-hander- I think Jeff could probably give some of the Red Bull athletes a run for their money.

My 2nd run found me piling onto, and gracefully separating my shoulder. It was kind of neat feeling the protruding bone and knowing exactly which tendons and muscles had been manipulated to shift the joint. Unfortunately at the same time as my crash my leopard skin SDG saddle was blown off the rails. I'll miss it.

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After some down time we hiked up and over to scope new lines, and 5 ridges over looked up to see that a young ballsy big kid had hiked his bike almost to the top of the mountain to ride a line riddled with a series of steep descents, skinny ridges and good sized drops right to the bottom of the valley. At the bottom awaited a 30 foot step-down with a sniper landing hand-crafted by Bender himself, it was stupid. He began descending and almost a minute later approached us all on the cliff above before tumbling off the last drop before the step-down. Astoundingly enough the kid and his sherpas hiked all the way back up only to have him and his bike almost blown off the ridge by the growing cross wind which signaled the end of the day's riding. Back at the tents a dust storm was rolling in, but through it all we ate another BBQ provided for the athletes, watched some video from Saturday and sat through enough draw prizes and random awards to cloth and bike a small village. And I won a new seat, it was perfect. While the rest of the crew settled down to watch footage of the weekend, I said my goodbyes, took apart my bike and packed up the PT. All I could think about on the way back to Vegas was how the weekend was a perfect cap to my first Interbike and Utah experience.

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Thanks to Michelle and Lance, and the support they received from Pridigicom, Angel Fire Resort, Mountain Cycle, SWAHA, Zion Cycle Bike Shop, and of course the Canfield Brothers, for creating an opportunity to ride some of the best freeriding terrain on the planet. I’m already looking forward to next year… maybe by then Lance will have rounded up the local juve detention center to provide bike shuttles?

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