Words & photos by Jeff Schmuck

The Salomon Jib Academy Finals at Mammoth Mountain, California has officially begun. The five day long event is the culmination of an epic season of Jib Academy stops put on by Salomon all over the world, along with the Online Jib Academy video contest that went down right here on NS. The winner of each respective event was awarded an all-expense paid trip to Mammoth (including free flights, accommodation, food, and of course skiing) for the week to ski with the Salomon team and have the time of their lives.

Things got going yesterday as the entire Salomon International freeski team, Salomon staffers from the US, Canada and France, various members of the media and most importantly, the 11 lucky winners from the Jib Academy stops (Brendan Wall, Noah Killen, Torin Yater-Wallace, Jonas Hunziker, Jamieson Irvine, Tucker Visser, Antoine Bourassa, Cesar Fabre, Simon Ericson, Vebjorn Svokmo, and Felix Usterud) and the five from the Online Jib Academy contest (Spencer Milbocker, Seamus Flanagan, Emile Bergeron, Seb Eaves and Cody Cirillo) bumpily descended on Reno, Nevada. Upon arrival, everyone was warmly greeted by a smiling Seth Warner, Tommy Ellingson and Salomon International Team Manager Tyler Gigg, who rounded up the herd and Everest-sized piled of luggage and whisked everyone away in shuttle buses bound for Mammoth.

arriving in Reno

Tyler Gigg & X-Dragon load up the transport whip

The three-hour jaunt through the barren Nevada desert and into the Sierra Nevada mountains began with Henrik Harlaut requesting a stop at a local mall in Reno “next to the Best Buy and a 16-kink that I hit one time,” so he could take the kids to Gen-X to pick up some fresh tall tees. Unfortunately Gen-X was nowhere to be found, so Foot Locker had to suffice.

Henrik leads the way to Foot Locker

Everyone then piled back into the vans and the next few hours on the open road were full of jokes, stories, constant blaring of My Friend is a Pro and all in all an overwhelming amount of stoke from the kids, as most have never been to Mammoth before and some had never even been out West.  Looking at the smiles on their faces and the sparkle in their eyes as they traded jabs and bonded with their heroes was a joy to see, and to put it bluntly, this is what the freeskiing community and skiing in general is all about.

Nick Martini...always smiling

Willie Borm, Torin Yater-Wallace, Mike Clarke, Henrik Harlaut & Simon Dumont

Henrik Harlaut in the desert

Upon arrival at Mammoth the crew checked into the gorgeous Mammoth Mountain Inn, where the Salomom herself Jenny Naftulin gave everyone the schedule while The Dumont dished out high fives and room keys.

After some much needed shut-eye following a long day of travel for most (in particular for AJ Kempainnen, who missioned it all the way from his home in Finland in one day to be here), we nervously opened our curtains expecting to see the ghastly forecasted rain, clouds and general ugliness. But much to everyone’s delight, providing more stoke (if that was even possible) was sunshine and blue skies. This is Mammoth after all.

the one, the only, the Salomom...Jenny Naftulin

Following a delicious breakfast and more camaraderie between the athletes and kids, Jenny gave a brief speech going over the first day’s itinerary which included skiing, skiing, skiing, lunch, more skiing and then bowling later this evening. On her word the ocean of tall tees and condom toques then paraded/strutted down the hall and outside towards the lifts.

Cody Cirillo, Bobby Brown & Jason Arens

The morning got off to a bit of a slow start as the conditions were fairly icy and the Salomon team was doing their best to make sure the kids took it easy on the first day so they could get warmed up.

Torin Yater-Wallace

Willie Borm

Matt Walker

Sammy Carlson

As the day progressed some general tomfoolery then began to ensue up top on some of the jibs, including a dope barrel tap (which Sammy Carlson slayed to pieces) and the infamous deck rail, which has seemingly been in the Unbound Park since mammoths actually roamed the earth.

John Symms showing off the guns

Emile Bergeron

Spencer Milbocker

Henrik Harlaut...lean back, lean back

A few of the gang (led by Dumont, Symms and Martini) then began testing their luck on the top jump, but the landing was still a bit firm despite the sun getting warmer so everyone decided to move down to the bottom table.

Nick Martini

Symms captures the flag

Once things got going on the jump the scene became reminiscent of traffic in Hong Kong, aka organized mayhem. All sorts of trickery was being thrown down complete with more trains than Amtrak, and some of the kids here are so damn good that it was hard to tell them apart from the pros at times. 

Jonas Hunziker

Noah Killen

Things then got a bit greybird after lunch but everyone kept on keeping on, making for one hell of a great start to a week that will never be short on smiles.

Kaya Turski & Keri Herman

Stay tuned to NS for daily coverage on Salomon Jib Academy Finals, and make sure you head on over to http://www.newschoolers.com/jibacademy to check out a multitude of blogs and photos from all the kids and Salomon athletes which they’ll be happily and busily updating daily throughout the course of the week. We're also planning some live chats with the Salomon athletes that we’ll be keeping you posted on, along with a Twitter feed that everyone down here will be updating regularly, so keep checking back!