By Brice Minnigh
Photos by Anthony Smith

The rain gods paid an uncharacteristic visit to the desolate, dusty mesas near Virgin, Utah, this week, instantly turning the typically loose soil into a bastion of traction and tackiness that prompted many Red Bull Rampage competitors to manicure their self-styled jumps and transitions to perfection.

With clear skies and cool temperatures ushering in an otherwise brilliant practice day, competitors were upbeat and even exuberant, liberally tossing around words like "all-time" and "hero dirt."

But only minutes into the practice session, however, riders and spectators alike were reminded of just why the Rampage is widely considered the world's most envelope-pushing big-mountain contest: Each year, competitors push themselves to charge more daunting lines, often incorporating tricks into sections that only a few short years ago would have been possible to land.

Here's a preview of what the weekend holds in store: