Chill Factor - - The Road Gap -

It was Sun­day July 19, 2015 when young Bai­ley John­son took to Mount Hotham’s in­fa­mous legacy road gap. The 16-year-old per­formed a huge out­stretched back­flip over the Hotham Road Gap that sent so­cial me­dia spi­ralling out of con­trol. Bai­ley was the in­spi­ra­tion for this ar­ti­cle, an op­por­tu­nity to delve into Hotham’s his­tory and dis­cover a lit­tle more about the peo­ple who have helped shape the moun­tain.

Bai­ley, your jump was the one that in­spired this ar­ti­cle. Tell us about it.

Ha-ha, it was pretty awe­some. We went out at about ten or 11pm that night and shov­elled it. We had to keep an eye out; we kept duck­ing ev­ery time we saw the lights and stuff. It was me Charlie and Jake. We all jumped it one time each and cleared it. And then some­one from Lift Op­er­a­tions showed up on a Ski-Doo and tried to get us to leave and shut down the jump. That’s when Mark Tsukasov rolled up in the back of his car with the cam­era and I just went for the back­flip.

How did you first get into ski­ing?

Well my whole fam­ily skis and my grand­dad, he still skis up at Hotham, so I re­ally got into it through my fam­ily. The fam­ily has been in­volved at Hotham for about 60 years. My dad, he and his dad built Swindler’s Lodge at Hotham.

What do you love about Hotham?

I just love the peo­ple there and the at­mos­phere. It’s a re­ally good kind of en­vi­ron­ment, ev­ery­one is kind of friends up there and gets along and skies to­gether. And the ter­rain there at Hotham is just the best in Aus­tralia I would say.

So what in­spired you to do the road jump this year?

Well it has kind of been a dream of mine ever since I’ve been at Hotham re­ally. Me and my brother have dis­cussed it. One week­end, we got there and it just looked per­fect. We de­cided to get out there and build it. We got re­ally lucky with the con­di­tions and the weather and ev­ery­thing that morn­ing. We built the jump the night be­fore at about 11pm and went to bed, got up at about six o’clock and hit it.

Had you seen the pho­tos of some of the older guys hit­ting the jump? Like Peter Zirknitzer or Richie Big­gins?

Yeah, the photo at Zirky’s I’ve seen about 50 times. That was prob­a­bly some of the mo­ti­va­tion as well, see­ing that was so awe­some, I wanted to do it my­self.

And why the back­flip? Is that your sig­na­ture trick?

Yeah, the back­flip is my go-to. I thought it would look pretty cool over the road and Jake and Charlie kind of pushed me to do it so that was an­other rea­son to go for it.

Were you con­fi­dent hit­ting the jump?

I kind of had the at­ti­tude to go fast rather than slow. I would rather clear it by a lot than not make it over. Once I jumped it, I wasn’t re­ally think­ing about the road. I like to zone out and just do it and you don’t re­ally think about it too much un­til you have landed.

So what’s next on the cards?

I’m go­ing to be train­ing in Breck­en­ridge, Colorado for two months over the sum­mer with a New Zealand ski team called Freestyle Academy. So I’m hop­ing to re­ally progress in my ski­ing while I’m over there and ski a few com­pe­ti­tions and hope­fully get un­der some points. I re­ally want to get onto the Aus­tralian team, so I re­ally just want to progress to that level in the next year or two.

Who do you look up to in the freestyle ski world?

Um, prob­a­bly my brother, my brother re­ally got me into freestyle ski­ing to start with. I kind of just tagged along with him ever since I’ve been young. I’ve done what he has done and that has re­ally showed in my ski­ing.

What is your favourite spot on Hotham to ski?

Avalanche Gully be­cause most spring sea­sons we usu­ally build a jump down there and grab a big crew and go out there. It’s just re­ally awe­some ter­rain, like the cor­ners and the wind lips out there all sea­son.

An­other an­gle of Bai­ley’s back flip. Im­pres­sive. Photo: Mark Tsukasov

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