After some nine years of snowmobile freestyle competitions -- including Winter X Freestyle from '07-'09 -- and performing in sled demos, Winter X11 Freestyle gold medalist Chris Burandt says he has retired from tricking on ramps.
But that doesn't mean he's done riding snowmobiles and competing. At Winter X14, he'll participate in the inaugural SMB Knock Out event. He has an explanation for trading ramps and tricks for a more "subdued" lifestyle. In simple terms, he doesn't want to get hurt because as owner and main guide of his own business, Burandt's Backcountry Adventures, his company will suffer if he gets injured.
"If I get hurt, I don't make money," the 31-year-old says.
Burandt launched the snowmobile tour operation in 2007, and he personally guides snowmobilers in the mountains near his Kremmling, Colo., home. He rides about 150 days from December 1 through May, which left him little time to practice freestyle. As more sled freestylers perform at demos and comps year-round, Burandt's lack of practice time put him at a disadvantage.
In addition, he and his wife, Sandi, welcomed the birth of their first child, son Stryder, in August '09. He says that takes up even more time.
Even though Burandt will no longer ride at freestyle contests, he's still an ace snowmobiler. At one time, "Big Air" Burandt was known as perhaps the best all-around snowmobiler in the world. Chris has excelled in several sled disciplines: Hillcross, hillclimb, freestyle and even snocross. But Burandt built most of his reputation on freeriding, and he's been a staple of snowmobile videos for years.
He's made six appearances at Winter X and has competed in HillCross ('02-'04, with a best finish of fifth), Freestyle ('07-'09) and Speed & Style ('08-'09). Now he'll try his fourth snowmobile discipline at Winter X: Knock Out.
Thus far, Burandt's shining moment at Winter X was his gold in the inaugural Freestyle event. Having just learned a backflip two weeks before WX in 2007, Burandt laid it all out at the event and was the first to backflip the huge downhill hit. He flipped it again in the semifinalsflying 92 feet in the processand that launched him into the final against Aleksander Nordgaard. Burandt's smooth, calculated run in the final got gold.
Unfortunately, Winter X hasn't been good to him since. In '08 he competed in Freestyle and Speed & Style. Suffering a concussion just days before WX, Burandt finished a lowly ninth in Freestyle. In Speed & Style he had two nasty crashes and finished seventh. Entering Winter X in 2009 with a sore back from a September '08 demo crash, Burandt finished 10thand lastin Freestyle and seventh in Speed & Style. He admits he was apprehensive in '08 and '09, which, he says, led to his subpar finishes.
"I had some issues from some wrecks in practice," he says. "If you're not totally 100 percent committed to what you're doing without the fear of getting hurt, you're not going to be able to compete. Unfortunately, that is something that's always in the back of my mind when I'm out doing that stuff."
Though Burandt admits he knows little about Knock Out, he does know a little something about the event's key element: going big. He didn't get the "Big Air" nickname for nothing, after all, and big backcountry jumps are featured prominently in some of his video parts.
Chris will take on another new role at WX14: He's moving into the announcer's booth and will serve as an ESPN TV analyst for the snowmobile events.