words and photos by Jenny Naftulin

This weekend’s Jib Academy set a new record for participants and action. Kids from all over the Midwest showed up to Spirit Mountain on Saturday to compete in stop 2 of the US Salomon Jib Academy Tour. An absolute A list of coaches took time out of their crazy schedules to coach these participants and party down with Spirit Mountain’s finest. These coaches include Mike Douglas, Simon Dumont, John Symms, Keri Herman, Andrew Hathaway, Michael Clarke, Matt Walker, Seth Warner, Tommy Ellingson and home town hero, Cody Ling.

At 7 am the tents were frozen shut and toes were hurting.  The hill quickly warmed up however and the coaches couldn’t wait to session Spirit’s park with their groups. The jumps were in perfect condition and the rails offered tons of variety for athletes of every ability level. Athletes were quickly given a numbered helmet sticker, put in to groups with the pros and sent on their way to throw down. “It seems like every kid in my group learned something new,” said head coach Tommy Ellingson. This included 450’s on to the flat box for some and styley surface slide 360’s for others. “It was awesome to see.” 

The athletes skied in groups until 12:30 when they cast their first round of votes. The Jib Academy is rider judged and each participant was able to vote for one kid in their group that they thought should advance to the afternoon final.  After some pizza and pop in Spirit’s lodge, everyone gathered back around the tent for some shenanigans and finalist announcement. Before the finalists were announced, the 13 and under crowd raced up the pipe wall for a chance to win an ipod nano. Helmets definitely should have been worn for that one.

The 10 finalists moving on to the afternoon final were: Steve Knuth, Nathan Gilman, Colton Welch, Dan Hawkins, Willie Borm, Cody Schenkleberg, Matt Halverson, Willie Engelhart , John Godin and Sean Hawksford. As these finalists made their way to the top, all other Jib Academy participants and spectators quickly hiked the jumps and spread out through the park to watch and judge the final. The sun was still shining and the finalists were ready to throw down for the trip to Mammoth.

The 10 year old, Willie Borm, dropped first and ended up being one of the only finalists to hit all the jumps. Little man was throwing ridiculous 7’s and 9’s off of the bigger jumps and wowing the crowd with his mini truck driver 3’s.

It was clear that Borm was having no trouble at all with speed. Steve Knuth was a stand out final performer as well with his smooth style and consistency. All finalists were granted 4 runs through the park while the Salomon Flying Circus made some special appearances as well.

In the end there was a tie for first place! Since the event had more kids than ever and because these finalists were killing it, Willie Borm and Willie Engelhart are both coming to Mammoth! Congratulations guys! In second place was local Duluth boy, Steve Knuth and Cody Schenkleberg was a close third.

After the skis, bindings and trips to Mammoth were given out, the Salomon team decided to have a mini Big Mountain comp down to the parking lot! Kids, please do not repeat what you saw there on Saturday!

The night finished off with a swinging 80’s after party in Canal Park. The athletes proved that they cannot only ski but limbo as well. 

A special thanks to Spirit Mountain and your terrain park crew- you guys are awesome. Thanks to everyone for coming from near and far to make this a hugely successful Jib Academy. See you next weekend in Pennsylvania as we determine who will join Charlie, Big Willie and Lil Willie in Mammoth with the Salomon Team!