At the Session, riders become artists
VAIL, Colorado From the X Games, the backcountry and terrain parks, riders assembled in Vail Thursday preparing for an event that turns snowboards into paintbrushes.At the Session snowboarding contest, top athletes get the chance to string together slides, jibs and jumps in a giant terrain park assembled at the base of Golden Peak.It makes for some creative rides, said TJ Schneider. There is so much going on, that it can be easy to miss something.The first leg of this years Session kicks off today with the mens and womens rails competition. From 6 to 7 p.m., the women take turns throwing down tricks in a jam-session format while the men qualify from 3:30 to 5 p.m, then compete in the jam-session from 7:15 to 8:15 p.m. I like how its mellow and everyone seems to have fun, said Marie-France Roy, who was recently named the Transworld Snowboarding Rider of the Year. And its about creativity. If you dont have a good run at the beginning, you can do well later and get rewarded.Saturday, the men compete in a slopestyle contest that features four jumps ranging from 45 to 80 feet.The rider list is as diverse as the tricks competitors pull, with guys and girls who specialize in the pipe, the park and filming.Its a good opportunity for non-pipe jocks and magazine pros, Schneider said. Greg Johnson, who designs the park and jumps along with Pat Malendowski and Ryan Neptune, tries to provide a landscape that works for everyone.It has a lot of variation and balance. Not a lot of riders have the opportunity to ride it a week ahead, so we try to make it friendly, and challenging, said Johnson, who was on hand with the other designers Thursday during a practice session to take suggestions from riders.To be on top, though, You really need to be an all-around rider, said Leslie Glenn of Breckenridge.
With 40 invited riders on the mens side and half as many on the womens side, the Session gives a chance for some up-and-coming riders to knock boards with the established elite. And in the jam-session format where judges dole out cash prizes every 15 minutes to the top five riders, anyone can pick up a few thousand dollars for a few seconds of work.Ive won money three of five years now and never even realized it, Schneider said. I won money halfway through one year and someone interviewed me and said, you are in the money.Additionally, judges award the Malay Factor prize for the best trick of the night, honoring Josh Malay, a Vail rider who passed away in a snowboarding accident four years ago.In Saturdays slopestyle, 15 male riders will duke it out in the finals from 6:15 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. The winner will take home $35,000, with the total purse set at $90,000 for the night. Jumps in the slopestyle progress in size, and the riders finish with a run through the terrain park.They are technically working their way up, Johnson said. They can start with a frontside 900, and work their way up to a cab 10 and on the last jump they can do a 1200.Along with event prizes, riders will get a chance to improve their Ticket to Ride Tour rankings. The Ticked to Ride Tour rates riders performance at independent events like the Session, the Abominable Snow Jam and the Arctic Challenge, and gives out prize money at the end of the season.
The money clearly isnt the only good thing at the Session.The fan base here is more appreciative, said Chas Guldemond. They scream really loud and its good to see them here.And with a viewer-friendly venue, flimers also get a shot at capturing the perfect run.Its definitely a great event to be a part of, said Justin Turkowski, who films for Capita Snowboards. There are so many features, which makes it a great event to film.Local rider Bryan Daino, who is with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, hopes to give the home crowd something to cheer about in what is his biggest contest in his young career.The only goal I have is to make the finals, he said. I dont care about the money or anything. I just want to make my run. Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.