Going into his fifth year competing at Red Bull Rampage, Carson has already experienced nearly all the highs and lows an event of this magnitude can offer.
“It's pretty awesome to be a part of the greatest mountain bike event to ever exist. . . it's always been a childhood dream of mine.” Going into his fifth year competing at Red Bull Rampage, Carson has already experienced nearly all the highs and lows an event of this magnitude can offer. And beyond his own goals, he’s putting in the work to support the next round of athletes who share his childhood dreams. “Red Bull Rampage has 'made' a lot of careers overnight, including mine,” he says.
Carson wasn’t yet competing in any of the ‘big’ events when he made it his goal to compete at Rampage in 2014. He worked hard all year; filming an entrance video and placing in the top ten at events like Red Bull Joyride (he got called up from the alternate list the morning of the competition) and District Ride. With his foot in the door, he qualified at Rampage his first year and threw down three runs. He ended up 15th overall but it was enough to get him invited back the following year. In 2015, when Carson crashed during his last practice run at Red Bull Joyride and broke his collar bone, it seemed unlikely that he would be healed in time to compete at Rampage. But with his determination and commitment to physiotherapy, he was ready in time. However, things didn’t go as planned. While testing a jump during practice, Carson crashed and hurt his ankle (an injury that would plague him for the next two-and-a-half years) forcing him to make the difficult decision to withdraw from the event.
“I came into  with a stronger mindset,” Carson says. And it worked. He took third place and best trick (for 3’ing a big drop). “I didn't expect it, it just happened mostly because I was having fun with it at that particular event.” This became a pivotal moment in Carson’s career allowing him to focus on freeride and filming and less on slopestyle.
The following year Carson placed 7th overall at Red Bull Rampage. But again last year, he had a challenging experience.
Last year was a tough one for you at Rampage, what happened?
Last year was a new zone, and that always means a crazy amount of building. I simply didn't have time to finish the middle part of my line, which was basically the easiest part. It was the weak link and got me on both runs and in practice. I actually took two hard slams the morning of the big day and almost didn't get cleared to ride. It really put me in the worst possible mental state while sitting at the top about to drop in for my runs.
What is your approach this year at Rampage with going back to the same zone?
My goal is to focus on getting my line dialled and building a whole new middle section that will hopefully be fast and raw and allow me to get to my big drop feeling stoked.
What was your involvement with Proving Grounds?
I guess you could call me the facilitator. Todd Barber approached Kyle Jameson and me with the idea, and we thought it could be something great for the sport of Freeride, so we helped kickstart it by piggybacking it off of Black Sage.
Why do you think it's important to have an event like this for entrance into Red Bull Rampage?
I believe that Proving Grounds is great for upcoming talent, it gives a few people the chance to get into Rampage. I also think it's still important to have the other 8 wildcards invited based on prior results, video parts, etc - just like it's always been.
The thing that gets me most excited, is the potential for a series of 'Proving Grounds' style events around the world. It's something that fills the void in freeride, that obviously isn't Rampage, and not Fest Series, but essentially a mix of both. There are, of course, people who don't agree with my view of it, but I honestly think it would be huge for our sport, and a way to cater to the younger generations by giving them something inclusive to work towards.
What has the past year looked like for you in terms of highs and lows?
There have been many highs this year, not too many lows - which is always the goal. Black Sage is always a highlight of the year for me, so much work goes into it and at the end, it's always worth it. I travelled all year, competed in a few slope comps, and did a lot of filming. It’s been a great year!
You got to preride the Red Bull Joyride course in Whistler this year, what did you think about the changes?
I thought the course changes were a definite step in the right direction. I feel like a course full of options and a little more creativity is good. It opens the door up for anyone to take it! It was so fun to get back on the Joyride course. The last time I rode it was when I was competing in 2015 and broke myself off in practice. It felt good to cruise it again successfully and get some demons out of my head!
What are you most excited to be focusing on at the moment?
Rampage is always a rad thing to focus on. You have to stay healthy all year, and being prepared for Utah is riding big mountain terrain and overall bike control. So I can ride anything, film anything, and have that in the back of my head. Filming is another thing I love focusing on because it forces creativity and brings me back to my roots of exploration and riding every type of mountain bike.
When starting out in your career, it is important to say yes to everything and gain as much exposure as possible, how does it feel to have reached a position where you can pick and choose your projects and competitions?
Yep, coming into my career I was doing anything and everything to get my name out there, which was an awesome experience. But nowadays it's pretty surreal to just do what I want to do, which is to focus on video and photo projects that are quality over quantity and do the same with events. I try and do builds for video projects that will last and build up the scene. A lot of what I focus on is doing these builds in Bend or in elsewhere in Oregon. The more going on in a scene means more motivation from the younger generations and more for them to look forward to being apart of one day.
You have a 'yet-unnamed-project' that you have been focusing the majority of your time and energy on. Can you talk about it yet?
Not quite yet! We are close to releasing the teaser for it though. I have been working with Clay Porter for the past year and a half on this film project, among others, and it's been a great time. All I can say is I'm extremely stoked on it and it will hopefully release the Summer of 2020 (TBA).
Digging at Red Bull Rampage has commenced and Carson and his build team are already hard at work putting in long days to create a fast and raw mid-section in his 2018 run. Given Carson’s abilities, his drive, and the wisdom he has shown again and again throughout his career he is always one to watch. But beyond Red Bull Rampage, his commitment to freeride development, inclusivity, and the generations that will follow in his footsteps is what makes Rocky Mountain most proud to have him on their team.
Good luck Carson!