Pro driver is king of the hill at Mt. Snow

Saturday February 16, 2013

WEST DOVER -- Professional Motocross and Off-Road Racer Ricky Johnson visited Mount Snow on Friday to give spectators a thrilling show.

He climbed up about half of the main face of the mountain with a truck then drove back down, spraying fans with clouds of snow.

"When I first walked through the course and saw how steep it was, I knew it was going to be a challenge," Johnson stated in a press release. "With every run I took today, I learned more. Snow is like water; it has a mind of its own and it's continually changing. You really need to work with the mountain to keep control. Today was like a dream come true, freestyling on a mountain with my Pro-4 race truck."

The part of the mountain that Johnson rode on had been closed to skiers and snowboarders since Thursday. The Carinthia Park Crew and other employees of the mountain helped to make and maintain the Red Bull Frozen Rush course on the trail known as Yard Sale.

A few jumps and berms, marked by flags and a big Red Bull entrance-way made up the uphill course.

One jump had about a 30-foot table that Johnson had to clear, which is typically used in short courses during off-road racing series throughout the United States.

"In my eyes, it was even better than I expected," said Mount Snow Director of Marketing Matt Gebo. "You just don't know what you are going to get until that thing runs in the snow -- the wild factor. I was just in awe."

Johnson is a two-time champion of the Off Road Championship Series and is sponsored by Redbull. He has also driven in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck series.

"It's pretty awesome," said Mount Snow Communications Manager Dave Meeker after Johnson took a few laps through a course that went up and down the trail Ego Alley.

The hill that Johnson went up had a pitch of 32 degrees, the announcer Dave Alcott told the crowd. A ramp sat on top of the hill.

As Johnson approached the top, he could be seen flying through the air then disappearing to the next section of the mountain, which could not be seen from the very bottom where most spectators stood.

He also mentioned that Johnson had said that riding the truck in the snow could be compared to driving a boat, so keeping the bottom down is a major part.

After Johnson was done riding on the course, he came out of his truck at the bottom of the hill. He jumped out of the truck and jumped on top of it, where he stood as the crowd cheered.

"A couple hundred people came," said Gebo. "A lot of kids came out to meet him (Johnson)."

Red Bull had come up with the idea and had it tested on another mountain out west.

The idea to bring it to the East Coast, and more specifically to Mount Snow, has been in the making for a couple of months, Meeker told the Reformer. Getting it approved by the mountain's attorney hadn't been an easy task, he added.

Gebo said that initial discussions began in November. Red Bull had been looking for a venue, an athlete and a project plan long before that.

"It took a lot planning," Meeker said. "It was a big commitment."

Alcott gave away merchandise from Red Bull as well as Oakley, which manufactures goggles and sunglasses, before Johnson began the uphill challenge. Alcott mentioned that Johnson had been competing in motocross since the 1980s.

Fans could get Johnson's autograph at Cuzzin's Bar and Grill at 2:30 p.m., after the event was over. An after party was held at Snow Barn at 9 p.m. It included Red Bull and other company giveaways.

"(Johnson) took pictures with everyone who wanted pictures," said Gebo. "He's such a genuine guy. He loves what he does."

At the end of Johnson's driving session, one man suggested that the mountain let locals do similar stunts in Subarus.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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