With little snow and the first semester coming to a close, hopes for a December Rail Jam looked bleak, but luckily the snow gods blessed Colorado with a new winter during second semester.
Senior Danny Hovancsek led the Freeriders Union of Colorado College in his third career Rail Jam, facing not only a stingy winter, but also a scheduling mire. Forced to push back the intended first semester date, Hovancsek called upon freshman filmmaker Adam Young to drive a 40-foot Penske moving truck to Winter Park to pick up the rails this past Friday.
“It was super snowy [and] Danny told me ‘You just can’t care about other people when you’re driving this truck, you can’t care.’ There were like 25-plus cars behind us— then they pull up next to me and see us dancing in this truck, and they’re like ‘oh s***,’ and they get out of the way,” Young said.
Sophomore snowboarder Alex Spectorsky, who also helped coordinate the event, couldn’t help but admire Young’s boldness in taking on such a trying task.
“I can’t imagine being a freshman and being like ‘Here’s a truck, drive up to Winter Park— you probably haven’t driven on a highway here yet, let alone in a truck that is scary as s***– go for it,’” Spectorsky said.
After trucking in rails, snow, and hay bails, the physical labor began as Campus Safety, Winter Park crewmembers, truckers, and CC student volunteers worked together to begin unloading and shoveling snow toward the hill by The Preserve. With the help of a tractor, students, and limited shovels, snow began to cover the slope.
Hovancsek made and received over 70 phone calls on Saturday. By about 6:30 p.m., the hill looked beautiful and pristinely groomed as Spectorsky threw salt to allow everything to freeze before warmups began at 7:30 p.m.
Filming the event then became the priority as sophomore Cameron Hess had to coordinate not only CCTV filming, but also that of student filmmakers.
“We’d need a bunch of different people making sure all the angles were right, and the cameras were manned, [and] communicating with the people, like Danny Hovancsek, who were in charge of the event,” Hess said. “We had to make sure we were going to be set up in a place where nobody would get hurt.”
According to freshman filmmaker Adam Gerken, the atmosphere quickly became akin to that of a mountain town, with heat lamps, Carnivore Club burgers, and s’mores. Both Young and Gerken followed skiers within the camera setup that allows for close-up shots, though shooting sometimes became hazardous.
“I was a little scared with my nice DSLR camera. A couple of times, when I was near the bottom, I kind of got plowed into,” Young said.
Two separate takeoff points and three major rail features allowed for bigger and faster laps, leading to shorter drop lines and more hits, according to Hovancsek. The 200-300 people cheered and interacted with the athletes.
“It seemed like everyone was more down to help each other out, like, ‘Oh dude, that was sick, I want to do something like that.’ It wasn’t like a spin to win competition like most rail jams tend to be. The amount of times I got random high-fives from people when I was heading back up…it’s a very hard atmosphere to mimic,” Spectorsky said.
With not only talented riders, but also goofy ones, the atmosphere among riders was welcoming and not as competitive as in previous years, according to Spectorsky. Camaraderie among the athletes grew as they worked during the day to build the features and peaked that night, allowing riders to become more comfortable trying new tricks.
“Usually I’m just skiing with a couple friends, and [am] not pushed as hard to try new tricks. This really gave me an opportunity to just try stuff again and again, lock in really difficult tricks…it was really sick to see everyone throwing down as hard as they were,” freshman skier Salvador Bastian said.
Skiers and riders lapped the setup until the judges announced those who qualified for the competitive round, including ten guys and two girls. One of the biggest jumps of the night belonged to freshman snowboarder Peter Nossiff, who threw a massive rodeo off the kicker and won the competition. Sophomore skier Jack Dimmit took second, and Spectorsky placed third. The hay bales comprising the barrier at the bottom of the slope held up for the duration of the night, and though a few riders fell off the back, the competitors stayed safe.
“[I] definitely got more beat up than I would like. I had a lot of fun, I definitely tried some tricks that were in the competition spirit that I probably would’ve warmed up to a little bit more if I was out there on my own… I thought, ‘Oh, I can land this trick right now in front of everyone and I know I can do it,’” Spectorsky said.
With race skis, racing suits, dresses, tall tee shirts, and safety goggles, CC came out to Rail Jam with the clear intention of having fun. Hovancsek felt pleased about the safety and spontaneity of the event.
“Nobody really got hurt, no streakers were harmed in the process,” Hovancsek said. “I will say the streaker won the Rail Jam— he’s the ultimate winner really.”
Rumor has it that next year, FUCC will aim for a first semester Rail Jam followed by a second semester Big Air Contest. Keep watching these incredible skiers and riders throughout their seasons as they progress toward next year’s event. But this Rail Jam is definitely one to remember.