Mike Walsh | Powder Report: Jiminy Peak gets back in the terrain park and slopestyle game with a visit from USASA competition
Before this horrid, balmy weather set in to potentially spoil another ski weekend and again push back the start date for the Berkshire County high school Alpine season, I did manage to bust out the new whip and lay down some tracks at Jiminy Peak on Thursday.
Take your pick of New England weather jokes, but it was a frigid 10 degrees riding the chairlift up on Thursday morning, only for a T-shirt shred day to pop up less than 48 hours later.
Anyway, I did my best to paint the entire mountain with a four-hour ticket and my new Arbor ride slicing through the bulletproof hard pack. That goal led me to a long West Way cruise into a hard dog leg across Grand Slam and into the Coyote Ridge Terrain Park.
There I stumbled across something I haven't seen at Jiminy in some years. The park was legit, with some monster kickers, side jibs, a sweet rail field set up and a money booter near the drop off.
It was an actual slopestyle course — in the Berkshires.
Which leads us to Saturday's USA Snowboard and Freeski Association slopestyle competition. As part of the USASA's Southern New England Series, Jiminy hosted a rail jam back in December, and then the group returned to Hancock this weekend for the first slopestyle competition in recent memory.
John Friends, who grew up shredding Jiminy Peak in the early 1970s, is the Southern New England Series director, and he told me that slopestyle skiing and riding used to be huge on the East Coast and in New England in particular.
"The vast majority of that population was in New England, and Jiminy Peak had a robust team I skied on," said Friends. "A number of those people went on to become pros."
Friends mentioned Marion Post, who was the top international women freestyle skier on the planet for a large portion of the 70s and is a 2016 inductee to the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.
Max Bervey, a veteran of Warren Miller Entertainment and acclaimed director and producer also got his start on the slopes of Western Massachusetts.
"The legends of freestyle, the international circuit, they would all come through here," said Friends. "It used to be, Brodie Mountain had a team, Bousquet had a team. We used to have like inter-mountain competitions.
"It just sort of phased out, though. This mountain really stopped doing parks, but the owner has realized they needed to get back with the program, and they tracked us down."
USASA started as a grassroots movement with a killer backstory that starts with a surfer from southern California named Chuck Allen.
To hear Fields tell it, the USASA started 31 years ago as "a rag-tag team of crazy, wild snowboarders."
Their first major event was nationals out at California's Big Bear Mountain Resort, but a massive snowstorm had the higher-ups shut it down. Allen, though, proceeded to set up a coded message about how to get around the barricade.
"So they still pulled off the nationals, even though the road to get there was technically closed," said Fields. "That's how this organization started. I've been involved for 20 years, and the last decade or so we've really grown into a professionally run youth organization."
USASA came to Jiminy sometime around 15 years ago, but it didn't stick. On Saturday, though, there were 30 young guns sticking sick runs throughout Coyote Ridge.
Cal Gibson of Essex, Conn. and Mount Snow Academy stomped out two runs for a total of 1,070 points, the day's highest mark. He took gold in the Snowboard Youth (14-15) group, in front of Rilye Maltais of Holden and Griffin Mandino of West Dover, Vt.
Nicholas Bousbouras of Paxton actually tied Gibson for top honors with 1,070 in the Snowboard Breaker (12-13) boys group. He bested a field of seven, with Baker Katko of Essex, Conn. and Owen Kennedy of Dublin, N.H. also on the podium.
Luca Barrato was the youngest competitor, and he scored a 1,010 to take first in the Freeski Grommet group of 8-9 boys out of New Canaan, Conn. Aiden Bosc (1,020) of Springfield Center, N.Y. and Holden Trahan of Princeton went 1-2 in the Snowboard Menehune (10-11) boys group.
West Wardsboro, Vt.'s Angelica Blesofsky scored 1,010 for gold in the Snowboard Breaker girls.
In the Freeski Breaker boys event, Henry Mix of Medfield topped Gianmarco Barrato and Nicholas Ferrari.
Nate Anderholm, of Westminster, won gold in the Freeski Youth (14-15) men category, scoring 1,030 points to best Max Omara and Max Marois.
Erin Alexander of Cheshire, Conn. won the Snowboard Junior (16-17) women's competition. On the men's side it was Josh Graikoski of Southington, Conn. and Alec Pascucci of Pottstown, Penn. taking first and second.
Freeski Junior was won by Nick Brawer of Larchmont, N.Y. over Nassau, N.Y.'s Colby Carlson.
Finally, Ryan Buchanan of Peabody won the Snowboard Jams (18-22) men's competition.
"Jiminy really wants to start a team program again, and have coaches and clinics," said Fields. "We've got a guy named Justin Morgan, who was on the Olympic team and an X Games athlete. He's a local guy, he's helping out and involved. A lot of good stuff is happening."
The issue I saw, was that nearly every competitor on Saturday came from well outside Berkshire County. To try and reintroduce the sport to the Berkshires, Jiminy is hosting clinics and trying to get the word out. According to marketing rep Alan Wolfe, there was a clinic last weekend that saw about 15 participants, and another one is on the horizon.
Wolfe also mentioned Jiminy's partnership with Arena Snowparks out of Vancouver, the guys who did the Olympic halfpipe at the 2010 games and saw four American medalists, including Shaun White's second gold.
Hey, no shame in asking for help. The best way to get air, after all, is with a little help from your friends.
Head out and check Coyote Ridge out yourself. If you don't like shredding in this slushy weather, wait a minute. This is New England, it will change.
Until next time, keep your tips up and stay spoice.
Mike Walsh is an urchin snowboarder who can be reached in the local lift line or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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