Winter may have overstayed its welcome, but Thursday’s snowfall provided an appropriate setting for the Cricket Wireless Campus Rail Jam Tour on the Gonzaga University campus.
The effect was mostly cosmetic. Event organizers still had to truck in 20 tons of snow to build a makeshift terrain park on the lawn in front of the Foley Center Library. The snow was spread like cake frosting over scaffolding to create a course 20 feet tall and 100 feet long. A few hundred students took a break from studies to gather around the runout and watch the action.
While a DJ pumped out hip hop music at high volume, the event’s master of ceremonies worked hard to stoke the crowd huddling in a chilly breeze.
Skiers and snowboarders dropped into the course in waves, performing tricks for judges watching from a tower. The more accomplished jibbers really stood out. But the crowd roared when a skier slipped to forcefully straddle a rail, or when a snowboarder landed on his face instead of his feet. A few participants were shaken up but there were no injuries.
Gonzaga was the sixth stop of this 12-event nationwide tour of college campuses in eight states. The events are produced by Galvanic Design of Portland, Ore. The company works closely with student organizations at host campuses to help them get first hand event marketing and promotion experience.
The soggy lawn was worked into mud as the crowd milled about. Performers would drag skis and snowboards through the muck after making a run. They didn’t seem to be bothered as their brightly colored, baggy outfits gradually turned various shades of brown.
After 2½ hours of spinning, jumping and crashing, winners were announced. Pete Arneson, a 19-year-old business major at North Idaho College, won the skier division, sealing his victory with a slick step-over trick that drew cheers. Corey Schneider, 17, a student at Coeur d’Alene High School, rose to the top of the snowboard division with what he called a “switch hard way front one back three out.”
Randa Shahin, 25, from Mt. Hood, Ore, won the women’s division on a snowboard. She described her best trick: “I did a down flat down 50-50, gapped the last down and did a 180.”
Each winner won $100 and a mounted “jackalope” trophy: a rabbit adorned with antelope antlers.
The event concluded with a performance by rapper Hanif Collins, aka LaQuan, of Portland. He strutted about in the melting snow, barking his lyrics as the crowd slowly dispersed, heading back to class.