How Dark Horse, Casey Brown’s all-women freeride event, got started

With a little help, Casey Brown created the freeride event of her dreams

Dark Horse is the event that Casey Brown wishes she had when she was coming up in freeride. It’s four days of her own design: A brand new jump line in her hometown of Revelstoke, British Columbia, and a chance to uncover the latest and greatest women’s freeride mountain bikers. 

“There are so many girls that are so talented coming up right now, and in order for them to make a career out of the freeride side of the sport, I think it’s important that we build events around that discipline,” Browns says. “There’s so many events for guys around the world but there’s not that much going on on the freeride side for women yet. I think it’s exploding, and I want to help foster that energy.”

The event is modeled after the FEST series, a self-proclaimed “counter culture jam” celebrating the spirit of freeride to its fullest extent. Dark Horse will be a competition only in the loosest sense. Prizes will be handed out for the best trick and for the best close call or crash — a.k.a., the Wild Jane award. Most coveted of all may be the Dark Horse award, which goes to an unexpected rider who does something extraordinary.

There's so many events for guys around the world but there's not that much going on on the freeride side for women yet. I think it's exploding, and I want to help foster that energy.

The emphasis is on fun. The goal is introducing more women to freeride, and establishing an event that makes freeride lucrative for women.

“It’s about self discovery and learning and figuring out what direction you want to go in your respective sport. I mean some of these girls come from racing, and they dabble in the freeride world, and maybe after this event, they’ll want to do more freeride stuff,” Brown says. “I think there’s so many talented women out there that just don’t get the support to get to the events that they need to go to.”

Dark Horse will take place from Aug. 16 through the 20th. That’s impressive, given that, according to Brown, she came up with the idea a few months ago, in January or February. A women-centric event seemed like a “pipe dream” to her until she told her friend Louise Hatton, who owns a production company called Jigsaw Event Services, and who quickly latched onto Brown’s idea when she heard it. 

Casey Brown takes her role as one of women's freeride's pioneering athletes very seriously.

“I just mentioned it to her so casually and she bit onto it like, ‘Yeah let’s make it happen,'” Brown says. “I’m like, ‘Really, are you sure? This is a really difficult time to do something. But I mean, let’s give it a go. If you believe that it can happen, let’s make it happen.'”

Hatton has an impressive track record of coordinating major mountain biking events, including work with Crankworx. She was eager to not only pull off Dark Horse, but to make sure it didn’t compromise on Brown’s vision. 

The jump line is the pièce de résistance. It currently features four jumps, including mulch and airbag jumps where riders can practice tricks that they want to eventually take to the jump line. It also has a drop and a step-up, which Browns call “one of the most important features to have on a course, just because you’re not falling out of the sky forever, so it’s kind of an easier thing to excel on.”

Casey Brown's illustration showing off her design for the jump line.

Brown wants to keep expanding the jump line over the coming years, making it gradually harder and boostier, but never unfriendly to eager riders still getting their feet wet. And above all, she wanted to build the jump line for Revelstoke, where she grew up. The town, she says, is a haven for mountain biking of almost every discipline, except for the conspicuous absence of freeride infrastructure.

“I could have done [Dark Horse] in Whistler. I could have gone somewhere else. But it’s been a dream of mine to have jumps like this in my hometown for a really long time,” Browns says.
“I think building more jumps like this will only help grow the sport around BC and Canada. I wanted it to be in Revelstoke, just the backdrop and the history there. It’s exactly what the town needs, because they think they know how to build jump trails and stuff [laughs], but they’re so new to it.”

With the jumps in place, Brown has the perfect setting to keep making Dark Horse bigger and better. The first edition will feature roughly a dozen riders by invitation, and Brown hopes that with success, she’ll have more resources to fly and house promising women from all over the world.

I could have done [Dark Horse] in Whistler. I could have gone somewhere else. But it's been a dream of mine to have jumps like this in my hometown for a really long time.

“There’s a few girls from New Zealand and stuff that can’t quite come to Canada, and I feel like if I could only afford to get them the hotel quarantine and all those extra costs, then they could come to the event,” Brown says. “And maybe then they can push through that threshold and make it into the industry where they don’t have to hold down two other jobs to live their dream of mountain biking, you know?”

Brown is glad that the event is making waves throughout the sport. Women are long overdue for a major freeride event all to themselves. (Worth noting: not only are the riders all women, but the organizers, photographers and cinematographer, etc., are predominantly women, too.) 

Many of the riders at Dark Horse will be elite athletes, but in the future Brown also wants to create a week of build-up to the event in which newbie riders can receive coaching and push themselves to expand their limits. Quite literally, she wants to unearth dark horse riders who haven’t yet received opportunities to showcase their talent.

Casey Brown demonstrating what extreme air looks like at Crankworx.

With time, the sense of novelty around Dark Horse will wear off. That’s exactly what Brown wants: A women’s-only event that feels as much a staple of the calendar as Crankworx or Proving Grounds. 

“This is kind of a test year, so I want to make it way more clear for girls on how they can get invited to the event,” Brown says. “It’d be really cool to have a nice mix of pros and up-and-comers to kind of foster each other into tradition. And I want it to grow every year and become a yearly celebration.”

Brown is a pioneer in the women’s freeride movement as a rider. It’s only natural that she spearheads a first-of-its-kind event. And like Brown, Dark Horse should only inspire more to follow, creating new landscape that feels like it has always existed.

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