A Decade of Celebrating Our Gravity Community | Tom and Mick do the 10th Thredbo Cannonball Festival

Thredbo sits on the traditional land of the Monero–Ngarigo people, who have looked after this land, water and community for over 60,000 years. We thank them for all they have done and continue to do to look after their country, a special place which we all love and respect.

Cannonball Festival = A Good Time.

This February, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of Thredbo’s Cannonball Festival. Before we go any further, we should note that this is not a race report as such. Instead, it is a reflection, gazing in awe at the success of Cannonball over the last decade. With this, we are celebrating the growth of the Australian mountain bike community as a whole. The week we just spent in Thredbo solidified this and continues to build upon the robust foundation in which this community is rooted. In other words, there were SO MANY groms!

At one point, we stood back and asked ourselves why it was so busy. Well, there were 850+ competitors, plus their support and family. Adding to that are many riders happily lapping the trails, many spectators to suss the action, expo staff spruiking their wares, media hoping for the winning shot, Thredbo staff with multiple radios in hand and many more. Yeah, a ‘bit on’!

Thredbo Cannonball 2024 crowd at the whip off
Whip Off is the event where everyone comes together to celebrate a fantastic week. The crowd is getting bigger every year.

A Decade of Dynamism: The Cannonball Festival’s Remarkable Evolution

As we reflect on a decade of the Cannonball Festival, it’s not just the fast-paced racing or the high-altitude backdrop and snow gums of Thredbo that captures our imagination—it’s the remarkable growth and diversification of participants that genuinely tell the story of this iconic event. For Mick, it’d been six years since his last visit.

From its inception, Cannonball was more than just a competition; it was a gathering of like-minded frothers united by their passion for mountain biking. However, the last ten years have seen this passion ignite across a broader spectrum of the community, a testament to the inclusive spirit of the festival and the sport itself.

Wanna see how far it’s come? Click on these not-so-vintage pics from the Flow MTB archives. Spot any familiar faces, bad haircuts or kids that are now adults?

Trending Data | Youth and Diversity

The Cannonball Festival’s inception in 2013 marked the beginning of a pivotal event in the mountain biking calendar, shifting from December to February. With 42 pro men bouncing down the Cannonball Downhill and only three pro women in the mix, the festival’s humble beginnings laid the groundwork for quite an evolving journey.

Fast forward to 2024, and the transformation is profound. The pro-men’s category witnessed a commendable growth of 23.81%, but the pro-women’s category truly redefined the narrative, with an astronomical 300% increase. This surge highlights the growing female presence in professional mountain biking and underscores the festival’s commitment to gender inclusivity. A pivotal moment came around 2016 when the festival adopted equal prize money and categories for men and women. This move not only championed gender equality but also inspired a significant uptick in female participation.

The festival’s evolution didn’t stop at the professional level. The under-19 categories, pivotal for nurturing the sport’s future talents, saw significant growth. The men’s category expanded by 70.37%, while the women’s type, a new addition, debuted with 15 competitors, signalling a bright future for young female riders.

The introduction of diverse categories, from under-13s to over-50s, e-MTB, and expert riders, reflects the festival’s adaptability and embrace of the sport’s evolving landscape. In particular, the under-17 men’s category showcased remarkable growth, ballooning by over 212.5%. Establishing the under-15 women’s category further highlights the shifting demographics and the sport’s broadening appeal.

Yeah, the groms!

This decade-long evolution of the Cannonball Festival is a testament to the power of inclusivity, progress, and community in mountain biking. As we look forward to the next decade, the Cannonball Festival stands as a beacon of what’s possible when trails are open to all, promising an era of even greater diversity, inclusivity, and growth.

Cannonball Masterminds | The OGs Timmy & Danny  

Over ten years ago, Stuart Diver (Resort Operations Manager- Thredbo) sat down with a team to devise a plan for a mountain bike festival. An event that would embrace the culture of the sport, just as Crankworx did for Whistler at the time. At the round table discussion were two eager mountain bike tragics. Tim Windshuttle and Danny Taliana were a pair who had lofty goals and a vision to create Australia’s greatest MTB celebration.

