Confessions of The Session |

Confessions of The Session

Scott Willoughby

For the moment, at least, the gauntlet is on the ground. You might say Vail just threw it down in the form of a creeper 50-50 to stop-dead nollie front flip off a 20-foot rainbow rail.Actually, pro snowboarder Todd Richards of Breckenridge might say that. In fact, he did say it, but he was talking about fellow pro rider Travis Rice, who rocked the move to collect 10 grand in grand fashion on the custom-built rainbow last Friday night, Jan. 17.But he did it in Vail. And now it’s up to someone else to top it. Not so much the move as the event. The Session.There’s nothing like a little friendly competition. But Vail has never seen a competition quite like this.At face value, last weekend’s Session at Vail marked the resort’s first foray into freestyle snowboarding’s Major Leagues. Sure, there was the lightly attended Sims World Snowboard Championship a week after the Winter Olympic snowboard competition last February and more than a few USA Snowboard Association contests preceding that, but nothing even remotely on par with The Session produced by the Vail Valley Foundation, the same folks who brought us Vail ’99.Vail stepped up with last weekend’s $110,000 full-moon snowboarding spectacular, and in doing so announced itself as a player in the next generation of Gen-X events. This ain’t your daddy’s alpine ski racing.It is doubtfully coincidental that The Session was situated a week after the U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix event in Breckenridge and 10 days before the ESPN X Games in Aspen, the biggest media circus in winter sport this season. Or that the equally New School U.S. Freeskiing Open follows in Vail a week after Winter X.The resorts hosting these events have been slugging it out for years, originally for SKI magazine resort rankings and now for the endorsement of a much younger market far more interested in terrain parks from which to nollie front flip.”As the No. 1 winter resort in North America, it is our responsibility to foster the next generation of winter sport enthusiasts,” says Chris Jarnot, Vail’s vice president of marketing. “We’ve made a concerted effort to provide an exceptional snowboarding product at Vail. Hosting an event like The Session is an opportunity to celebrate these athletes’ valuable contribution to our industry.”If we can get beyond the “product” reference, I’m pretty sure what Jarnot is trying to say is that Vail is now willing to put its money where its mouth is with regard to snowboarding. Freeskiing too, for that matter, and whatever the kids may crave next.Let’s face it, the World Cup and World Championships have been done. It’s just a matter of time until the X Games make their way to Vail.But while freeskiing is a trend the resort is banking on for the future, snowboarding established itself after earning the respect of an all-ages audience at the Olympics last year, and both Vail Resorts and the Vail Valley Foundation recognized that with as much as $10,000 per trick at the invitation-only Session.”This is a new endeavor for us,” says VVF president Ceil Folz. “We felt it was important to make an impression on the sport of snowboarding by producing an exciting and rewarding event for both the athletes and the community.”Mission accomplished. And if other resorts/events want a similar slice of the jib pie, they are going to have to show just as much love.Thousands of fans came out for Friday night’s rail contest as 35 of the sport’s top “products” put on an eye-popping display of jibbing bravado by risking their necks on three enormous rails during a two-hour expression session worth $10K per rail

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