Press Release: Mons Royale Future Ground
The world of Women's Freeride is growing exponentially. From the likes of Casey Brown and Vero Sandler showing what’s possible on two wheels to the MTB community, to the first Red Bull Formation event back in 2019, more opportunities were inevitable, but the question was, where were they going to come from? Then in the midst of the pandemic, Mons Royale kicked off their first-ever Future Ground progression event in Queenstown, New Zealand. A four day long women's freeride progression event with everything from coaching, sports psychology, trampoline and mulch sessions, bike park laps, all concluding at the “Dream Track” where the women would put their new tricks and skills to the test.
We caught up with riders Vinny Armstrong and Robin Goomes to find out what went down at the event, Formation creator Katie Holden and how her experience in creating Red Bull Formation contributed to Future Ground, and the visionary who stepped up and made more opportunities a reality; Mons Royale founder Hamish Acland.
Katie Holden discovered a passion for mountain biking, in 2002 and soon became a regular at Whistler Bike Park. It wasn’t until 2010 that Katie would come across Freeride, and another three years until she delved into the discipline itself having spent the past decade racking up race results as that was the only opportunity to become a professional sponsored rider at the time, however, that is all changing now, with the help of events like Formation and Future Ground kicking off the women's freeride movement.
“My first time going out to Virgin, Utah, I was like 'Holy shit, this is insane, I don't understand it but I want to!' I was so scared just walking around. If you haven't been out there before your first time is super intimidating and I was very intimidated and just kind of like freaked out, but also very, very curious.”
Katie soon became fascinated with freeride, heading out to the desert with friends and watching as they sculpted and hit new lines. It wasn’t long until Katie herself got stuck in herself and began developing her own freeride experience. After five years pushing her own freeride boundaries and learning the lay of the desert land, Katie knew she wanted to pass this experience onto others and show the wider women's riding community how thrilling this sort of riding can be, once you get over that first hurdle.
So if you’ve not heard of Formation, it’s basically a freeride camp for women set in the depths of the desert in Utah and provides riders with an opportunity to ride the terrain we’re so used to seeing every year at Red Bull Rampage. You can see all the action from the first event here
“The goals of Formation itself is really to develop and progress the women's freeride field but to also showcase women through different storytelling opportunities and create that path. It's really hard to get past that initial barrier and the only way to get past that is to spend time out there, get used to the exposure and spend time walking around the cliffs, getting your hands in the dirt and learning how the terrain works, what features line up, how your tyres grip on it and what kind of traction you have. Also to learn about building features and figuring out what paths make sense. That in itself is a whole kind education process and you can't really get that unless you go out there and spend time in the landscape.”
After the success of Formation, Mons Royale founder Hamish Acland was keeping a close eye on the growing women's freeride movement and got in touch with Katie to chat about the experience she had had with Formation.
Like a lot of us, time in lockdown made us re-evaluate the goals we were working towards, making the most out of a monumental pause to decide how to hit the ground running when the world opened back up, and it seems that the team at Mons Royale went through the same process. So where did the inspiration for the Mons Royale Future Ground event come from?How did Mons go from self-evaluation to forming Future Ground?
“We needed to take that and help grow it and spread it because that sort of progression is contagious, so we just latched onto that and started working out what's the best way of doing it. Through that process we just realised the fundamentals of progression in action sports stay true for men and women, in skating, snowboarding and mountain biking; if you get the best riders together, put them in one place, surround them with the right environment, with the right coaches, the right experts, the right jumps then you're going to see progression.”
One thing that struck me during our interview is the importance that Hamish and the Mons Royale crew place on collaboration. “We had Queenstown Mountain Bike Club as the host and they were awesome. They provided coaches and the community was insane. We needed them, we couldn't do it by ourselves, you know. It's this together we are better. We're still actually a small brand, so the first point was to prove the concept worked and share it. Like any brand can go do this, any resort could do this, they just need to make sure that they're thinking things through and getting the right people to run it. It’s about getting a good mix and I think that's what we were successful at. Hopefully, things like this interview will kick off conversations making people at the big brands go, “Yeah, OK, I get it.” I just think we can help unlock this as we're at a tipping point now and other people are saying this as well.”
As we chatted more about the event and how it all came together, Hamish came out with something that I couldn’t help but disagree with:
For a brand to not only recognise, but actively invest in an event, openly look for collaborators and share their winning event formula with the whole industry for the greater good, that’s not something many brands would be open to doing or quick to act on.
So with the first Mons Royale Future Ground event in the books and a European stop happening later this year, what did the riders at the event have to say about it?
Kiwi shredder Vinny Armstrong
is no stranger to the women's freeride scene and has been part of the movement in New Zealand for some time.
“The event was awesome. Everyone was just hyping each other up. Everyone really pushed each other to try new tricks and push the limits of what they can do. It was pretty awesome to see! I learnt how to do cans and one-foot cans and got pretty comfortable in doing those. My biggest highlight was just riding dream track with everyone at the end because a couple of girls hadn't hit it before and it was pretty awesome to see them do that and progress throughout the week.”
Mons Royale rider Robin Goomes
has always ridden for fun and had never considered this type of riding to be a segway into a biking career, but after the Future Ground event the limits of her hobby have been widened.
“It opened a can of worms for me, I always kind of did tricks and stuff because it was enjoyable, but it never seemed like an option to take it anywhere, like, I guess Women's Freeride is or was basically non-existent. So I was doing this stuff anyway, for fun, but now I'm like, holy shit there is so much room to actually make something of this. I kind of just want to see how far I can take it.” Trying to pinpoint one of her favourite moments from the event, Robin says “Oh, that’s hard! The whole thing was probably the best time I've had on a bike. I guess being with those girls and actually living with them and riding with them every day, which is pretty unreal, and it's not something I've ever experienced either!”
It's insane to see just how much progression can be had in just four days with the right atmosphere and the right support. At the beginning of the event the women sat down to jot down their trick goals, and one impossible goal, and after just 4 days of progression, many of the girls ticked off their impossible goal. I can only dream of what we’d see with more of these types of events. Fancy pushing your own limits? You can register your interest for the European stop of the Mons Royale Future Ground session here
Photography by: Neil Kerr, Paul Foley, Bel Jones