THE BOY WHO BROKE THE INTERNET Bailey Johnson JUMP YEAR: 2015
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