Tim and Danny are still the heartbeat of this festival; last week, we saw that in full force. Tim is one of the busiest people on the hill but remains eerily calm, and he’ll always stop to chat and ask how your week is going. His genuine love for this event is palpable and contagious, felt through his warm interest in your experience and enjoyment of the festivities. We loved to hear about their plans and how they want to grow.

Danny is no doubt the voice of Cannonball. Over the years, he has called thousands of riders down their race runs — his poor lungs — from kids having a crack at their first event to some of the biggest names in the sport. His enthusiasm and passion do not discriminate; global superstars or newcomers get the same attention and stoke from Danny. This unbiased support for everyone participating doesn’t go unnoticed!

Not Just ‘Another’ Race:

Connor Fearon racing in the Downhill at Thredbo's 10th anniversary Cannonball Festival 2024
Connor Fearon exiting the whoops during his DH race run. It’s a favourite spot for the fans to heckle from in the Cannonball DH.

Building a mountain bike festival around racing has proven the way in Australia. Our need for speed has always been strong, and we saw that in the very early days of the festival. Thredbo received some unseasonable summer snowfall during the first-ever Cannonball DH race. Rather than calling the event off, the Thredbo team and many racers (including Mick Hannah) grabbed shovels and cleared the track so racing could go ahead. This pride and dedication to racing Cannonball has been built upon and is still very much the case today.

Check out the photos from the first snowy DH race at Cannonball.

The event has progressed and proven to be more than a race. Whilst racing is still at the core, there are now so many other dimensions to this celebration. We’re now seeing live music, athlete signings, industry demos and expos all presented in the thriving event village. It grows. We know this is also matched by growing crowds coming to experience the festival off their bikes. The constant thrum of the masses is a critical element of keeping the vibes so high throughout the week!  

Thredbo Cannonball 2024 elite women's DH podium
The elite women’s DH podium. You could easily believe this was taken from a World Cup with a top 3 like that.

Big Names Come With Big Inspiration

Jackson Goldstone racing the DH at Thredbo Cannonball 2024
Jackson Goldstone is one of many international superstars at Cannonball this year.

Thredbo has always done a fantastic job working with and inviting the best Aussie pro athletes to Cannonball. Furthermore, in recent years, we’ve seen some of the biggest international teams showing up to have their piece of the pie. This year, we had global teams and their stars from Santa Cruz Bicycles, Commencal and YT. Credit has to be given to these teams as they have not only participated but also embraced the event’s ethos with open arms.

The big-name riders have an enormous influence on the future generations of the sport. Seeing athletes racing and interacting with the community through meet-and-greet signings and other social events was outstanding. There were a lot of stoked kids (and big kids) who got to meet their heroes; we should never underestimate how special that can be.

Myriam Nicole at the athlete signing Thredbo Cannonball 2024
Myriam Nicole from France is keeping the groms stoked with autographs.

The Back Roads of Cannonball Pt 1 | Thredbo Valley Trail

The atmosphere at Cannonball is all-time, but sometimes a quiet break from the energy is needed. We made a conscious effort this year to immerse ourselves in the event and the beauty away from the festival.

We arrived in the afternoon just in time for a quick sunset ride along the Thredbo Valley Trail. This trail is a scenic ribbon of singletrack that follows the river down and away from the Thredbo Village. The river is beautiful, and you feel part of the surroundings as the three stunning bridges link the trail over the top of the iconic Snowy Mountains River. We’d highly recommend doing it at sunrise or sunset to add to the experience. 

Though, was that a snake or a stick?

Mick Ross riding the Thredbo Valley Trail during Thredbo Cannonball 2024
Mick soaking up a sunset lap down Thredbo’s Valley Trail. It’s a great way to enjoy a moment away from the crowds.

