Skateboarders conquer Donner Pass in ‘Red Bull Cannibal Canyon’ stunt

Kaleb M. Roedel
The Sector 9 downhill skateboarders reached speeds up to 45 miles per hour during their 2.4-mile run down Donner Pass.
Courtesy Jason Shields / Red Bull |

More online

Visit to watch the video and learn more about “Risking Life and Limb in ‘Cannibal Canyon.’”

TRUCKEE, Calif. — It’s no secret: The steep, serpentine stretch of Donner Pass that traverses the Rainbow Bridge at Donner Summit can be a treacherous highway to maneuver.

Especially if one’s chosen mode of transport is a piece of plywood with no brakes.

On Sept. 23, such was the case for four professional skateboarders — of Sector 9 Skateboard Co. — who dared to carve down 2.4 miles of Donner Pass on longboards in a stunt titled “Red Bull Cannibal Canyon.”

Last week, Red Bull released an eye-popping 90-second video — including shots from high above, down at the road level and best of all, from cameras strapped to the riders themselves, highlighting the Sector 9 team’s run down Donner Pass.

“When riding downhill on skateboards, you have to clear your mind and be one with the moment.”Jackson Shapiera

One can see the riders navigate down Old Highway 40 — leaning, bending, crouching — in a synchronized fashion at speeds up to 45 miles per hour.

For the riders (A.J. Haiby, Jackson Shapiera, Jimmy Riha and Micah Green), zipping down arguably one of the most dangerous mountainous routes in the world was a wholly unique experience.

“Catching the first light shine from beyond the mountains while perched above a gorgeous lake (Donner Lake) was something you don’t see every day,” Shapiera said. “Doing so while riding down a mountain road on a skateboard is even more breathtaking.”

Not as if the ride itself was a stroll through the park.

When one is shooting down a road with an elevation change of roughly 1,000 feet on a piece of plywood with zero breaks, you’re sure to encounter a few hurdles (figuratively) and speed bumps (literally).

“The pavement is the most outstanding feature,” Green said. “With surface texture change due to weathering cracks and expansion joints, the road has a lot of imperfections that make consistent high speeds a challenge.”

“Cracks generally aren’t too big of a challenge,” added Louis Pilloni, the team manager, “but this old road has expansion cracks from the harsh winters that can swallow a wheel.”

Shapiera also said that curling across the Rainbow Bridge, which makes a 360-foot radius curve, was a “fun challenge.”

In all, the Sector 9 team’s perilous ride down Donner Pass lasted roughly 3 minutes. Which begs the question: What goes through a skateboarder’s head during those 180 hazardous seconds?

“When riding downhill on skateboards, you have to clear your mind and be one with the moment,” Shapiera said. “So not much goes through my head at all rather than enjoying the experience ahead of me. Anything else that comes into mind is a distraction and a possibility for error, so it all gets blocked out.”


According to Pilloni, back in 2001, there was a downhill skateboarding race held at Donner Pass that helped pave the way for the current downhill skateboarders.

“A lot has changed with the progression and style of riding, but it will always share the same roots,” Pilloni said. “Donner Pass doesn’t require sliding or speed control as many current race hills, but it brings the rider back to the roots by trying to go fast as you can and power through the cracks.”

Added Riha: “I got stoked on the opportunity to go skate this road like some legends before me have.”

And there’s plenty more than Donner Pass for riders, whether they’re amateurs, pros or legends, to conquer in the region.

“Tahoe is a great location for downhill skateboarding,” Pilloni said. “There is a gold mine of good hills for downhill skateboarding in the Sierra.”

Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.