By Chris Owen
For me, snowboarding is all about the fun: Going up to the local hill or resort with my closest buddies, and spending the day watching each other fly off ridiculous cliffs and jumps. And the stories on the ride home are always better than the actual moves pulled during the day. But are these days lost in a world of high- paid pros and giant, hyped-up X-contest games televised in 150 countries in twelve different languages? Sometimes I think they are, until something like “Hot Dogs and Handrails” (a nickname given to the Nixon Jibfest) comes along.
J.P. Walker, Dave Downing, and Jeremy Jones approached Nixon and asked them to organize a no-pressure event. The idea was to put some of the best handrail riders on a one-of-a-kind handrail and jib course so they could judge each other. The date was April 13, 2000, the invite list included J.P., Jeremy, Dave, Bobby Meeks, Mikey LeBlanc, Brian Thien, J2, Nate Bozung, and James Ledford, and the course was built by Chris “Gunny” Gunnarson at Snow Summit, California.
We arrived the evening before the contest began, and the riders got together to discuss the format for the next day. It was decided the course would be broken into three sections and ridden jam-style for 45 minutes per heat. At the end of a heat, each rider would cast their vote for the three riders they thought did the best. Additionally, each rider would keep a mental note of what they considered to be the best trick of the day-these would be included with the third-heat ballot. The rest of the night was spent playing video games, cards, and seeing most of J2’s and my money go to Forum Team Manager Steve Ruff.
After a relaxed breakfast, we headed up the lifts at Snow Summit. Southern California isn’t exactly famous for its late-season snow, but there was plenty left on the trails to get the day started right.
The first section of the course was made up of three obstacles. A little box started things off, followed by a small spine, and ended with “The Fin” (a rail perched atop a tall spine-type hit). The riders were warming up on the box when the contest just seemed to start, and the course was destroyed by all. Presses, slides, and spins of all kinds went down. I believe it was Jeremy who finally broke out and did a full line on all three obstacles. This, combined with a backside 270 to boardslide, put him in first place. Not to be outdone, J.P. stepped up with a frontside 270 to board to tie with Jeremy for first position, and Brian Thien was in a close third.
The second part of the course had a couple of alternatives. On the left was a rainbow rail and a long funbox. On the right, two curved rails were set up one after the other, each offering a curve of about 90 degrees. The heat started off on the spine side, and when everyone finished, they moved across the hill to what I liked to call the double-S-type setup of curved rails. Dave absolutely destroyed the rainbow, but it didn’t put him in the money for this round. Jeremy must be good at rails, because he won the second round, too. He managed to put himself above the rest with nosepresses on the curves. Brian pulled in behind him for second, with backside lipslides on the curvy twisty, plus the other riders felt sorry for him ’cause he had his arm in a cast. Bobby came out of nowhere and placed third with some good backside lipslide attempts and his overall style.
The barbecue went off without a hitch. I really have to hand it to Chad DiNenna at Nixon-he managed to please the meat eater in all of us. There was also some kind of option for the veggies, but we won’t worry about them. After we were bloated from an hour-long feast, the third heat was ready to begin. This part of the course was the most fun to watch because everyone looked warmed up. It started off with a flatbar to kink down (which took a beating from all), followed by the big funbox, and on to a barrel. The first rail saw Nate’s air to backside lipslide that put hiim in first. Tied with Nate, Brian proved his consistency in all parts of the park with smooth lines of nosepressing the rail to a press backside 180 on the box. Bobby pulled up in third with a frontside boardslide to switch 50-50 and clean nosepresses on the box.
The riders cast their votes, and Jeremy was declared the winner in both the overall and best-trick contest (backside 270 to board). Jeremy took home a beautiful new Yamaha SRX 700 snowmobile. This contest brought back that feeling of hiking with friends and getting some fun out of snowboarding. There weren’t any whistles blowing or gatekeepers holding up the next guy, a true jam-style format came together. It was possibly the smoothest, best-controlled contest I’ve ever seen.