Words and photos by Rom Marcucci

Butterflies welled up in my stomach.  They built and built, the closer my car got to Boreal.  As I leaned over to buckle down my Full Tilts, they fluttered up into my throat.  By the time I pushed off and slid toward the first box of the season, they exploded from my mouth in a burst of raucous laughter.  No matter how old you get, as a skier, that first day holds the same giddy feeling. That excitement was shared with old friends, top pros, and several hundred others this past Saturday in Boreal’s public park on a host of boxes, rails, stalls, and even a small jump.

The public setup – I was having too much fun skiing to take a picture when the light was good and it was crowded with hundreds

The setup and crowd with Castle Peak in the alpenglow

As alpenglow warmed Castle Peak, the focus shifted from the public arena down the mountain to the massive stair set – a flat down box sandwiched between a high round down rail and a down flat down.  With top rail destroyers Tom Wallisch, Steve Stepp, Jon Strenio, Mike Hornbeck, Giray Dadali and a bunch of local talent poised at the top of the setup, anticipation ran high amongst the crowd.  The lights flooded on, the dj set the first scratch, Fuel TV stepped into the Boom, and show was on. 

Line’s very own Matt Connelly (DJ Silver Boombox Thief)

The boys in the start gates

It did not disappoint. Although this was day one for most of the riders, the level of technical difficulty and style displayed was striking.  Mike Hornbeck displayed his gorgeous slow style, too often underappreciated by judges in these types of events.  Scott Nickel won a pair of Moment’s as the best-unsponsored rider. Steve Stepp overcame his sharp, brand new Amplid’s, putting down blind switch-ups on the middle box, 270 on and off the down bar, and won a Benjamin for his blind switch up pretzel 270 out on the down rail.

Mike Hornbeck displays his smooth style

Scott Nickel is presented his Moments

Giray put together the most unique bag of tricks, displaying the influences of his innovative former NY crew of Will Wesson and Andy Parry, with one footers and interesting grinds galore.  His efforts were rewarded by a cool $100, not from the judges, but from Tom Wallisch, for an extremely difficult lip 270, 270 out of the high bar.

Giray and Little Jon took home the money…

Local boy Dylan Curry topped many of the ringers from distant lands, earning 3rd place. His highlights included a nasty 360 switch up on the down flat down, 270s onto the box and down rail, and a gorgeous 270 on, pretzel out of the down rail.

Steve Stepp nosepresses as Dylan Curry 360 switch ups

Little Jon won the much deserved second place, spinning like a top with a rodeo 450 off the corrugated tube, a front switch up pretzel out and blind switch up 270 out on the double kink, and won $200 for his blind 360 switch up, pretzel out on the flat down box.

LJ setting for the 360 switch up, pretezel out

Ultimately, the night belonged to Mr. Tom Wallisch.  His runs included a rodeo 630 off the tube, blind 360 switch up on the double kink, pretzels on the down bar, and flawless spins onto and off of everything. Little Jon put his dominance well; stating Tom just wanders around with his hands behind his back, contemplating how mere mortals even think they can compete with him.  Others try tricks, Wallisch flawlessly executes them.  Two years ago, Tom was a totally unknown kid with mediocre rail skills and virtually no jumping abilities.  Today, when referring to park, he is on the tip of the tongue of every player in our little ski world. 

Wallisch earning those sponsorship incentives...

...in between putting on a 270 clinic

The end of the JPI represents the beginning of Boreal’s season.  I’ve never seen such a small resort; in such a competitive environment get it so right.  Surrounded by towering behemoths with world-class terrain, amenities, base villages, and marketing budgets, this little molehill makes it happen.  Boreal opens first, has the best early season contest, hosts world class shoots and contests, has a perfect pipe, fun features all over the mountain, affordable season passes and lift tickets, and great night riding.  My hat goes off to Eric Rosenwald and the park crew, Jon Slaughter and the marketing team, and everyone at Boreal who makes so much happen for newschool skiers with so little.  If you’re coming to Tahoe, check them out at: http://www.rideboreal.com

Dylan Curry and Jon Strenio look on as Boreal’s Jon Slaughter hands a crisp 2 g’s to Tom Wallisch