On September 20, 2023
Mountain Biking

How the 45-foot best whip jump was built


The flat Ramshead beginner ski area at Killington Resort has been transformed into a 45-foot mountain bike jump for the Fox U.S. Open of Mountain Biking competition, returning Sept. 22-24.

Powder Horn Trail Company in New Hampshire has been building the jump since July. Owner William Conroy and his team used a 1,000-pound excavator and dug 10 feet of dirt below the surface grade to set up the steep jump and take off. 

“We didn’t have to truck any [dirt] in, which is great,” he said.

Powder Horn has also battled this summer’s record-breaking rainfall. 

“We really wanted to make sure that it was a solid surface and we installed really robust drainage,” said Conroy.

The finished jump is about 45 feet tall with a 35-foot gap and a 20-foot tall takeoff. It’s similar to last year’s size, but slightly steeper.

“Last year was really successful,” Conroy said. “Killington Resort tries really hard to make sure that it’s high caliber, really high quality. And obviously you know, with Killington being the biggest and the baddest around, it’s kind of a natural fit.”  

The spectator-friendly best whip competition is a crowd favorite. It’s being held Saturday, Sept. 23 at 5 p.m. at the main Ramshead venue. Red Bull & YT Industries is hosting a party, with food and music in the festival village. 

Top riders from around the world will hit the jump and turn sideways as much as possible. The goal is getting past 90 degrees and bringing the bike back straight for landing. A celebrity team of judges  will determine the winner by considering amplitude, individual style, degree of the whip and execution — including how they bring the whip back.

Riders will have 30-40 minutes to complete as many runs as possible once competition begins. Then, judges announce who will make it to the finals. The final riders will participate in a jam-style format for another 20-30 minutes before final judging and winners are announced.

“It’s really about how far you can kind of extend your body and your bike and bring it back — not just about how far sideways you can bring it,” Conroy said.

 Conroy, an avid mountain bike rider himself, used to work at Killington Resort as a terrain park groomer where he was part of some of Killington’s mountain bike expansion. He started his own trail making company in 2018 and has since worked on projects across New England. He recently finished building mountain bike terrain at Ascutney Outdoors in Brownsville.

Conroy also helped build the dual slalom race course at this year’s U.S. Open. The course was designed in 2022 and some of the features remain.

“It’s kind of recessed under the grade so we had a little bit of a reference point,” Conroy said.  “We added some more features at the top and the bottom. There’s tons and tons of rock and loose stone. There was a pretty extraordinary amount of work both with machinery and by breaking through the dirt to shape it and then remove all the rocks.”

The dual slalom course features a mix of dirt and grass, making it challenging for the riders.

Designing the courses was a collaborative effort between Conroy, the Killington Resort team and Clay Harper, the race director and co-founder of the U.S. Open events.  

“It’s definitely a multi-layered process,” Conroy said. “We discuss ideas with each other to come up with the best solution.”

Conroy finished building the whip jump in August so he and Harper could start testing it themselves to make sure the take off and landing was smooth.

Conroy spent the final week before the competition prepping for erosion control, placing tarps over the jump so rain wouldn’t impact the dirt.  As soon as the event is over, Conroy’s team will take the jump down and transform it back into a beginners’ area of the ski area once again.

“Because of the location of the venue, we kind of build the infrastructure every year and then have to tear it down,” Conroy said.  

“We don’t have a lot of huge mountain bike races around here at this level,” Conroy said.

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