Words and photos by Joe Tyson

Rails To Riches has established itself as a right of passage for any aspiring east coast skier or snowboarder. This year's competition lived up to its reputation with the top skiers and riders throwing down in hopes of the $4000 first place prize. The jam brought back east coast natives Will Wesson and John Strenio, who left the full parks of Colorado and Utah to return to their east coast roots.

LJ hiking the rails.

The day started out under overcast skies as the skiers hit the setup for qualifiers. The course consisted of three features, to the skiers' right was a down flat down rail, in the center was a raised up-box, with a sizable gap to landing. To the skiers' left was the down rail seen in previous years.

Will Wesson gives a clinic on the down rail, with a switch 270 on, pretzel 450 out.

The qualifying round saw a host of impressive tricks as skiers fought for the available finals spots. The down rail saw a huge variety of tricks with numerous switch-up combinations coming from all the skiers, along with an equal amount of 270 on combinations.

Jon Brogan 270 on to the down rail.

The up-box repeatedly saw huge spins out, with local favorite Ian Compton spinning 270 on to 630 out and laying down 270 on to pretzel 270 out. The down flat down rail was the most technical feature in the jam and presented unlimited possibilities for tricks, with spins on, switch-ups before and after the kinks, and notably both front and blind 360 switch-ups off the kink by John Strenio.

Ian Compton spinning on to the up-box.

At the end of qualifiers the 11 finalists were chosen, and in no particular order they were...

-Jack Borland

-John Strenio

-Ian Compton

-Dale Talkington

-Will Wesson

-Robie Remmes

-Adrian Dingle

-Jon Brogan

-Sean Jordan

-Patt Burzensie (sp?)

- Nick Miles

In between qualifiers and finals the riders sought a break from the cold in the lodge and around the fire at the base of the mountain. During the break riders compared their karma ratings and the color of their Newschoolers names. John Strenio (orange name) and Ian Compton (non-orange name) manifested their misplaced anger towards each other in several violent outbreaks. It became clear that the color of ones name really does equate to real world strength as LJ repeatedly beat down Ian Compton. By the end of the break all the riders were ready for finals, and Ian Compton had developed a nervous twitch.

LJ shows Ian what a summer of weight lifting gets you.

The riders gather around the fire before the start of finals.

Brogan, Dale Talkington, Ian Compton and Sean Jordan get ready for finals.

Finals took place under the lights in the bitter cold. The area filled up with spectators and media as the skiers began to session. Will Wesson quickly reinforced his dominance on rails as he emptied his deep bag of tricks. Sean and Jon showed that Pennsylvania is the next Whistler as they consistently destroyed the entire setup. Other notable performances came from Ian Compton and Jack Borland with Compton doing 270 on pretzel 450 out on the up box and Jack doing smooth spins onto the daunting down flat down, in the end landing a buttery 270 on pretzel 270 out. It is impossible to mention even a fraction of the tricks thrown down on the set up, as all the skiers in the jam reinforced the elevated state of rail skiing today. In the end of the day it was John Strenio who took a well disserved first place, with big spins out of the up box, and technical combinations on the down rail, and the down flat down rail. 2nd and 3rd place were given to Jon Brogan and Sean Jordan, who took home $1000 and $500, respectively.

LJ spins onto the down flat down.

Brogan sets a spin on the up-box.

Jack Borland spins onto the down rail.

the crowd waits to hear the winners...

LJ...with the cheque.

The men were not the only ones who were destroying the setup with Kim Lamarre winning first place, with clean switch-ups on the down flat down, and front side switch-up to front side 270 out on the down rail. 2nd place was taken by Tess Hobbs, with Kirsten Nielson securing 3rd.

Kim lipsliding the downrail.

Overall Rails to Riches once again showed itself to be one of the most competitive rail jams on the east coast, with progressive tricks coming from all the riders, and good vibes all around. For a video of the days competition check out Evan William's edit: http://www.newintelligentgroup.com/files/R2R.mov

Special thanks to Killington for building another great setup and for the much appreciated free pizza.