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Inaugural rail jam draws a crowd, clown

Ronald McDonald was the first to drop in the inaugural McDonald’s Rail Jam...



Ronald McDonald was the first to drop in the inaugural McDonald’s Rail Jam last Friday, April 21, crashing at the bottom of the 27-foot long double-kink rail that was hung off the side of the GLC patio for the event. He was still smiling when he got up, but it sent the message early that you could get seriously hurt on this stunt if you clowned around.

Thousands of spectators flooded Mountain Square to witness the rail jam, in which 10 pro skiers and 10 pro snowboarders faced off for $10,000 in prizes. Because it was a jam format and the athletes got a minimum of five runs each, the athletes took a few chances early that paid off.

Freeskier Iannick B. jumped into an early lead among the skiers after pulling off a perfect example of a move called a Sex Change. Basically the skier spins 90 degrees to get onto the rail, slides about halfway down, and jumps another 180 degrees to slide the rest of the way in the other direction. By the time they hit the snow again the skier has spun a full 360 degrees.

In the snowboard event, Whistler’s Jesse Fox landed a perfect 270 spin to a frontside boardslide on his first jump, clearing all but the last section of the rail, and then spun another 270 off the rail again to land a huge double-move.

In the women’s snowboard event Ontario’s Susi Davis 50-50 grinded the entire kinked rail on her second run, the only rider to accomplish that feat during the jam.

With the bar set high, the other skiers and riders in the contest had less than an hour to try and upset the order of things.

Nobody came close to Iannick B. from Grand-Piles, Quebec, and he landed his trick several more times to prove to the judges that it wasn’t a fluke.

Although Colorado’s Steele Spence came close with a slightly shakier Sex Change of his own, it wasn’t enough to bump Iannick from the top of the leader board.

"I’ve always liked the rails best," said Iannick, who also competes in halfpipe and big air contests.

Third place went to Josh Bibby, who nailed a 270 spin to a grind in the last few minutes of the competition.

Only two women took part in the skier contest, Canadian legend Sarah Burke and Pennsylvania’s Kristi Leskinen.

Both skiers had a few falls, Burke onto the crotch and Leskinen onto her cheek, but by the end of the contest they were dropping from the rail on the steps and skiing out. The edge went to Burke who got a lot more air jumping onto the rail.

"It was awesome, it was a really fun contest," said Burke. "It took me a lot of courage to go down there the first time, but after that it was fine."

The run was intimidating, starting with a carpeted in-ramp from a platform on the GLC’s patio that was held up with scaffolding. The snow started on a short flat section with a small lip to get onto the rail, which was attached to a wooden staircase. The ramp was steep, dropping to a small finish area outside of the Whistler Village Gondola. Rails kept the riders and skiers from falling on the steepest sections, but once you got to the rail and staircase it was wide open.

If you fell off the rail you could ride the wooden stairs to the snow.

In the women’s snowboard event, Whistler’s Leanne Pelosi caught Susi Davis with less than a minute left in the contest, landing a huge 270 to a frontside boardslide as the clock ticked down.

In the men’s snowboard contest, Fox managed to hold onto his lead until the end.

Fox said he didn’t have any plan or expectations going into the contest.

"I just wanted to do the best I could, and if it works out it works out," he said.

There was no pressure holding on to the lead, either.

"I didn’t even really care about that, I just like snowboarding with my friends. For me it wasn’t event a competition. I was just looking at the rail and was going ‘OK, I could probably do this, or I could probably do that’, but having the lead meant nothing really," said Fox.

"It’s quite a spectacle, really, with a really good crowd watching, so everybody I know who went in it had fun."

Fox was trailed by North Vancouver’s Aaron Shapiro and Whistler’s Logan Short, who won the Ripzone Jibzone contest the week before.

The athletes actually took a backseat during the awards ceremony as McDonald’s spokesman Justin Timberlake presented the awards to the winners in each category.

The organizers are calling the event a huge success, and believe it will be back again next year.


Men Snowboard

1. Jesse Fox – Whistler

2. Aaron Shapiro – North Vancouver

3. Logan Short – Whistler

4. Dennis Bannock – Squamish

5. Keenan Brendan – North Vancouver

5. Dwayne Wiebe – Calgary

5. Mikee HK – Whistler

Women Snowboard

1. Leanne Pelosi – Whistler

2. Susi Davis – Oakville, ON

Men Ski

1. Iannick B. – Grandes-Piles, QC

2. Steele Spence – Snowmass, CO

3. Josh Bibby – Vernon

4. Matt Sterbenz – Truckee, CA

5. Mark Abma – Langley

5. TJ Schiller – Vernon

5. Rory Silva – Mammoth Lakes, CA

5. Charles Gagnier – Victoriaville, QC

Women Ski

1. Sarah Burke – Midland, ON

2. Kristi Leskinen – Uniontown, PA

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