Rail Session draws a crowd, Stompeders wrestle with snow 

10,000 show up for rail jam in Skiers' Plaza

Judges scored every spin, grind and press at rail jam. Photo by Andrew Mitchell
  • Judges scored every spin, grind and press at rail jam. Photo by Andrew Mitchell

The 11 th annual Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival’s athletic side got off to a good start on the weekend with an extremely well-attended McDonald’s Rail Jam, and the inaugural Stompede slopestyle.

McDonald’s Rail Jam

Set up on a mass of scaffolding outside the GLC, invited skiers and borders had the choice between a narrow box and a rail. Judges scored every spin, grind and press, and in the end chose the top athletes based on their best runs of the evening.

Despite the cold and periods of snow, a massive crowd of thousands took to Skiers' Plaza on Saturday night. TWSSF organizers are estimating that the crowd was in the 10,000 range.

With a dozen snowboarders and equal number of skiers taking part the contest moved quickly.

There was only one winner for each category.

Matt Dano of Quebec, one of the most aggressive and stylish riders in an aggressive and stylish group, took the men’s snowboard title.

Molly Milligan, a Whistler rider, claimed the women’s title with solid spins on and off the rail – not bad for someone who hasn’t been riding rails all season.

"I was definitely a little nervous at first, I haven’t competed in a rail jam for a long time and didn’t know how it would go. I’ve hit two or three rails all season," she said.

"I was pumped. After I hit the rail a couple of times I started to feel really comfortable and started trying tricks I don’t usually try. I was surprised I managed to land as much as I did.

"Just being in a contest with stairs involved makes you really concentrate."

Milligan has competed in a few urban rail jams in her day, but never for a crowd as large as the one on Saturday night. For all the faces and flash bulbs in the crowd she said the athletes were mainly focused on their next tricks.

"There was a little conversation here and there, but otherwise all you were thinking about is the next trick and the rail in front of you and that’s it," she said. "It was cool to get the applause, the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’, that definitely gave me a boost, but you really had to have your head in the game."

Corey Vanular of Ontario won the men’s ski competition with his switch riding, and change-ups on the rail. Not bad for a skier just completing his senior year of high school.

The women’s ski contest went to Kaya Turski of Quebec/Squamish, a pro inline skater who was also impressive in the women’s Stompede qualifier. Kaya went just a little bigger and faster than the other athletes, and rode consistently all evening.

With the Rail Session and Stompede to her credit, Turski is now three for three this season – first in the Vermont Open slopestyle, first in the McDonald’s Rail Session, and first in the TWSSF Stompede.

There was a total of $10,000 in prize money up for grabs.

Stompede

For an inaugural event the Stompede went surprisingly well, with huge crowds of spectators ignoring cold, high winds and the lure of powder to watch some of the biggest names in skiing and snowboarding face off on a short slopestyle course near the top of the Emerald Chair. There was one day of training and a day of qualifiers leading up to Sunday’s final event, which featured 25 skiers and 25 snowboarders.

The snow did throw a wrench into the mix, making it difficult for skiers and riders to get enough speed to attempt some of the harder features, including the A-Frame off the top air and the box suspended 18 feet over crash pads that separated two quarterpipes at the bottom.

The skiers went first. California’s Michelle Parker posted the best first run of the women’s contest, opting for a high-speed grind over the box to drop rather than the spine, but Kaya Turski of Squamish had a big second run to finish first overall. Third place belonged to Denise Jaworsky.

For Turski, going two for two at the TWSSF events was as good as it gets.

"It’s been a really good weekend, the rail jam was really sick and I really liked the setup, and the qualifier and the finals for the stompede were just awesome," she said.

Mike Henitiuk of Calgary also came from behind in the men’s contest with a strong second run to finish first overall, followed by Riley Leboe of Vernon and Taylor Felton of Maine.

Whistler’s Charley Ager just missed the podium by one point.

Special recognition was also given to Scott Hibbert, who had trouble delivering a full run but was the only competitor to land a full 1080 off the top air, and also had one of the best jibs off the A-frame.

Top qualifier Candid Thovex of France was expected to win, but crashed on his first spinning A-frame trick. His second run was better, but another tough switch landing off the A-frame slowed him up at the bottom, where he did a 180 gap between quarterpipes before getting tangled up.

Meanwhile the snowboard competition picked up considerably in the afternoon’s final from the morning’s semi-final, thanks to a change of wax. In the morning riders were having a hard time clearing the top table, but in the afternoon they even had enough speed to make the top box, 18 feet over the quarterpipe gap. Most of the time, anyway – Mike Osachuk fell into the air bag at the bottom on his second run after a bobbled takeoff. He was okay, but a little slow getting up.

Craig Beaulieu had his best day of the season, squeaking through the qualifier and going on to win the men’s snowboard title ahead of Ontario’s Brad Martin, the 2005 slopestyle winner. Squamish rider Dennis Bannock, who charged the hip/stump with so much speed he completely cleared it. Was third.

"My first final run I decided to keep it simple, keep it stock, and I’m so glad I did because in my second run I actually fell," said Bealieu. "I was quite nervous waiting for the scores."

Bealieu’s best trick was a backside 720 off the top table – not the only one attempted, but definitely the best of the day.

"The competition was very high," he said. "Dennis Bannock has been all over Whistler for a long time… and he is still killing it. He’s turning 34 and I’m only 20, but he’s still killing it twice as hard as I am.

"And I was definitely watching Brad Martin, he’s definitely a big name. I’m amazingly happy."

Whistler’s Neil Connolly finished fourth by two-tenths of a point, but won the Whistler Bungee award after nailing the A-frame.

This week’s events are the Salomon Superpipe, which wraps up on Saturday afternoon, and Saturday’s night’s Playstation Big Air.

Stompede Scores

Ski Women

1. Kaya Turski – 8.1

2. Michelle Parker – 7.5

3. Denise Jaworsky – 6.8

Ski Men

1. Mike Henitiuk – 9.1

2. Riley Leboe – 8.9

3. Taylor Felton

Snowboard Women

1. Star of Peace Quinn – 6.7

2. Charmaine Ironside – 5.9

3. Bev Vuillemier – 5.5

Snowboard Men

1. Craig Beaulieu – 9.2

2. Brad Martin – 8.5

3. Dennis Bannock – 8.4

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