The Back Roads of Cannonball Pt 2 | Cascade Hut

In the opposite direction to the Thredbo Valley Trail, out of town towards Dead Horse Gap, you’ll find the Cascade Hut Trail, an alpine fire road that takes you into the backcountry through some spectacular alpine meadows. We snuck out there for a sunrise ride, which we’d encourage you to do.

The valley at that time in the morning is…breathtaking. We started the ride in thick fog. As the sun came up, it burnt off, providing that beautiful morning light we all love. It was a great way to start another hectic day at Cannonball. Doing it on the Specialized Levo and Levo SL meant we still had plenty of energy to get through another mega day. Yay for e-MTBs!

Mick Ross sending a waterbar on the Cascade hut trail in Thredbo
Trading a hot breakfast for some calm, crisp mountain air, Mick bursts into the day.
Is this the photo of the week? There were no whips or mad speed, just crisp mountain air and beautiful scenery while most Cannonballers hunted at the buffet.
Alpine AF.
Cascade Hut Thredbo Backcountry
The trail out to Cascade Hut gave Tom an authentic backcountry experience — a stark contrast to the hype around the Cannonball hub.
Dreamy vistas, eh?

Upper All Mountain, Paparazzi, Grasshopper, Ricochet, Sidewinder. And Do It Again.

Upper All Mountain, above it all.
Paparazzi is a trail in the Thredbo mountain bike park with stunning views
Yep, just another berm on Paparazzi with a stunning backdrop; Tom tips it in on the new Scott Ransom we tested during the week.
The Resident Bike Co crew is testing things. Wait, what is Resident Bike Co? Watch this space…

The last little escape we’d recommend is actually within the bike park. Most of the trails during the week are used for events, but a few don’t see any race tape. One of those is the Upper All Mountain Trail — a scenic track above the treeline that overlooks the bike park and the valley below.

The other picturesque trail we spent plenty of time on was Paparazzi. It is a more heavily trafficked route than Upper All Mountain but not a race track. This one is an excellent option if you want to get away from the race tape and enjoy the views and some killer singletrack.

From up here, you could juuuuust hear the noise from below.
Squeezing on the new SRAM Maven brakes on the big rocks up high.

The Dual Slalom: A Nostalgic Yet Fresh Thrill

The reintroduction of the Dual Slalom, which we hear is here to stay (yew yew), with its grassroots charm and lively head-to-head format, was a highlight. Its simplicity and accessibility made it a crowd favourite, proving that going back to basics can sometimes be a bloody good time. Here are some pics of the flat-out fun.

The late afternoon sun provided the perfect light, precisely what our cameras hoped for.
Yew, slalom!
Dien Dad Cam — the social media content from this event is bonkers. Luckily, we were there, or the FOMO would have hurt.

What’s Next? 

The first ten years of Cannonball have been full of hype and growth. We’re grateful that we’ve been able to be part of it.

Where to now? We’ve been hearing strong whispers of a new DH track to attract the most significant international events, with all of the events culminating at a new expo and finish line at Friday Flat. We can’t wait to see Cannonball, the energetic ‘adolescent’, mature even more. If you haven’t been, figure out how to get there next year.  

Archie Young, 14 years old. The winner of Thredbo Cannonball 2024 whip off
Archie, at just 14 years old, won the Whip Off. Cannonball’s future is bright, folks. Watch this space, or keep an eye out in the upper area!
New //Dharco X Louis Vuitton\\ collab launching soon, spotted here first.
Can’t beat the buzz of a World Champion Down Under, cheers, Myriam Nicole!
Whip madness!
This is the last photo taken during the week. Whatever followed won’t be documented. Ahhhh, the ever-iconic sound of fireworks through the night in Thredbo was perhaps the most nostalgic sound all week!

2024 Photos – Mick Ross / Flow MTB, Tom Wilson, Nick Waygood / Thredbo MTB

Archives – The one-and-only Mr Damian Breach, Mick & Chris / Flow MTB, Nick Waygood / Thredbo  MTB, Tim Bardsley-Smith / Thredbo MTB

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