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Don’t be fooled by the small town vibe

by Wren Wertin
Special to the DailyThe Red Bull Flugtag, translated as Flight Day, consists of multiple groups of imaginative - and warped - people, who create a person-powered flight machine. Organizing the event has taken Highline across the country, and will keep them busy in 2004, too.
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When Jeff Brausch and Scott McCormick had to come up with the equivalent of a thesis in order to graduate from their masters MBA program, they designed a wee event called the Ultra 100.

The 100-mile bike race has morphed into a big player on the national extreme race scene. It starts and ends in Beaver Creek – but there’s a world of adventure in between, which is just how the boys at Highline Sports and Entertainment like it. Brausch and McCormick started the event marketing agency eight years ago, and from all accounts it’s growing according to plan.

The Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge (a 60-event series), Red Bull Flugtag, Vail Summer Sports Fest, Beaver Creek Snowshoe Adventure Series – these are a few pieces of the pie. And the pie is getting bigger. Today, the second half of the Ford Adventure Series, another event Highline was heavily involved in, is being broadcasted on NBC at 2 p.m. Having two hours of network television (the first half premiered a few weeks ago) for a sports event like the Adventure Series is unprecedented, partner James Deighan said.

“The reason we operate in the spaces we do is it’s fun and easygoing and it’s not white and uptight like stick and ball sports,” said Brausch, flying down the highway to see The Boss in Denver. “There aren’t natural boundaries. The rules are kind of flexible, with a lot of wiggle room.”

People ask them to create events, and they create them. That includes coming up with the specific events, be they wacky or extreme, organizing every detail down to the last zip tie and banner, and then pulling the whole shebang off with style.

As Deighan put it, they’re in the business of making people happy.

“I love events,” he said. “All different types of people participating in different ways. We’re in this business because we enjoy making people happy. It’s our greatest thrill to see someone else smile at our expense.”

Whether people are giggling at a pond skimmer dressed like the Incredible Hulk, or gasping as a man-made, man-powered flight machine is launched into the air, the entertainment aspect is key.

When representatives from Vail approached Highline with the request to bring people to the town in April, they got to work. Typically, they’ll brainstorm together and separately, work with their clients, and brainstorm some more. It’s during this time their working relationship – which often resembles a brotherhood more than an office – is especially important. The sky is quite literally the limit.

“Take pond skimming,” said Brausch. “We’d get to make up the rules. That’s what makes it fun, you’re creating something new.”

And just like brothers, they can get each other in trouble. One Halloween, the crew decided to dress up as the “Baywatch” group. Herb Henneman, a former partner, donned the garb of David Hasselhoff, while Deighan dressed as Pamela Anderson and Brausch as Carmen Electra. Cruising through town with a sense of glee that translated directly into going entirely too fast, Deighan was pulled over for speeding. It was the first time in 14 years of living in Vail.

“I asked the officer if I could get out of the ticket by showing my chest,” he said.

And it worked. Some things do.

To put a philosophical, and perhaps lofty, spin on the reason behind Highline’s success – it’s all about creating a bit of community. As urban sprawl eats up towns, a sense of place, of fraternity, fades. But these all-encompassing events, usually free and open to the public, create a shared experience for virtual strangers.

“In Chicago, at the Red Bull Flugtag, 80,000 people swarmed together,” said Deighan. “They were high-fiving, slapping knees and backs. It hadn’t existed the day before, and nobody had even heard of it a month ago. But there were no fights, no issues, no problems. Everyone was glad to be there.”

Though Highline’s image sometimes takes a hit nationally simply because they’re based out of Vail and not some sprawling metropolis, they’re not worried. They moved to Vail for a reason, and that same reason keeps them here.

“The lifestyle keeps us here,” said Deighan. “We were a very small company, and we’ve grown into a national force. But we still have that hometown feel. Sure we want to be a big national powerhouse, but right now it’s more about being a high-performance boutique operation.”

For more information on the company, visit http://www.gohighline.com or call 476-6797.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555, ext. 618.

Highline’s 2004 calendar

In their own backyard:

Jan. 3 Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge, Beaver Creek

Jan. 10 Beaver Creek Snowshoe Adventure Series, Beaver Creek

Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge, Loveland

Jan. 17 Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge, Keystone

Jan. 24 Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge, Sol Vista

Jan. 25 Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge, Beaver Creek

Jan. 28-Feb. 1 US Freeskiing Open, Vail

Jan. 31 Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge, Powderhorn

Feb. 7 Mogul Mania,Vail

Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge, Monarch

Feb. 14 Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge, Breckenridge

Feb. 21 Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge, Vail

Beaver Creek Snowshoe Adventure Series, Beaver Creek

Feb. 28 Mogul Mania, Vail

Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge, Steamboat

Feb. 29 Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge, Beaver Creek

March 6 Mogul Mania, Vail

Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge, Keystone

March 13 North American Snowshoe Champs, Beaver Creek

March 13 Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge, Eldora

March 20 Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge, Jackson Hole

March 27 Mogul Mania, Vail

Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge, Vail

April 3 Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge, Breckenridge

The Snowshoe Shuffle, Vail

April 8-11 Spring Back to Vail, Vail

April 15-18 Spring Back to Vail, Vail

Beaver Creek Snowshoe Adventure Series

Jan. 10 Beaver Creek Snowshoe Adventure Series, Beaver Creek

Feb. 21 Beaver Creek Snowshoe Adventure Series, Beaver Creek

March 13 North American Snowshoe Champs, Beaver Creek

And beyond:

45-event Atlas Snowshoe Women’s Explore Winter Workshop

20-stop movie tour for Poor Boyz Productions/Oakley

Vail Summer Sports Fest

Red Bull Wings over Cleveland, World Paragliding Championships

Red Bull Flugtag in Chicago and Austin

Ultra 100

Ford Adventure Sport Challenge

The Colorado Classic, a benefit golf and tennis weekend extravaganza for the Steadman Hawkins Foundation


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