They be jammin’

Club brings snow to Chico for trick skiing and snowboarding competition

SNOW IN SPRING <br>Rail Jam contestant Andrew Brewer shows off his nose slide.

Rail Jam contestant Andrew Brewer shows off his nose slide.

Photo By joe kocsis

It’s hard to imagine students strapped to snowboards and skis under the hot sun. That was precisely the scene last week when the Chico State Snow Club brought a piece of the mountain to campus.

The Cricket Campus Rail Jam, a tour of young boarders from Portland, Ore., who specialize in collegiate marketing events, came to Chico last Friday (April 25) for one of its 14 stops around the country. The boarders—touring and students—transformed part of the parking lot of Craig Hall into a snow-covered foothill.

This wasn’t the Snow Club’s first rail jam. Ironically, the club lost its campus recognition for a year and half for the drinking and debauchery that took place at a house-party rail jam. But now the club is back and determined to prove itself.

“We are just a group of kids who like to snowboard and want to bring the sport to Chico,” said Steve Shearer, president of the club. “Things will hopefully only get bigger and better.”

Kevin Montgomery, who graduated from Chico State in 1998, was impressed by the “insane amount of work” that was put into the three-hour event. Montgomery helps run, a popular Web site where boarders can view and post snowboarding videos.

“I can’t remember any club on campus doing anything this big,” Montgomery said. He also thought it was a great way for people in the industry to connect with students.

By moonlight Thursday, members of the Chico Snow Club and Cricket tour began building the platform: 15 feet high, 25 feet wide and 75 feet long. Galvanic Design, the main company sponsoring the tour, brought all the equipment and helped the snow club set up the makeshift snow ramp. Three “rails” were added for boarders to jump on and do tricks from.

“We were completely set up in three hours,” said Ryan Kirkpatrick, vice president of Cricket operations. “That’s the fastest we have ever done it.”

The next morning, two dump trucks delivered real snow from Boreal Mountain Resort in Lake Tahoe. The set-up crew arrived at 9 a.m. and began unloading the snow by hand, using large plastic trashcans and shovels to stick the cold snow to the carpeted platform like Velcro. Rock salt was sprinkled periodically atop the snow to prevent it from melting in the 80-degree heat.

“It was definitely a huge difference from the cold and windy weather we just had in Reno,” Kirkpatrick said.

Students, families and snowboard enthusiasts showed up at 3 p.m. Friday to watch anyone willing to pay $25 and sign an insurance waiver. Two heats of boarders climbed the steep and shaky stairs to take turns riding the ramp and attempting to land tricks off the thin rails without sliding into the crowd.

At the end of two rounds, 15 of the best were chosen by a panel of three judges to compete in the final round in three categories: girls snowboarding, guys snowboarding and skiing.

Cricket tour members were impressed by the skill of the Chico riders and the visitors from Tahoe and Portland who came to compete. “We saw some of the best tricks we’ve seen on the tour so far,” Kirkpatrick said.

As the sun beat down, the DJ kept the crowd swaying as prizes and few a snowballs were tossed among the spectators.

Riding down the huge platform became increasingly difficult as the snow turned to slush. However, boarders pulled off tricks like a “50-50 front board,” which requires sliding down the rail, jumping in the air and landing back on the rail before leaping off.

Shawn Daley from Portland won first place for the guys’ competition with tricks like a “50-50 backside 270"—a perpendicular slide down the rail followed by a backward spin of 270 degrees.

Daley really enjoyed the warm weather and enthusiastic crowd. “It was kind of hard to concentrate with girls in bikinis and Frisbees being thrown in the air,” he said. “Chico really lived up to the reputation.”

Becky Bruce, who boards in Lake Tahoe, won the girls’ competition, and Sandy Melton (a guy) was the top skier.

When the competition wrapped up, eight students and about a half-dozen tour members spent three and a half hours pushing the snow off the scaffolding and tearing it down. The excess snow that wasn’t pocketed for snowball fights simply melted into the grass.

“It really went off without a hitch,” Shearer said. “People had fun and we kept it under control.”