Second chances can be hard to come by, but Levi LaVallee is primed and ready for his. The snowmobile superstar crashed and was hurt badly last December while practicing for a televised world record distance jump for Red Bull: New Year. No Limits., but Launchin’ Levi is back and he’s ready to return to action in a big way.
He will again be going for a world record on New Year’s Eve in San Diego’s Embarcadero Marina Park by jumping his Polaris snowmobile over a 300-foot water gap.
We spoke with Levi recently about his recovery and his grand return to the sled.
redbullusa.com: Levi, how’s your 2011 been so far?
Levi LaVallee: [This year] has been significantly different than the past few years; my crash basically took me out of my entire season, so I wasn’t able to race and wasn’t able to compete in the X Games. It turned out to be kind of a positive because it made me really want to come back stronger, so we’ve been working really hard to come back.
The other thing is that I [had been] struggling with a foot injury because I blew out my heel two years prior and I wasn’t able to ride dirt bikes and train on my normal schedule. Because I was off all season, it allowed that foot to heal up. It’s the best it’s felt in a few years, so I’m excited about that.
redbullusa.com: Describe what happened to you in that pre-New Years' Eve crash.
LL: I ended up breaking a bunch of ribs, fracturing my pelvis, puncturing three vertebrae and collapsing both lungs. I jumped off and it was a hard, hard crash and I knocked myself out. I actually don’t even remember the jump or the crash or the first three days of the hospital -- which is always the bad stuff, so it was kind of a good thing.
redbullusa.com: Were you ever worried that you may not be able to compete again?
LL: When I came to in the hospital, I was like, “Well, obviously something went wrong.” Fortunately, I was feeling good considering everything. I never really thought about not being able to do it.
One thing I noticed -- when I came back to racing, I was a little bit fuzzy when it came to my focus. Red Bull had this training available so I just did that and worked on my focus and getting that in shape, and it’s been working out really well for me.
redbullusa.com: Did you ever go back and watch the video from the crash?
LL: Most certainly. The biggest question was what happened, and once I watched the video I knew exactly what happened. We were having carburetion problems in the snowmobile in our earlier jumps. Unfortunately, it happened in our full jump.
"You’re definitely nervous going through a jump like this. You’re trying to do something no one in the world has ever done..."
redbullusa.com: What was your reaction when you saw the video?
LL: You definitely think, “Wow, I can’t believe that just happened,” but it was kind of a relief because some of the guys told me it looked like I just didn’t hit the gas. I knew it was a carburetion problem and you can hear it and see it, but here I was questioning myself, like “What really did happen?” Luckily, it was something that can be fixed.
redbullusa.com: Did you have an intense recovery period?
LL: Fairly intensive, but it wasn’t as bad as you’d think. I went from spending a week in a hospital to riding my sled three months later. To some people, three months might sound like a long time, but I've blown my knee in a race before and it took me six months before I could ride anything.
I went from wiping out and nearly dying to riding my sled three months later. I was very fortunate to be able to come back this quickly.
redbullusa.com: How excited are you to try this jump again?
LL: Really excited to try it again. The team worked so hard to get all the pieces in place with Red Bull getting the ramps and getting everything set up and the crew building the sled -- there’s so much work going into the event, [so] to have it all stop two weeks before the jump was kind of bittersweet.
We were excited that we broke the record, but we really wanted to do it on the main stage. That was the biggest stage in the history of our sport so it would have been really awesome to do it on New Year’s Eve for Red Bull: New Year. No Limits. I kind of chalked it up to -- you know, maybe it wasn’t supposed to happen, but I talked to Red Bull a little more and they said, “Would you ever consider trying again?” and I was like, “Well heck, yeah, I’d love to.”
I’m excited to try this again the proper way this time. There are very few times when you get an amazing opportunity and when it goes wrong, you get another opportunity to do it.
redbullusa.com: Are you planning on doing anything different this time?
LL: We’re making a lot of changes. The biggest thing is that Polaris has developed a new engine for me -- the problem with the first jump was the carbureted engine. Now the sled feels awesome.
redbullusa.com: Are you going to be nervous at all for the jump?
LL: You’re definitely nervous going through a jump like this. You’re trying to do something no one in the world has ever done and you want to break the world record. But we’ve done this before so it’s all about staying focused and going out there and doing what you need to do.
- Red Bull Fuel + Fury snowmobile freestyle event
- Levi's world record practice jump from 2010
- More info at the official Red Bull: New Year. No Limits. site