Snowmobile superstar Levi LaVallee recently left the chilly environs of Minnesota to take on Red Bull: New Year. No Limits. in San Diego, where he planned to eclipse the existing snowmobile distance-jump record of 301 feet. His practice sessions had been going extremely well, even producing a super-smooth 361-foot jump, but a subsequent crash put the brakes on the event, slated to be broadcast live on ESPN for New Year’s Eve.
Fortunately, Levi will recover fully from his injuries and be back to push the sport of snowmobiling once again. A veteran Snocross racer and freestyle pioneer, Launchin’ Levi is one of the sport’s biggest personalities, responsible for some amazing accomplishments:
Levi LaVallee Quick Facts:
- Holds 7 Winter X Games medals and was named Athlete of Winter X Games in ‘08
- Has 4 WXG golds in 4 different disciplines: HillCross, Speed & Style, Freestyle and Knock Out
- Only snowmobile rider to attempt a double backflip, almost pulling it at WX ‘09
- Started racing at 12; earned his first Championship title in the ‘08/’09 season
- Co-owns the Team LaVallee Snocross team, founded in 2009
We had a chat with Levi this morning, and as you’ll see below, he’s in good spirits and can’t wait to get back on the sled and do what he does best…
Everything was clicking along really well and then I woke up in the hospital. It was a shock.
Levi LaVallee Q&A
Hey Levi, how are you doing?
I’m feeling good. It’s obviously a bummer not being able to participate in Red Bull: New Year. No Limits., but the thing that’s cool is that I had some serious injuries but nothing that’s affecting me a ton. It’s slowing me down and I can’t be out riding my snowmobile right now, but it’s nothing that’s really painful or serious like that.
What was the extent of your injuries?
I ended up puncturing a lung and collapsing a lung and I broke some ribs. I also have some fractures in my pelvis. My whole upper body is sore, because of the ribs.
Do you know what happened in the crash?
No, not at all. I haven’t watched the video yet, so I can’t even tell you what I did. From what people are telling me, it sounds like the front end just started dipping once I got over the landing; it was going to go all the way so I just jumped over the handlebars.
How had practice been going to that point?
Practice was going great! Everything was clicking along really well and then I woke up in the hospital. It was a shock, just because things had been going so well and I never would have expected it.
Did you crash the same day you set the new record?
It was later that night. We took a little break and wanted to come back and jump under the lights. From the sound of things, it was going to be one of the last jumps we were going to do before wrapping everything up until New Year’s. It was still set to the same gap, just so I could get more comfortable with the whole thing. We wanted to make sure that I was as comfortable as possible with the set-up, so come jump night, there wasn’t any guessing.
How did you feel after the 361-foot jump?
I felt great. It was super smooth; the landing wasn’t abrupt and the sled flew through the air really nicely. That’s why I was so puzzled when I came to after a while to find out I had crashed. I’m still waiting to see the footage so I can determine for myself what actually happened. I’m hoping that it was just something minor that we can fix for the future.
Were you planning on going for longer than 361 feet?
I was at full speed when I started jumping that gap distance, so we were in the ballpark, plus or minus maybe 20 feet. It wouldn’t have been too far off of that.
Were there additional safety precautions taken for this jump?
Absolutely, we had tons of safety stuff for this. I had a full body armor set-up on. I had an Alpinestars upper body chest protector with arm and shoulder protection – it was just a beast. I had my neck brace and knee braces and shin guards – I was pretty much pads from head to toe. I give a lot of credit to that for allowing me to walk away from something like this.
Was it hard to do this in a non-snow environment?
It wasn’t as tough as one would think to jump a snowmobile without snow. It was actually nice because I left Minnesota and it wasn’t even 10 degrees outside, and I arrived in California and it was like 75. I thought, “Hey, this isn’t so bad, I kind of like snowmobiling in this!” We had do to a lot of tuning to the sled to get it to work properly, but it felt just like it does in snow conditions.
How long will your recovery be?
The doctors say I’ll be out for 3 to 6 months, and I think that’s mostly because of my pelvis. They want to make sure that gets back to 100% before I start jumping around and doing crazy stuff. Hopefully it’ll go a little bit quicker than that. I’ll be out of X Games for sure; if all goes well, maybe I can get some stuff in at the end of the season, but it all depends on how things are going. I’m getting around pretty good so it’s not too bad, other than feeling like I’m about 90 years old right now.
What are your plans for New Year's Eve now?
I was just asking my girlfriend Kristen what the game plan was for New Year’s now, and she’s like, “I don’t know, maybe we’ll watch a movie or something?” So that really went from one extreme to the other (laughs). I don’t know, we’ll figure something out and have some fun, but obviously not as much fun as jumping over a big gap on my snowmobile.
What’s next for you?
I’d like to give it another go. It’s a feat that I wanted to conquer; I feel good about breaking the record, but it wasn’t the way that I wanted to do it, I wanted to go all the way through.
You’ve accomplished so much in snowmobiling; are there still other feats you want to pursue?
I think the biggest thing now is just to get healthy and back into fighting shape so I can do what I normally do. I just want to get back and keep pushing the sport like I’ve been doing the last few years.
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- Video: Levi's first practice for Red Bull: New Year. No Limits.
- Video: Travis Pastrana sails 269 feet for Red Bull: New Year. No Limits. in '09
- Video: Levi's ultimate slip 'n' slide