Dane Ferguson has always made the most of obstacles in his path, turning what many would consider day-ending crashes into golden opportunities. His career of high-flying flips on snowmachines is legendary.
He has an X Games gold medal to his name and is known throughout the freestyle ranks as a pioneer of the backcountry freestyle big air movement.
Things changed when Ferguson and his wife Katie started a family. Raising their kids in the sport became a new passion.
His passion for family extends to all young riders. Securing a location for the next generation to race and jump, and to learn how to do it safely was his new priority.
For Ferguson to offer an opportunity like this, needed backing from a strong community group. He formed a partnership with the Lions Club of Alaska.
From that partnership, the Alaska State Sno-X Lions Club was born.
The mission of the ASSLC is to provide the Alaskan community with snowmachine facilities and expert direction for beginners of all ages and to develop the current youth talent as they rise through the ranks of the sledding world.
Facilities were the problem. The club wanted to establish a long-term, community-friendly closed course for practice. However, due to municipal codes, the battle for a snowmachine venue in the Anchorage Municipality has been put aside for now. Currently, the club is working with the Mat-Su City Council in hopes that they will support the community-minded, Lions backed club.
“We are doing something for the kids. We show them how to operate safely and let them learn something that gets them outdoors. We collect food for the food pantry at our events. We want to be good role models,” Ferguson says.
There will be a Mat-Su City Council meeting on April 16th to discuss the matter. The Sno-X Lions Club invites you to come and show your support for their endeavor.
In the meantime, Ferguson is forging ahead with his vision to create a champion class of future Alaskan snowmachiners in the National and international sno-x, freestyle, and backcountry scenes.
Surprisingly Ferguson did not start on sleds until his early 20’s.
Like most kids growing up in the North Country, his big dreams for the future involved hockey. Snowboarding got him into fighting gravity, and he had countless crashes while learning how to flip, spin, and jump cliffs. Throw motocross in the mix, and Ferguson was starting to dial in his big-air destiny.
It was on a Yamaha Yz 125 dirt bike that Ferguson found out big hits and headers didn’t seem to faze him as much as other people.
“One summer I just decided I was going to learn how to ride,” Ferguson said. “I’m at Kincaid track jumping all these jumps I have no business being on. I’m falling down in corners, and on one of the bigger jumps there, the Mock, I crashed hard and knocked the (snot) out of myself real bad.”
A crowd of people gathered around Ferguson to find out if he was ok.
“I’m thinking to myself that it wasn’t that bad. I go back to my truck and knock the cobwebs out, get back on the track and wad up again like a bug on a windshield,” Ferguson said.
This scenario repeated itself throughout the day with the crowd interest growing more with every crash. That was another lesson that helped him find his future calling.
“I thought motocross was cool, but I can’t compete with all the guys in California with dirt bikes,” Ferguson said. “But there must be something here, because people were impressed – not impressed with my riding at all, but impressed that I kept getting up.”
The next winter he discovered snowmachines and the freestyle fun they offered. “I gave up on chairlifts when I knew this thing was (awesome) uphill, downhill, sidehill.”
Ferguson got into the sport when a friend, Josh Murphy, bought him and another friend, Christoph Von Alvensleben, sleds so that they could ride together in the backcountry. Ferguson was the one usually holding the camera while his two buddies pulled off the big stunts. Ferguson grew tired of always being showed up by his two friends, and it pushed him to go beyond his limits. Tragically, Alvensleben lost his life in an avalanche while riding in the backcountry in 2008.
Reflecting on Von Alvensleben, “He would always jump a little bit further than me. His whips seemed to be a little bit more inverted. Everything he did was always a little bit better. And I got really sick of it,” Ferguson remembers fondly.
Von Alvensleben’s inverted whips drove Ferguson to try something new off a wind lip. “One day I did a flip with a twist. I tried to call it a monkey flip, but nobody would call it a monkey flip.”
Innovation and adventure have always been the itinerary for Ferguson. In the winter of 2006, he performed with a world-class group, the Slednecks, in Red Square, Moscow. The crowd of 30,000 tore the jacket off his back when he got too close while throwing DVDs to the rabid fans.
Enroute to an X Games qualifier, Ferguson broke his lower-right leg on a friend’s ramp in West Yellowstone. Not daunted, Ferguson rode the qualifier anyway, on one leg.
Apparently sledding on one leg wasn’t enough of a handicap for him, so his handlebars came loose limiting his tricks to flips.
“I have had the same thing happen to me in the backcountry. So I flipped around this whole thing with one broken leg and loose handlebars.”
Ferguson has a sponsor sticker on his handlebars, “HH.” It doubles as his mantra, “Hero or Hospital.” It reminds him to do something new every day or go to the hospital trying. That day he got both. He overshot his landing on a 120’ takeoff-to-takeoff transfer. The resulting crash “made sure” his leg was broken.
“After several jumps through the course, I made a mistake and crashed. I couldn’t walk through the snow because it was too deep. So I’m crawling back to my sled, and they’re waving the red flags.”
Just like the days at Kincaid, Ferguson cleared the cobwebs, got back on his sled, and attempted something nobody expected. He jumped the 120’ transfer.
“I just got back up and did it. I think doing that is why I was later invited to the first Winter X Games Next Trick Competition.”
After all that, he drove home. With his left foot.
In 2009 Ferguson showcased his monkey flip during the Next Trick competition at the Winter X Games. He brought home the gold. The monkey flip is now known as a “Twist Off” – Von Alvensleben’s nickname. As far as he knows, only one other person has landed a Twist Off, Zac Argon of Soldotna, in March of 2018.
Ferguson remembers the early days of freestyle competition when a high percentage of Alaskans were representing the sport. He hopes for those days to return with this next generation of riders he and the Sno-X Lions Club are raising.
Ferguson teaches his riders everything they need to know about the sport from A-Z. How to safely land a jump and how to safely crash are key aspects of his pioneering experience that go hand in hand.
When it seems everyone is shouting to save America’s youth, Ferguson and the other adult volunteers that run the Sno-X Lions Club already have boots in the snow.
For more information about the Sno-X Lions Club http://aksnox.com/
“Snocross has become an important part of our lives. Our four children just wrapped up their third season with the Alaska State Sno-X Lions. We look forward to all of the events, not only for the competition, but also for the amazing family time and the memories these kids will take with them forever. The passion Dane has for this sport is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. His determination and desire to see this sport succeed is inspiring. Dane and Katie dedicate everything to this club. I say club, but it’s more like a family.” Stacey Bradley