As autumn slips too slowly into winter here in the Northwest, skiers and boarders alike are hankering for snow. This year winter came a little early to Spokane when the Washington Trust Rail Jam invaded the downtown Convention Center. The Jam took place in conjunction with the Annual Snowlander Expo and Powderkeg Inlander Brew Festival.

Dakota Berglund lays it down with Tristan Tran looking on

Grafton Parnell getting jibby in a mask and tour boots

Will Burkes showed up on some fat sticks

As I walked from my parking spot to the Convention Center I noticed by a motley group of shredders among the more normally clad population. Their arrival was punctuated with bemused looks and confused expressions, it's not every day that you see tall tee clad rippers carrying skis and boards through the streets of Spokane early in November.

Tran on the way to the win with a safety on the pole jam

Yellow boots make for good reflections

Nothing like a pole jam with a big drop to concrete beside it

Stalling with some autumn background

Inside the convention center booth after booth lined the hall, all stocked with gear and loudly proclaiming their low prices. The Rail Jam kicked off in the breezeway of the Center with open practice. As the riders got used to the feeling of snow beneath their bases again after a long summer the number of stomped tricks was approximately equaled by the number of wipeouts.

Tap dat

Grafton Getting funky

Nathan Faggard driving trucks downtown

Tristan getting weird

The riders adjusted quickly and after a brief break to groom the course returned for qualifying. Here the ante was upped as the judges heckled and pushed everyone to progress. Soon enough the list had been trimmed down and everyone settled in for the long wait till finals in the evening.

Somebody should have warned Graton to not dress like a bank robber when he showed up to a bank sponsored event...

Nothing like some duct tape on the tips

Some people can't pass up any opportunity for a method

When the finals kicked off at 5 the true nature of the event really started to show through. Friends and family lined the rails, all cheering on their favorite local riders. This may have been the best announced event I have ever attended as the judges took over the mic's. The riders were required to wear number cards but most of the time were not needed as the judges called out riders for everything from an epic marriage proposal to football accomplishments.

There's always that one guy that decides to do a flip at a rail jam

There were no awkward mentions of "whirlybirds" or "the switch." Instead the judges offered insight on the history of the K-Fed, Tom Whallisch's ski sponsor and the point value of wizard tricks. I'm not sure there is any other sporting event where the crowd and competitors welcome speculation on long haired skier's potential sponsorship from Head and Shoulders Shampoo, or offer Instagram callouts after a crash.

Sometimes you need to pay to play

It aint over till somebody drops the course on a snow skate

This atmosphere of collective stoke and overall lack of pretentiousness permeated the event. At the end of the evening Tristan Tran took home the win for the skiers with tricks ranging from a 270 on, pretzel 270 out on the donkey flat to a large and sketchy pole jam to safety. Kix Kamp won the snowboard completion and Dorothy Nutter deserves special recognition as the only woman in the event, competing with the men.

As the crowd thinned out, escaping to their homes or to the Brew Fest inside winter felt somehow much closer. I guess that's the nature of preseason rail jams. They sate our lust for snow and stunts, they tide us through these last difficult weeks till opening day. At the end of the night the rails disappeared as mysteriously as they had appeared, leaving Spokane with nothing to show for the day but a bunch of stoked shredders, ready for winter.

Thanks to all of the sponsors who made this event possible as well as the people responsible for putting it on. Also a huge thanks to Nick Rizzuto for organizing this thing and telling me to come up and shoot it, thanks for sharing the stoke!


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