Bull of the Woods debuts at Carter Park with public banked slalom course
Bull of the Woods
What: The third edition of a grassroots log-rail jam with a brand-new banked slalom course, featuring a collection of local and pro snowboarders on hand-built features in the Breckenridge woods
When: Thursday and Friday, Jan. 4-5
Where: Carter Park in Breckenridge
Cost: Free to attend
Viewing at the Bull of the Woods log jam and Running of the Bulls Banked Slalom is open to the public. Bull of the Woods competition is invite-only. The banked slalom course is open to the public, beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 4. All banked slalom riders must sign a waiver at the Carter Park Pavilion before entering the course. The sledding hill is closed both days for the event, and no outside alcohol is allowed.
For nearly three weeks, Brian Fleming has been dragging a torch and propane tank through the pines above Carter Park. Once there, he’s met up with a group of builders and snowboarders based here in Breckenridge, guys like Ronnie Barr, Tom Faber and Zach Griffin, aka Z Griff of On The Hill. All of them have spent at least 100 hours in the woods over the past few weeks, digging, shaping and digging some more through random January heat waves and much-needed powder days.
In summertime, the heavily wooded patch of hillside is known for mountain biking: the Barney Flow trail, the Carter Park switchbacks. The trails are found just minutes from Main Street, so close that they might as well be an extension of downtown, like NYC’s Central Park for adrenaline junkies.
This weekend, in the cold and snowy heart of winter, Carter Park will be known for logging, the sort of logging done with snowboards and chainsaws and shovels and Fleming’s portable propane torch. Welcome to Bull of the Woods, a grassroots contest designed and developed by the same small group that’s been sweating in the snow since mid-January.
“This is rider-built, rider-judged, just rider, rider, rider,” said Fleming, an Eagle County local better known as Wookie. “It has no spoilage from anyone who isn’t involved. Back in the day a lot of events tried to ruin snowboarding, take control of it, so it’s nice to have these DIY events.”
The two-day event kicks off today with public races on the inaugural Running of the Bulls Banked Slalom course, built into the snowy hillside along the fabled (and burly) Carter Park switchbacks. Friday brings the invite-only Bull of the Woods contest, a log-rail jam featuring several wooden features spread through the forest around Barney Flow. Both are family-friendly events, organizer Barr says, with food and live music at Carter Park Pavilion beginning at 11:30 a.m. for the Friday final.
On Wednesday, with just a day remaining before the first races, the crew was scrambling to put finishing touches on the course and features. The logs are nastier than just about anything you’ll find in a terrain park, including a massive double battleship. It doesn’t have a name yet (maybe K-19 Widowmaker?) but it’s BOTW to the core: no matter how big and how crazy, if you build it, the snowboard community will come.
“It’s more personal this way,” said Wookie, a 44-year-old pro known for organizing a similar event, the now-defunct Never Summer Log Masters contest at Beaver Creek. “By the end of the day, every single one of us who’s involved in this — the contestants, the people running stopwatches — helps grow the different communities. When we’re so spaced out between the epicenters — Aspen, Vail, Breck, Winter Park — this brings everyone together.”
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The double battleship is the latest in a long line of insane features at Bull of the Woods. In the spring of 2014, when the contest debuted at a secret location, it was the definition of a DIY event: no permits, no promotion, just a group of friends getting together for log riding on slushy snow late in the season. The logs ranged from standard C rainbows and steep down rails to naturalistic transitions, where one or two logs were stacked at odd angles against each other, almost like an urban feature with dozens of ways to approach one hit.
“I don’t really think of these as different than rails except you build the log yourself, you know?” said Matt Coughlin, a Maine native who took third place at BOTW in 2014. “I just think of it as I’m riding a snowboard.”
By 2015 BOTW nearly doubled in size, drawing dozens of riders and spectators to an event on private property, where the size and consequence of every feature also doubled. There was a log nearly 50 feet long stretched over a road gap — Z Griff pulled a cover-worthy backflip over it — and a gap-to-down over a trailer that ended with an equally large log. That’s where Coughlin nailed his signature trick method to boardslide en route to a first-place finish.
This year, the founders teamed up with Barr’s company, Trilogy Enterprises, and the town of Breckenridge to make the event public. That means certain restrictions (there’s no alcohol allowed at the park), but it also means the crew had free reign to build and design a course on town-owned land. It led to the banked slalom course and a slew of Breck sponsors, including The Lumberyard skate shop and Brooklyn’s Tavern, along with original sponsors like and Nightmare Development.
“Ronnie’s idea is to do something that’s just never been done before,” Wookie said. “That’s his thing — he wants to give to snowboarding while watching it progress. Bull of the woods is a continuation (of Log Master). They just took the torch when we passed it along, holding onto that idea of log riding and making this function as a rider-run event.”
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Breck’s banked slalom
But why did Wookie bother with a propane torch? It’s to harden berms on the first-ever banked slalom course, built (like everything else) by hand. But, unlike the log rails, the course is open to anyone and everyone on Thursday. All you need is a snowboard and a release waiver, available at the Carter Park Pavilion beginning at 9:30 a.m. You can then access the course by hiking up from Carter Park or taking the free Boreas Pass bus loop.
At first, organizers wanted to make the course a part of the contest, something like the Legendary Banked Slalom at Mount Baker in Washington. Barr asked Wookie to oversee the construction and logistics, which meant they had to figure out timing. That is also DIY: volunteers with stopwatches and bullhorns will signal back and forth between runs. Racers can take a timed lap or just cruise through — “a gift” for coming out to get stoked on BOTW, organizers say.
“The only way you’ll see snowboarding grow is if you get creative, look past your abilities,” Wookie said. “You might see a kid who is great, but he doesn’t realize that if he put a little time into filming he can get in the magazine. It’s almost like team management, only you’re managing the community and giving them a way to grow.”
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