Nearly all of the big names in big air freestyle riding (flying?) converged on West Yellowstone, MT, last March during the World Snowmobile Expo to compete in the World Freestyle Snowmobile Air Show.
Sponsored by Frontier Films (2 Stroke Cold Smoke) and SCS Racing, the competition was held at the town park and attracted a huge crowd both days. The big air competition craze is sweeping the snowbelt and just when you think you've seen it all. someone else pulls off a sick trick.
West Yellowstone's own Kourtney Hungerford won the 2002 World Freestyle Snowmobile Air Show, followed by Tyler Nelson. Third was Whitney Hungerford, then Dan Adams and Chris Burandt.
Our Ryan Harris was there, taking in all the action, as was our photo boy, Kort Duce. Ryan interviewed many of the competitors. Here's what Chris Burandt had to say.
Ryan Harris: Where are you from?
Chris Burandt: Denver, CO.
How did you get into freestyle riding?
I decided I was better at jumping than racing, so I just moved on from that. I like freeriding more than anything. We go and do all this stuff; it's getting insane with all the big ramps, you know. Freestyle is going to go off just like freestyle motocross. We're just trying to stay in the bottom and hopefully when it gets big, we're there.
What kind of advice do you have for a guy who's just getting into this sport?
Practice a lot. Wear all your safety gear for sure. That's what's saved me. I've never had a broken bone and I do all this stuff. You've got to be a smart jumper and use your head. Use your common sense, make sure you've got a lot of that.
Who's your hero?
My hero? Uh, probably Tucker [Hibbert], he's the man. He wants to freestyle so bad but he's too good at racing, I know it.
Hey, Travis Pastrana can do it.
Yeah, Travis is the man in motocross. He's my motorcycle hero.
Have you ever wrecked pretty bad?
Uh, actually, no. I really haven't.
If you found 500 bucks on the ground, what would you spend it on?
Umm. (thinks for a minute) you know what? I'd pay off all my loans for my snowmobile stuff (laughs). Because we don't make money doing this.
What's your real job?
I'm a fiber-optic technician. That's how I pay for all this stuff. Work in the summer and take winter off.
What's your dream job?
I'm doing it, man. I get to dirt bike and work in the summer a little bit and ride all winter. So I'm living it right now.
Do you go on a lot of road trips with some of these freestyle guys?
Yeah, I do. I've been pretty much all over the country doing this and out of the country. We just got back from Sweden last week and I was in Iceland last year doing this.
Who's the biggest partier?
Uh, my buddy Garth [Kaufman].
Do you think you'll ever be doing this on a four-stroke?
I could see it. Yamaha's pretty revolutionary on the four-stroke and it's got to step to that just because of what's happening with two-strokes. I still love the sound of a two-stroke, though.
Tell us about your sled. What are you riding?
I ride an Arctic Cat with a D&D 720 in it. It's awesome.
And you're racing Pro snocross, right?
Yeah, racing Pro tomorrow in the Open class.
What are you going to ride next year?
Uh, hopefully a free Arctic Cat (laughs). Hopefully.
Dan [Adams] said the same thing about Polaris.
(laughs) I like Cat, I like the way they jump and I think they're heading in the right direction as far as sponsorships, so hopefully I'm there.
What one question do people ask you most about this sport?
Have you ever wrecked hard? (laughs) How many broken bones do you have?
What would you like to say to the people who don't take this sport seriously yet?
Well, the way I see it is we in the freestyle deal have attracted more people than the races do sometimes. It's funny, you get a couple of these guys hitting the ramps and people will leave the race track to come watch us jump these ramps. You know, we're not all a bunch of punk kids. We're trying to make a living out of this and we need everyone's support to do that.
Any last words?