Snowboarders, skiers flock to Rail Jam event in City Plaza

Kenji Dorsey-Imabori clears the rail as the crowd looks on during Soul id’s Rail Jam competition in downtown Chico on Friday. Photo credit: Trevor Ryan

For the first time in Chico’s history, snowboarders and skiers performed tricks at the City Plaza on Friday night.

The Soul id Rail Jam was the first live event for the emerging extreme sports social media company, Soul id.

Current Chico State Wildcat Ben Sampson and former ‘Cat Greg Bellinger founded Soul id.

Sampson is the chief executive officer while Bellinger is chief operating officer. The company aims to connect extreme sports athletes and photographers across the globe.

“We also give them access to the top content for the sports that they love,” said Eli Libby, public relations director and Chico State senior.

Rail Jam was held at City Plaza on Friday evening, but the snow began to form a huge pile around 2 p.m.

Roughly 800 cubic feet of fresh snow was shipped in by five dump trucks from About Trees in the Lassen area. After the course was set up and covered in snow, practice runs began at 5:30 p.m.

The tournament started at 6 p.m.

The event consisted of a custom rails course, surrounded by the imported snow in which riders grind and perform tricks on to win the competition.

Since City Plaza is flat, the snowboarders and skiers were towed by a two-winch system with six horsepower engines to give the riders enough speed to perform tricks. The riders held onto handles at the end of the towline and accelerated before reaching the rails.

The participants were whipped at speeds reaching up to 15 mph, said Scott Rodriguez, Chico State wakeboarding president and winch operator.

The riders had the option of attempting tricks on three different 12-foot rails. There were two straight rails with one raised about two feet into the air and a raised “kink” rail as well.

A “kink” rail is a straight rail with a 70-degree upward angled kink at the end of the rail. The kink allows riders to perform big air tricks. The two raised rails were a few feet before the straight rail on the course, and some riders were able to perform tricks on both.

The tournament was judged by three snowboarding and skiing experts, and the competitors were scored on style, difficulty of the trick and variation.

Individual riders were allowed three attempts at landing their best tricks, and the best run was their final score in the competition.

Competitors and fans came from as far as Tahoe and Mt. Shasta to attend the Rail Jam, said Kyle Nelson, marketing director for Soul id.

“Some guys said they traveled six hours (to get here),” Nelson said.

Zach Pfeiffer, 15-year-old Mt. Shasta native, took third place in the skiing competition and has been skiing for more than a dozen years.

Rail Jam was Pfeiffer’s first time using a winch system. Bracing yourself is key to success, he said.

Soul id encourages Chico State extreme sports athletes or photographers to contact them to get to the next level.

“If they reach out to us we can usually do a lot via social media on the Soul id profile,” Libby said. “They can post all their stats on their profile and hopefully get sponsored.”

Ski Competition Winners:

1st place: Zach Aucella

2nd place: Chance Jackson

3rd place: Zach Pfeiffer

Snowboarding Competition Winners:

1st: Dan Danzberger

2nd: Steve Lally

3rd: Eric Push

Lars Gustafson can be reached at [email protected] or @larsonsports on Twitter.