At exactly 4:19 p.m. on Friday, June fourth a flight left Seattle, Washington en route to Madison, Wisconsin. Not direct of course, nor with out hassle (my snowboard bag was over the airline?s new 50 pound weight limit), but it was headed in the correct direction with steady ascension to my nap spot in the skies. Once there with eyes closed, I thought about my Midwest destination and good times gone bad, then turned good again, at that very spot. Tyrol Basin, home of legendary pipe jams, timeless teenage revelry, and the annual anomaly known as the Midwest’s only summer snowboarding event.
The last time I visited my old stomping grounds, the industry attendees turned good times into great ones with fireworks and beer bongs; the experience was seasoned by hibachi grills, packed tailgates, and the distorted bass of rental car stereos blaring on the chalet lawn. This year was to be no different, and we were hyped to get into the action. After some ups and downs of rural roads, we arrived in the Tyrol Basin parking lot and witnessed a contradiction in existence.
There before us was an art piece on display, an enormous white sculpture of snow standing triumphantly atop of 400 feet of green grass. Inspired by the hand of Tyrol Basin General Manager (and long time supporter of Midwest snowboarding) Don McKay, the work in progress was being enhanced by Tyrol’s dedicated park staff. The original 25 feet of snow covered in April had melted down to 12 feet due to a rainy and warm May, so unfortunately there was no halfpipe this time around. Instead, multiple metal rails were erected on one side, digitally programmed amplification devices plugged in at the top, and two appropriately named “cheese wedge” jumps on the looker’s left side kept the kids happy.
Riding began and continued without an end in sight. Reknown pros Gretchen Bleiler and CAPiTA’s TJ Schneider were on hand, riding, high-fiving, and signing posters, but this time around the event was all about the locals. “We do this event to prove there can be snow on the slopes when there’s none in your back yard.” Said Don McKay “This is really so the local people can come and have fun. I don’t really care about the people from California. We do it for the people from Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota.”
The kids came from all of those states, but the kids from Minnesota came in hot. Real hot. There was one crew from Highland Hills, one crew claiming Trollhaugen, and between the two, they set the standard for all to follow during the open sessions. For all the snowboarding that was going down, it?s important to note that this was not your average “contemporary” snowboarding event. There was no second stage with bands you’ve never heard of?there wasn’t even a first stage, just a band from Milwaukee playing bad covers right on the patio. This was the Midwest, and people were doing it in the beautiful Midwest fashion. Beers were cracked in the morning hours, kegs were flowing all day, and there was more than one Packer fan wearing blaze orange and camouflage. No egos, no bad vibes, and the only complaints were that it was 80 degrees and 80 percent humidity at the same time.
On the first weekend of June, just outside Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin there was, is, and hopefully will continue to be an amazing summer snowboarding event far from the race lanes of Mt. Hood and T-bars of Blackcomb. The Tyrol Basin summer jam has experienced growth, yet remains a grass roots event respected by the local and nationwide snowboarding community. Nowhere to be found was the infiltration of mainstream corporate America attempt to latch on to the youth market, and I don’t believe the word “extreme” was in print anywhere on the premises. The event coordinators were helpful, happy, and without ridiculous rules for the sake of having ridiculous rules. It is in fact the snowboarder’s field of dreams, and as long as they build it, we’ll come.
Big Air Mens:
1. Austin Norinng
2. Chris Crosslan
3. Jonathan Martens
Big Air Womens:
First Place tie: Joe Sexton / Jake Olsen-Elm