This time of year is always full of anticipation as riders are getting their new gear in the mail, and waiting anxiously for the first signs of snowfall, or for their home resort to open for the season. Some of the more entrepreneurial shops and spots spread the stoke for the season by hosting pre-season rail jams. This past weekend there were two rail jams going down in lower Michigan, so I cleared some time from my schedule and stopped to check them out.
October 26 – Outdoor Action Company, Sylvan Lake MI
The OAC rail jam takes place in the parking lot of the Outdoor Action Company in Sylvan Lake.
The drop and features were provided by PARX, and with the help of 48 cubic yards of ice rink snow, they were able to set up several features: a flat box, an up-down box, and a flat bar as well as a culvert pipe serving as the backstop to the run out. I got there early enough to help a little bit with the setup and put in some shovel time to get it set up for the participants, before strapping in and taking a few drops to “test” the set-up before the participants arrived.
I’d never been to OAC before but it looked like a really nice shop with a large show floor selling, as you might expect based on the name, a variety of outdoor action sports items: kayaks, mountain bikes, skis, snowboards, skateboards, longboards, pretty much anything you can think of, they had it.
Here’s a few pics from the event Photographer, Matt Campbell, who posted a bunch of other random shots on his FB page yesterday.
I had to split before much of the jam got underway but it looked like it was setting up to be a great time, pretty low key with giveaways and free hot dogs and popcorn, a very family friendly event.
October 27 – Haunting at Hawk, Hawk Island Park, Lansing MI
Also in its second year, the Hawk Island crew put on its own Halloween-themed rail jam, complete with miniature skulls, bubbling cauldrons of dry ice, fake blood splashed on the features and lips, pumpkins, and that nasty fake cobweb gunk that was kind of hilarious to watch the riders get all entangled in that.
There was a little bit of a SNAFU as one of the local ice rinks which shall remain nameless basically screwed them out of shavings for the day, so the event got off to a late start, and with a bit less “snow” than they had wanted, but all in all it was a solid event. The hot dogs weren’t free, but they had all the bonus fixings like mac n cheese or pizza dogs, and tons of random prizes awarded for certain tricks throughout the day.
Rider turnout was great, I’m not going to hazard a guess but I will say the top of the hill was a mob of riders (and a few skiers) taking turns attacking both features, and the bottom of the hill was full of spectators: moms & dads, friends & girlfriends.
Like OAC, it was a more free-for-all open jam format instead of the structured “contest” format where each rider only gets 3 or 4 drops, and while this sometimes leads to a bit of a clusterf*#k, Jeff, Tyler and the rest of the Hawk Island crew did what they could to make sure everyone was getting their drops.
After two days of checking out these jams, I’m reminded that “At rail jams, nobody lands any tricks.”
I kid. There was some talent at both jams for sure but a lot of riders were rusty, and it was also obvious that they were feeding off one another, and trying to dial in tricks they’d never landed before. That’s the great part of how jams can help riders progress: some of the riders might not stomp a single trick, but they still walk away a better rider than when they arrived.
Both of these events are put on by great organizations who are committed to serving the scene in Michigan. If you missed them this year, make it a point to check one (or both!) of them out next year.