No snow? No problem!
Winter sport athletes cherish snow.
And on Thursday, 35 tons of frozen fun should arrive on the Virginia Tech Drillfield from Massanutten Resort outside of Harrisonburg.
The snow is being brought to Blacksburg by Snow at Virginia Tech, a student-run ski and snowboard club, and is part of the Campus Rail Jam Tour by Galvanic Design, a ski and snowboard exhibition and competition tour.
Standing 20 feet tall by 25 feet wide and 90 feet long, with ramps, pitches and rails, a system of scaffolding will be assembled, and four dump truck loads of snow placed on top.
“It’s going to be a snow event, but we’re praying it’s going to be 80 degrees that day,” said club president and Virginia Tech junior and freestyle snowboarder Nate Slemp. “We’re excited about what we do, and we really want people to come see it!”
The Jam Tour, based in Portland, Ore., has been on more than 60 college campuses around the country.
A four-man crew is flying to Virginia to set up this week’s event, and the equipment will come on a 53-foot Schneider semitrailer.
“Our team is incredibly skilled with managing the snow on an event by event basis,” Dan Genco, marketing director of Galvanic Design, wrote in an e-mail. “We keep a close eye on the snow and make sure it is perfect conditions for the athletes.”
Snow-loving athletes can sign up for the jam on the Galvanic Design Campus Rail Jam Tour website. There will also be music from local disc jockeys.
“We are very excited, as this isn’t your typical college mixer,” said Slemp, adding that event organizers have begun a fundraising effort at kickstarter.com to help pay for the event that they hope to host annually. The goal is $8,000.
Snow at Virginia Tech has 70 members and is in its third year. The club’s inception is a merger of ski and snowboard freestyle enthusiasts. The Rail Jam is a way to promote the club and hopefully recruit new members. Thirty of the members are on the club’s competitive freestyle team.
Blacksburg Boarders, a locally based snow sport club, and the Greenhouse skate and snowboard shop have also contributed to hosting the event.
The club’s “home” slope is SnowFlex, an artificial snow slope and ski training facility at Liberty University in Lynchburg. For Snow at Virginia Tech, SnowFlex is relatively close, and the athletes can always ride there no matter what the weather. During freestyle competitions, judges review a performance on technicality, aptitude and style.
“It is fun to see, and for the competitors, it’s a lot more fun to be competing in front of huge crowds,” said club treasurer and Virginia Tech junior and freestyle skier Andrew Roberson. “Competitors really step it a notch up when people are watching.”
Roberson reaches speeds of about 30 mph on some slopes before hitting a jump to connect a 30-foot gap while performing a series of stunts.
“It’s all muscle memory once you leave the ground,” he said. When I’m going into the drop for the jump, all I’m thinking about is being set for the spin and grab I’m going to do, and if you set your trick right, the landing is going to be right there.”
The jumpers focus their eyes on spots on the horizon when they are going through rotations. “It’s pretty cool, you see everything in 360,” Roberson said with a grin.
Making a run down a slope and flying through the air upside down takes training, and the club has had to find ways to maximize available “air time.” On a recent Thursday night, six club members bounced on trampolines and flew through the air at the Virginia Techniques gymnastics training center in Christiansburg. Training in the gym is a more risk-free way to practice.
“There are inherent risks to our sport” said Slemp, while showing off a nasty scar down his left arm and adding that the club has taken appropriate steps to minimize injuries, such as working out at Virginia Techniques.
“It’s a great sport,” added Slemp, a native Virginian. “Unfortunately, in the Southeast there are not that many opportunities to do what we do. And we are trying to expand those.”
The Roanoke Times | 381-8620
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