Mount Ashland kicked off its mini Skiesta season Saturday with its fourth annual Dummy Downhill competition.
This year, skiers created 12 dummies, launching most of them off a massive vaulted ramp, where they crashed on the slope below in a snowy plume of destructive carnage.
A three-member panel judged the dummies. Half of the overall score came from originality of the pieces. The other half was based on how it fared on the jump, how true it tracked, the altitude achieved and the destruction at the finish.
"Explosion is better," said Mike Dadaos, Mount Ashland's special events manager. "Total explosion is a really high score."
There were some specific regulations for the dummies, who had to ride either on skis or a snowboard and, for safety purposes, could weigh no more than 125 pounds.
But as far as materials, they were left to up to the dummy creators, who for the most part chose whatever was lying around.
"Well, I'm a plumber, so they're built out of pipe," said John Rice of Medford, who was defending last year's top dummy spot. "Last year one (dummy) didn't have enough speed to get up the jump — it wasn't heavy enough — so this year I filled the legs full of concrete. We weighed it down to make sure they'd get over the jump."
"He's got the guerilla craftsmanship down and I have the craft part down," said John's wife, Doris. "He usually gets the idea and he gets the structure and then I just finish it off. It works out pretty good."
This year the Rices built Bunny Girl, a bunny on skis in a green velvet dress with a basket of Easter treats and a parasol, and Sheriff Danny Butcher, a life-sized cowboy dummy seated on a wooden horse, bolted to skis.
"We're trying to get more and more people interested in it because it's fun," Doris Rice said. "Getting them to go over that jump is hilarious."
Skiesta was originally a festivity organized by Southern Oregon State College. This year, as part of Southern Oregon University's ski fiesta week, which featured an on-campus rail jam demonstration, four of the 12 dummies featured were designed and constructed by clubs at SOU.
Heavy fog made visibility touch-and-go, but that didn't stop the crowd of well over 100 from cheering on the daredevil contraptions. This year's winner was Sno-Bot, a 7-foot tall white Styrofoam robot with a square head and bright orange eyes.
"It was all free," said Bill Myers, creator of Sno-Bot. "I just asked people if they had any Styrofoam and I thought, 'Lets see what I could build out of it.' Pretty soon it was a robot."
"The key is to have a lot of weight down low so it can hit the jump," he added.
Myers won a season pass for next year, not to mention a full year's worth of bragging rights for the "top dummy."
"I guess that makes me a target," Myers said. "Everybody will try to defeat me, but I'm already thinking about the next one. I'm definitely competing again next year."
Mountain Peek is a weekly column about the stories of the Mount Ashland Ski Area. To contact Peter Koelsch, e-mail him at email@example.com.