Sailing over the snow

Snowmobilers use park for contest preparation

— Routt County is now home to the largest man-made snowmobile terrain park built, the park's owners say.

As of Saturday, it also may be home to a new world record.

Ross Mercer, from the Yukon Territory in Canada, gained speeds of about 80 mph along a quarter-mile strip of packed snow. Mercer ascended a steep incline and sailed off a ramp that launched him 148 feet onto the top of a hill west of Steamboat Springs along Highway 40. He bounced off the top of the hill and flew 45 feet before he landed and gained control.

"This is monumental," said Chris Brown, who built the jump. "This is the biggest step-up ever."

The step-up stunt attempt was not publicized, and there were few spectators. Residents likely did not see Mercer's performance unless they were driving down the highway.

Cody Borchers, of Alberta, Canada, also attempted the stunt with a faster sled, but bailed out before reaching the top, sending him and his sled flying at about 60 mph before crashing, damaging the sled and leaving Borchers dazed.

"I don't think I'm gonna try that again," he said, complaining of a sore neck.

Mercer and Borchers are the first of 15 snowmobilers whom Brown, 32, and Clayton Stassart, 29, plan to invite to The Compound, the name they gave to their private terrain park on 120 acres of land that Brown recently bought.

The park boasts 25 jumps, including one that will allow a backward summersault over a barn. Brown said The Compound is the largest terrain park built.

Brown and Stassart recently formed Compound Films production company, and they are using the terrain park to shoot scenes for "Hang-n-High", a video scheduled to be released in September. Previews are available on their Web site, www.compoundfilms.com.

Action Motorsports has provided some of the sleds and parts, but Brown and Stassart have been using a Snowcat to build the jumps. Three of the park's jumps were built to aid Brown and two other riders in their attempts to break the distance record, which stands at 248 feet. Brown said if Mercer had landed at the same elevation he jumped from Saturday, his jump could have broken the 300-foot mark.

"It's kind of eating me up, watching these guys," said Brown, who is waiting for his broken arm to heal before he is cleared to ride again.

As soon as the temperatures begin to rise in March, Brown and Mercer will go to British Columbia and Alaska, where the snow conditions allow them to continue riding.

Brown, who is on the Sled-necks snowmobiling team, is one of 16 riders who will go to Alaska for the Red Bull Fuel and Furry competition in April. Each rider is accompanied by a videographer and will have five days to record the best film.

"Nobody is in the same place, there are no fans, nobody's watching," Brown said.

Visitors to the Red Bull Web site will decide which rider takes the $20,000 purse.

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