Club holds snowboarding competition on Cathedral Lawn


The spontaneous roar of a crowd emanated from the Cathedral lawn this past Friday night. 

About 150 people surrounded the brightly lit, roped-off section of the manufactured slopes by the log cabin from 7 to 10 p.m. for the Pitt Intercollegiate Snowboard Team’s ninth annual Rail Jam.

Before the event, the team’s members unloaded truckloads of fake snow from U-Hauls to create the paths and set up two different rails for the riders to choose from: one kinked and one diagonal. This allowed for a larger variety of tricks to choose from. Riders lined up at the top of the slope and took turns performing their best tricks on their rail of choice. 

The “rail jam”  is a common type of competition for preseason snowboarding events because it doesn’t require a lot of snow, which allows for the use of artificial snow. It consists of a customized urban environment, similar to that of a skate park, in which handrails are set up on a small slope, and a path of snow is placed under them. 

The contest was sponsored by Rome Snowboard Design Syndicate, a company based out of Waterbury, Vt., and was part of its Parknado series, a string of exhibitions held before the East Coast snowboarding season starts. Red Bull and Seven Springs Ski Resort, located about an hour southeast of Pittsburgh in Champion, Pa., also sponsored the event.

After a brief warm up, the roughly 25 contestants were divided into two groups and faced off to see who could impress the four judges. The judges were Rome Snowboard representative Tom Dickey, Seven Springs terrain park supervisor Jeremy Anderson and Seven Springs assistant terrain park manager Sean Connelly.

The top 10 riders advanced to a final round where they put their best tricks on display.

Jason Anderson, who won this year’s rail jam, received a free Rome snowboard, along with boots and bindings.

A DJ played music and announced opportunities for riders and attendees to win free gear from sponsors. Challenges ranged from being the first person to name Mariah Carey’s birthday to landing difficult tricks. Attendees were also entered into a raffle if they included a Parknado hashtag on an Instagram or Twitter post of the event.

Contestants included students from snowboarding teams at other schools such as West Virginia University and Penn State University, but were mostly composed of the Pitt team’s members.

According to Alex Turnshek, the president of the team, Pitt Intercollegiate Snowboard was established in 2000 and is made up of Pitt undergraduates, graduates and faculty. About half of them are snowboarders, and the other half are skiers. The club charges $30 in dues annually. 

The team meets once a week throughout the academic year, and when they aren’t riding the slopes, members get together for barbecues and other events so that riders can meet each other. 

The team is offering three big trips this year. In December, members will head to Killington, Vt., and in January to Quebec City and Stowe, Vt.

Several riders said these trips are the highlight of their experience in the organization.

“My favorite memory of being in the club is definitely the trip, Quebec City especially. Once, about five of us were caught in a white-out blizzard for about an hour only to have it clear up to a sunny sky with fresh powder runs in front of us,” Turnshek said.  

The more experienced members do not always limit themselves to the slopes. 

According to Christopher Keiper, a fifth-year Pitt senior who has been part of the organization since his freshman year, the riders are always looking for new spots such as handrails, ledges and walls in Pittsburgh on which to do tricks when there is enough snow.

“We’ve found some gems around the city, mostly handrails and more creative stuff in some of the parks. I hit that doubled-up handrail on the fifth side of tower’s patio when we got all that snow my freshman year. I had to wait for a red light so no cars would hit me landing [on] Fifth,” Keiper said. 

According to Keiper, when looking for an urban snowboard spot, aside from a good snowfall, riders need either a good slope to help them build speed before hitting a rail, or there needs to be somewhere to tie a bungee cord so that riders can pull themselves to gain speed.

Not only did the riders in the contest provide great entertainment for the crowd, but they also made many people excited for snowboarding season.

Pitt junior Jason Jandrew who attended the rail jam said the event helped him “realize that winter isn’t always awful.” He also enjoyed the chance to watch the snowboarders’ skills.

“I love the fact that it isn’t even boarding season yet and these guys are trying tricks on their first rail of the season that I wouldn’t even try on my last,” Jandrew said.