Going the distance

Canadian team looks to break snowmobile distance jumping record

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Red Bull Canada's Ross Mercer launches into the air Friday afternoon hoping to set a new distance record at a private jump west of Steamboat Springs.

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Red Bull Canada's Ross Mercer launches into the air Friday afternoon hoping to set a new distance record at a private jump west of Steamboat Springs.

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Kyle Armsbrust practices high-flying stunts Friday afternoon at Chris Brown's ranch just west of Steamboat Springs. For story, see page 2.

— No need for the Caesars Palace fountains or the Las Vegas crowds.

Ross Mercer has settled for a more low-key and remote location for his planned Evel Knievel-like feat - launching his 450-pound Ski-Doo snowmobile across a snow-covered, empty expanse at Chris Brown's ranch just west of Steamboat Springs. The ranch essentially is a private freestyle snowmobile-training facility known among sledders as "The Compound."

Mercer aims to break the official snowmobile distance-jumping record of 245 feet. But to do so, he and his team of supporters must arduously set up the jumps, fine-tune the engine, gauge the weather conditions and keep Mercer's safety in mind. Then, multiple witness testimonies and continuously filmed footage of the actual jump measurement must be sent across the Atlantic Ocean to the Guinness World Records offices in the United Kingdom.

Mercer, a 25-year-old Canadian from Whitehorse, Yukon, said he has had the stunt and the location in mind since the beginning of winter.

"I was out here last year and it's just the perfect spot for it, with the (snow)cats and everything out here," said Mercer, who spent Friday getting comfortable launching off the 60-foot-long, 14-foot-high custom ramp. He started with a distance of 100 feet and pushed it back another 10 feet after each successful jump.

"I want to beat the record working my way up, trying to be safe about it," he said.

Between jumps Friday, Brown pushed the jump back and groomed the landing as a small crowd waited for the next takeoff. Also on scene are three production film crews aiming to capture Mercer's feat. He is sponsored by Red Bull Canada.

With the sun setting and the rented helicopter - which was used for aerial filming - long gone, Mercer tore toward the jump, kicking up snow and entering the ramp at 75 mph. Mercer soared to his longest jump of the day as he plopped down onto the massive landing that Compound Films producer Clayton Stassart said took three weeks to build.

"I'm taped," Mercer said, rubbing a sore shoulder and proclaiming that after 40 jumps - 20 of them longer than 200 feet - he would call it day and continue his quest to extend his airtime and enter the record books.

Red Bull Canada communications manager Lubor Kelior said footage of the potential record-breaking jump - which could take place as soon as today - will be posted on www.youtube.com and www.redbull.ca. Stassart said the footage, pictures and story also will be available at www.compoundfilms.com.

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