For the uninitiated, hearing the words “boarder” and “rail” together might conjure an image of a skateboarder doing tricks along the guardrail of a public staircase.
But think of a bigger board and a chillier setup, and you’re closer to what will happen at the Sandor’s Icebreaker Rail Jam at Mt. Sima a week from now.
In a rail jam, snowboarders do tricks off metal rails. Because there is no halfpipe in the Yukon, a rail jam is another way for athletes to show off their aerial moves and see what others are up to.
The Icebreaker Rail Jam is open to anyone, including feet-on-ground people who just want to come and watch. The event’s main purpose, besides providing an active afternoon, is to raise funds for Snowboard Yukon (SY) as the organization moves into the 2011 season.
For SY members, the jam is also part of their move from dryland training back onto the slopes, getting ready for 2011 events like the Canada Winter Games.
SY members have been practising jumps, twists and back flips on trampolines since September, along with overall fitness and balance training. Dryland training, as it’s called, keeps them prepared for freestyle competitions.
Even the dryland part of the sport is high impact, and sometimes athletes are affected by injuries sustained off the slopes.
Competitor Max Melvin McNutt, for example, who won gold in the halfpipe competition at the 2010 Arctic Winter Games (AWG), injured his knees earlier this fall during a trampoline workout. The 15-year-old continues to train, but with knee braces.
At press time, SY athletes were heading to Whistler, BC to participate in the trials for the 2011 Canada Winter Games Selection Camp.
“The majority of interest in the group is on the freestyle of things,” says Mary Binstead, SY’s head coach, who has been snowboarding for more than 15 years and earned her share of wins in Ontario competitions.
“But the freestylers can be our fastest racers, as well – at the Arctic Games we were equally successful in both kinds of competition.”
The favourite discipline for the whole team is the halfpipe, so Yukon athletes have an additional motivation to win placement on teams that go to places with a halfpipe course, such as Whistler or – for the 2011 Canada Winter Games – Halifax.
Rotation tricks, named after the number of degrees in the turns, are a top choice.
“Our athletes are doing some 720s, and they’ve definitely been working on some 900s,” says Binstead, who joined SY in 2008. “And there are a few inverted tricks, like a rodeo – a 540 rotation with a back flip in it.”
Alexander Chisholme is a potential team member who is currently completing the paramedic program in Medicine Hat – as well as taking advantage of a 12-foot halfpipe in the area (a full-sized halfpipe is 22 feet high).
“I like the trick aspect of the halfpipe – landing them, practising them,” he says.
“Doing the rails is a whole different game. It’s kind of an aspect of snowboarding that’s getting bigger over the years – the jump aspect and halfpipe are almost at their apex in being developed.
“For rails, I’d like to get a lot of switch stuff down. If you can make a switch trick look really good, that’s really important for the judging.”
Chisholme, now 19, started snowboarding in grade one after his mom took him to the slopes and he fell in love with the sport. At the 2010 AWG last year he placed gold in the Junior Male Snowboarding Team event.
“In Grande Prairie we all did really well,” he says, “and the team’s success just further motivated me to keep training.”
Chisholme will meet the rest of the SY group in Whistler and then return to Whitehorse for the handful of early January competitions that start the SY season.
Back in Whitehorse, coach Binstead explains that the CWG Team will be announced in early January.
Between now and then, you can get in touch with your inner airdog, with the incentive of cash prizes, by heading to Mt. Sima on December 30, or to the after party at Tippler’s Lounge. Details and ticket prices: 334 6691.
Meg Walker is a writer and visual artist living in Dawson City.