After the pros, the public gets to slide
VAIL, Colorado The throng of fans, the big screen and the giant flames all the hoopla of the Session snowboarding event were nowhere to be found Sunday morning at Vails Golden Peak.But the course a playground of rails, jumps and other park features sat under blue skies primed for one last day of competition.Much like the big names who had raked in the cash for two nights prior, amateur riders gathered with their boards and bibs for a chance to hop on some plastic and metal.You get to hit the course all the pros get to hit, said Vails Zac Layman, 17, who won the Sunday public rails session with moves that some of the pros struggled with in their rail jam.Starting at 9:30 a.m., the Vail Snowsports School gave a free clinic for beginner and intermediate riders, while the advanced riders got to figure out their lines in a practice session that started at 10 a.m. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., riders threw down for a shot at a free snowboard (for the intermediates) or a season pass (for the advanced). Though not quite the thousands of dollars pros like Chas Guldemond and Andreas Wiig were picking up, the bounty was pretty good considering the cost: free for intermediate and $20 for advanced riders.And it seemed that a lot of the riders Sunday morning had the same mentality as the pros, where it wasnt about the prize money.I told some of my friends about it, and they wanted to come out, and it couldnt have been a better day, said local resident Whitney LeFevre, 20. I love it because every year its something new. … Every year they are stepping up and trying to please the pros, the crowd and the amateurs.For an out-of-town snowboarder like Zach Chazin, who rides with friends on features put together on a farm in Minnesota, the course was mouthwatering. This setup is the most innovative setup Ive seen in my life, Chazin said. Like the (announcers) said yesterday, its more of a skatepark than a rail jam.The advanced riders jibbed and jumped on giant features like the horseshoe bowl and a challenging down-flat-down rail. For the final 30 minutes, the top eight male riders and two female riders took turns sliding a pair of rails by the finish corral.We all killed it today, said Eagle-Vails Sean Dorson, who went the length of the down-flat-down rail in a 50-50 slide (where the board is parallel to the rail), among other tricks he pulled in the finals.After three riders suffered injuries on the same feature a gap box that shifted downward the organizers closed it off.It would have been nice to hit all the features, but I guess safety comes first, Dorson said.
Like any rail jam, the competitors tried to stand out for the judges, whether it was with their get-ups (80s-themed outfits), props (an old-school boom box duct-taped to a riders leg) or tricks.Chazin used a one-footed rail slide in hopes of separating himself in the intermediate category.I wanted to win and nobody else was doing anything like that, he said.After some early tests, Chazin pulled it off.I went up and started spinning and came off and tumbled and rolled and my glasses fell off and my helmet came off, and my glasses are all bent now, Chazin said of his first try. I got it on the fourth or fifth try.Justin Hollis, 12, of Gypsum, used Sunday to test the moves hed been practicing in the park.Today is actually my first competition, he said. Im pretty nervous, but Ive got my tricks down.And for those like Hollis who were cutting their in front of a crowd, there was plenty of positive reinforcement from pro rider Pal Milbery, who was on hand to announce and judge.Along with Layman, who rides for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, Rachel Gordon, another SSCV rider, picked up a free season pass for winning the ladies advanced category. Sara Weisberg and Ryan Sutton won the intermediate events.As the organizers passed out the awards, Dorson offered an innovative idea for next year.I was thinking they should have amateurs go first, and then top three, or whatever, can ride with the pros, he said.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.