Riders compete with style and tricks at rail jam

Cullen Bernklau of Forest Lake, Minn. sails over first section of the double kink rail at the Volcom Peanut Butter and Rail Jam amateur snowboard competition Saturday at Moonlight Basin. The event drew athletes from around the country looking to test their ability against other expert riders.

MOONLIGHT BASIN – The brilliant January sun shown down on more than 100 snowboarders that showed up at Moonlight Basin on Saturday to “throw down” at the Volcom Peanut Butter and Rail Jam, an amateur snowboard competition where riders negotiate a series of handrail-type obstacles, doing tricks and trying to impress judges with a combination of skill and style.

The venue consisted of a double-rainbow box, double-kink rail and three steel barrels lined up end to end, right outside the Headwaters Grille in the Madison Village area. Obstacles were set up side-by-side, instead of one after the other, to allow more riders to navigate the obstacles at once and therefore creating a more exciting competition format, said Moonlight Basin terrain park staff member Brent Mach, who spent more than five hours shoveling snow and preparing rails for the contest.

“We did a lot of this event with manmade snow, but a lot of it is natural snow,” Mach said as he took in the sights and sounds from beside the judge’s tent.

The field of competitors was split up into four divisions: 15 and under, 16 and over, Girls and Open. While some of the seasoned veterans soared through the air over the rails, boxes and barrels, other young riders were just happy to get a taste of snow and metal sliding under their feet.

“The open division is usually the best riders from all ages, but in the past I’ve seen the 16 and over division throw down harder tricks,” Mach added. “So it’s really just a good show between all ages.”

Volcom employee Brandon Janssen spent the day on the microphone, calling out each competitor as they tried a new line and helping to maintain rider’s enthusiasm throughout the day over background music from a DJ. While it might have been a little crazy for Janssen between dodging riders, shouting praise into the sound system and trying not to get sunburned, he was definitely pleased with the talent that showed up.

“It was insane, like, all the way from prelims where you don’t expect to see, like, big gap tricks and stuff, but kids were putting it down right from the get go so it was pretty impressive to see what happened,” Janssen said after the contest wrapped up.

Cullen Bernklau is sponsored by Volcom and traveled from Minnesota for the event. He finished second in the open division, but he set the bar for other riders early with his aggressive riding style. As for the rail jam format, he said the open heats are a great opportunity to reach into his bag of tricks.

“Its awesome,” Bernklau said. “I’ve been doing it for the last couple years, went to the championships, had some good luck. So I like it.”

Volcom sponsors the Peanut Butter and Rail Jam Tour as a way to reach out to potential consumers and promote the sport at the same time. There is no entry fee for the contest, and the top five riders in each category receive a prize pack for their efforts.

The top five snowboarders from the open division at Saturday's Peanut Butter and Rail Jam at Moonlight Basin show off their winnings following the awards ceremony in the Madison Village. Photos by Ben Coulter

“Its kind of what Volcom does to give back to the kids,” said Janssen. “The kids support us and what we do and we want to support what’s going on with snowboarding and be relevant from start to finish with those guys, for sure.”

Mach sat back and enjoyed watching the youngsters grind rails he built one after the other. He was admittedly impressed with the backflips, hand plants and 360s that were put down throughout the day, but winced as he watched a fellow snowboarder cartwheel off the side of one of the rails. When asked how his own riding abilities stacked up against other snowboarders in the contest, he just shook his head.

“I don’t even want to try. I’m getting too old for any of it.”

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