This year’s event promised to be ‘bigger than ever’
By Katy Savage
After two years of cancellations, the Fox U.S. Open of Mountain Biking is returning to Killington for the first time since 2018. About 500 of the world’s best mountain bike athletes are expected to compete Sept. 15-18 in four events — best whip, downhill, dual slalom and endurance.
“It was such a successful event in 2018,” said Killington Resort’s Brand Marketing and Communi- cations Manager Kristel Killary. “We’re excited to show off the Killington Bike Park. We’ve been putting a lot of resources into it. It’s a good way to not only put our bike park on the map for mountain biking, but the area.”
The U.S. Open moved to California in 2019 due to construction of the new K-1 base lodge at Killington. The event was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. Then, wildfires in California caused the event to be canceled in 2021. Clay Harper, the founder and director of the event, said he was relieved when Kilington offered to host the U.S. Open again this year.
“I never wanted to leave,” said Harper, who lives in New Jersey and frequents Killington. “I love this place. I think this is the place where the U.S. Open could reach its destiny. We’re capable of growing it to a massive event.”
While construction is still underway at K-1, this year’s U.S. Open will move to the Ramshead Base Area.
“We wanted to be back up in K-1 where we were in 2018, but we knew it was risky with construction not being done,” Harper said.
Many mountain bike races have been canceled, but interest in the sport has grown exponentially since 2018. Rider ability is also on a much higher level.
The $80,000 prize purse, with this year’s top male and female of the Open Class Downhill taking home $15,000 each — is the largest in the U.S. Open’s history.
“Remaining true to our ethos, we continue to push the industry standards on equal pay outs — including a $15,000 award for the top step of the men’s and women’s Open Downhill podiums,” Harper said in a statement. “Also, Killington Resort has been hard at work building the all new USO venue for this year and the focus is clearly on good times. This year’s USO downhill track will be fast and fun, perfect for a season-ender race.”
In addition to pro and open events, the Fox U.S. Open offers amateur racing classes in downhill, enduro and dual slalom. There will also be adaptive riding on Sunday and a chance for young racers under 15 years old to compete in the Next Gen Youth Downhill event.
“Bringing the Fox U.S. Open of Mountain Biking back to Killington Resort is an incredible opportunity for the resort to showcase our commitment to offer year-round adventure through our bike park investment,” Tait Germon, the director of mountain operations at Killington, said in a statement. “However, this event is more than just a race. You can expect a big mountain bike party for the whole family, featuring vendors, live music and races for all levels of riders.”
The Ramshead Base Area will feature classic and new trails, along with a new downhill finish. The big air competition and a Red Bull Best Whip, presented by YT Industries, is setting up to be bigger than before with massive, all-new sets of jumps.
“I know there was a lot of local hype around it,” said Taylor Zink, Killington’s terrain park manager, who started building the jumps and tracks in June. “I know there was a lot of hype around bringing it back here. I think it’s going to be great for the mountain, great for the local scene and it will be great to bring people to see what our bike park has to offer.”
Anywhere from 5,000-10,000 spectators are expected to come to Killington. The event is free to the public. For $15, spectators can ride a chairlift for better viewing. They can also talk to vendors, such as Fox Racing, Oakley, Adidas Five Ten and YT Industries.
The first U.S. Open was held at Mountain Creek Bike Park in New Jersey in 2003. At that time, one of the primary goals was to give everyone a chance to qualify and race in the main open class downhill event.
“Over the years it’s become a rite of passage for expert riders to make it through qualifying and race alongside the pro,” according to the U.S. Open’s website.
Professional riders from around the world are getting ready to take on “the Beast.”
“It’s cool to have a rider-focused event in the U.S. that’s working toward creating a great experience for both the atmosphere and the race,”said Dakotah Norton, the current U.S. National champion, who raced in Killington in 2018. “The Fox U.S. Open of MTB is going to be a good time and I couldn’t think of a better way to end the season.”
Kailey Skelton, a professional downhill racer, said she is just excited to race again. “It’s awesome to have the U.S. Open back on the schedule after two years,” Skelton said in a statement. “It’s a prestigious event, as the competition is high, and the prize purse is even higher. I have never been to Killington, but I have heard endless great things about the mountain. I can’t wait to experience it myself and give it my all in the USO downhill to finish off the season.“