Wildwood Rail Jam at Great Divide, Montana

Photos by Jeff Hawe

Words by Mark Theizen

Thick, misty fog chokes the dark forest. A dozen fires turn wood to ash as the scent of smoke fills the mountainside. Hundreds of uniformed warriors are gathered here.

It’s like a scene in Braveheart, except the uniforms are made of Gore-Tex, and instead of swords, steel is shaped into snowboard edges and handrails; oh, and gangster rap pulsates through the woods at deafening volume – welcome to the Wildwood Rail Jam.

While there are many rad pre-season events around the country, with new ones every year, this event is different than most. Invite only? Nope, just sign the waiver. Big Prizes? Only a round of applause. On a big structure downtown? How about halfway up the mountain in the glades on a patch of snow surrounded by mud (bring your F250). This isn’t San Francisco, New York City or even Salt Lake City; this is Great Divide Ski Area. This is Montana.

The brain-child of Joe Pope and Tyrel Thornton, the November 8, 2008 Wildwood Rail Jam and Base Lodge Bash is the product of years of pre-season jib jams, and it went down like this: a twenty stair to thirty stair with a round-bar and box on each, two giant-sized picnic tables for those not ready to step up first strap-in of the year, and an impromptu sesh on a kicker to goal-post trees. Well over a hundred and fifty snowboarders and skiers satisfied their early season cravings by hucking their bones down the features as organized chaos ensued.

Eventually the judges whittled the field down to ten for a final jam session. Up-and-comer Eric Gronneberg claimed the title in the snowboarding category for his 270 on 270 off on the thirty stair. The stoke carried on late into the night as a live show and movie premier by NC Productions went down in the lodge and another jib box was lit up on a patch of snow at the base.

Moral of the story – support your local scene and work with the mom and pop areas that will allow you to pull off great events like this one. Big thanks to Great Divide, Joe Pope, Tyrel Thornton and the Big Sky park crew, Papu at four-O-six, and all the kids that rip in Montana, where the men are men, and so are the women.