With three stops down and only one to go, the US portion of Salomon's Jib Academy was wrapping up this past Saturday at Mt. Hood Meadows in snowy, still very winter-like, Oregon. After zig-zagging the country with stops in places not usually renowned for their epic big mountain skiing, the tour was set to end with a bang on a beautiful powder day on Mt Hood.
For a little refresher course, the Jib Academy tours the globe in search of the best up and coming riders 16 years of age and under, and culminates with the winners from each nation flown into Mammoth, CA for the grande finale: one full week of riding, shooting, and hanging out with the entire Salomon team. To sweeten the pot even more for the US riders, winners from each of the four national stops were guaranteed a trip to Mammoth. Sweet deal.
The concept is pretty simple: register in the morning, poach some free gear, split up into groups and go ski with your coach, one of the Salomon athletes on hand for the event. Then it's off to the lodge for some free lunch (apparently Nick Martini's favorite selling point of the event) followed by finals in the afternoon, which sees the favorite skiers from each of the morning's groups go head to head to determine the winner. The whole thing is rider judged and the coaches keep things pretty chill, which creates a pretty cool vibe, especially for the younger kids that might otherwise get intimidated riding with a big crew.
Coaching at Meadows were Tommy Elingson and Seth Warner, no strangers to Mt Hood with their extensive involvement at Windells Camp, as well as Mr. Matt Walker, Nick Martini, and Tahoe-native Jason Arens with Salomom Jenny Naftulin at the helm.
After a couple of pow runs to warm up, the coaches assembled the riders at the top of the Rose City park which offered a couple of rail/box options into a two jump line, with another jib park further down the run. Props to the Meadows Park Crew who worked diligently to maintain the features in spite of the relentless snow that continued to fall for the entire day.
Spinning laps on the double chair overlooking the park, the riders spent the morning getting used to the course and taking advantage of the opportunity to learn some skills from the coaches in attendance. Some lucky skiers even got first tracks through the foot of fresh that filled the half pipe. And even though speed was an obvious issue due to the snow conditions, almost everyone was throwing down by the time the call was made to head in for some hot pizza, pasta, and brownies in the comfort of the lodge.
With Finals set for the afternoon, the top riders from the morning session got three runs each at the top of the course to strut their stuff in front of their peers. With the course lined with fellow skiers turned judges, some craziness was thrown down included cork sevens from a kid that couldn't have been more than 10, and some east-coast inspired rail maneuvers from the older kids in the crowd. It was definitely impressive and did a great job of distracting me from all of the pow that was waiting outside the park ropes.
After three runs each at the top, things moved down to the mini-jib park for another jam session with even more ridiculous rail trickery including some absolutely silly pretzels, nollies, and spins every-which-way from coaches Nick Martini and Matt Walker.
In the end, votes tallied and heated discussions wrapped up, it was Arlie Hoene winning the trip to Mammoth with Garrett Rowley, Estes Bush, Lucas Wachs, and Trevor Hattabaugh rounding out the top five and getting the hook ups with everything from boots, bindings, and skis, to iPods and even a foam pirate sword owned by Nick Martini. Keep your eyes on eBay for that one.
With that, and other Jib Academy stops around the globe on Saturday, the tour is officially done and we now await the final week in Mammoth, CA. Stay tuned this May to see how the groms stack up against the super pros at one of the best park venues in the country.