Red Bull Rampage has changed over the years, sometimes as a result of the evolution of freeride and sometimes as a correction to a failure of the previous year. They no longer have commentators who call people 'Norby,' nor excessive riders and builders fighting over lines, nor - whether you agree with them or not - judges who have never participated in the sport, let alone Rampage itself. The event continues to morph, and along with it the building does too - it has come full circle through years of the Oakley Sender and other prebuilt wooden features, and back to riders and their crews creating their own top to bottom lines.
“We used to build features and [the riders] would link it up in between the features, but now they want to build the whole thing," says experienced Rampage builder, Mike Fucci. The pre-build crew in recent years has adjusted their role to accommodate these changes and now, rather than spending the month previous readying the site with prefab features, they focus on what Mike refers to as "plumbing the desert." With nearly 600 feet of hose - "and smart riders bring their own so they can tee it off and bring it places," tanks, giant water buffalos, and water jugs spread strategically across the massive mountainside, there is almost nowhere in the entire venue can't be reached with water. In previous years it's been necessary to carry the water up the mountain and this newfound access has been groundbreaking for the build teams.
The amount of work that is put into these build efforts by the riders and - this year - their two-person build teams, is staggering. Most riders expressed that with this being the second year in the same canyon, they were finally able to put the finishing touches on lines they'd started to build in 2016. "We pretty much stuck with a very similar line to last year, stuff we didn’t get to have time to finish off or make as good or as big as we wanted last year, we got to do this year," said winner, Kurt Sorge. This sentiment is a clear indication of the sheer volume of physical labor that is needed to transform a site like this into the end product that you see on TV.
While the work that takes place here may seem like a basic means to an end, there is something beautiful and artistic about how the landscape is transformed. The craftsmanship, design, and scale of what is created is a feat in and of itself. But it isn't permanent. After Finals, Mike and the rest of his team began to naturalize the canyon. They will tear out all the lips and hack up the landings. Sandbags will be removed (once the event moves on) and a combination of wind, rain, and vegetation will begin to obliterate the weeks of labor that has gone into making Red Bull Rampage possible. Just one canyon over you can already see that the desert is quickly reclaiming the venue from two years ago – and if they don’t return to this canyon next year, the same will happen here. And at that point, the lines – that have carefully crafted and agonized over – will disappear.