By Anne Keller
Pumping his fists in the air and jumping up and down, the young boy--who looked to be all of 11 years old--cheered enthusiastically as big-name slopestyle riders gyrated effortlessly through the air, from one gigantic wooden jump to the next. The fact this was happening in the boy's own backyard, near Grand Junction, Colorado, made it even sweeter.
Though Grand Junction is renowned for its cross-country trails, its freeride, downhill and slopestyle scenes remain well under the radar. But you'd never
know this if you showed up during the annual 'Ranchstyle' event, when pro and amateur slopestyle riders converge near the town for a weekend of flair in the air.
The annual event takes place on a giant chunk of land known as The Ranch, which sits at the northernmost end of Piñon Mesa, about 15 miles away and 2,000 feet above Grand Junction. The mesa is an amalgam of red rock escarpments, just at the elevation where scrub juniper and piñon pines give way to oaks. The surrounding landscape is dotted with homesteads of the self-reliant, and the people who live here abide by a decidedly do-ityourself
ethos. So it should come as no surprise that The Ranch's DIY-style freeride vibe fits in perfectly.
"Matt Bolig and I were roommates when he found this 35-acre piece of property up here," says James Flatten, one of The Ranch's primary builders.
"We walked it the first day he bought it and discovered the Waterfall drop. We started building that very next day--we knew we had found a sweet spot."
In the years since, Flatten, Bolig and their small crew of builders have expanded The Ranch well beyond this sweet spot, and it now features eight distinct trails--each one painstakingly built with drops, jumps and ladders. They wind down the gently sloped land, convening at Bolig's house, which is the only structure on the property that was built for dwelling purposes.
There is also a dual-slalom run and the monster-sized slopestyle course.
In an era of large-scale freeride festivals held at major resorts, the Ranchstyle stands out as one of North America's most professionally run homegrown events, attracting high-profile athletes and big-name sponsors
such as Budweiser, DT Swiss, Red Bull and Shimano. All this from a handful of dudes with shovels, a dream and a tireless work ethic.
Says Flatten: "I've spent probably 10,000 hours building up here since day one of The Ranch."