When Dave Smutok first told me about the idea to host a 'Spring Training' style event at Highland Mountain Bike Park, my first reaction was 'YES! Why hasn't anyone thought of this yet?!'. The idea grew from the concept of Major League Baseball's annual spring training, where teams prepare for the upcoming season and shake off some of the cobwebs by holding practices, scrimmaging with other teams, running drills, etc. It also allows teams and the major media outlets to scout some of the up-and-coming talent in the sport.
Dave's vision for the HMBP spring training event was no different. An open invitation was sent out to all Pro-ranked FMB athletes for a weekend of riding all Highland has to offer. FMB Tour veterans Kyle Strait, Tyler McCaul, and Nick Simcik made the journey out in preparation for the upcoming events, along with Highland's favorites Aaron Chase, Clint McMahon, and Mike Kent. The big joy for me the weekend was witnessing the young guns Brett Rheeder, Carson Storch, and the Quebec trio of Brayden Barret-Hay, Dustin Gilding, and Nick Clark SHRED Highland to pieces non-stop all weekend. I guarantee you'll see their names more and more! (by now you've heard Brett Rheeder placed 2nd at Jump Ship!)
The riders were able to dial in their tricks into the foam pit and onto the resi-ramp inside Highland's infamous HTC (Highland Training Center) before taking them out onto the hill. New for 2012 was the addition of a 50 by 50 foot Bag Jump air bag courtesy of Highland sponsor Red Bull. This weekend was also the grand opening of the 'Ayr Bag' at Highland so these pro athletes were the first riders to hit the bag (well...I'm sure Smutok snuck in a few hits before that!). After the pros-only morning session, Highland opened up the bag for a one-time-only "free pass" and any rider on the hill was able to hit the bag free of charge while Ayr Academy coaches Kyle Strait, Tyler McCaul and Aaron Chase gave some pointers. I was able to steal Chase's hardtail for a few attempts at the Ayr Bag and I must say it is prob the most fun thing you will ever do on a bicycle. Buttery smooth landings and a quick exit from the bag means you could session it for days on end.
Overall I think the event was a great success for those that made the trip out and I hope more riders, from beginner to pro, see the potential and value of visiting Highland to dial in new tricks in a safe and progressive way. And now onto the video!