Does a rail jam in September qualify as a portent of winter to come or the last big hurrah of summer? Keystone Resort's answer is: A little bit of both.
Taking place Saturday, Keystone's Backyard BBQ Rail Session is being billed as the earliest rail jam in the state.
"This is to stoke everyone out for the winter and kick off the winter season," said Keystone terrain park manager Kevin Laverty. Meanwhile, the weekend also closes out Keystone's summer activities.
"What's pretty cool about it is that some of our mountain bike trails come down that face, so there could be mountain bikers coming down as the rail jam is going on," said Keystone spokeswoman Tucker Burton. "It's kind of a cool combination. We have summer and winter colliding - but not literally."
To make the 15 tons of "snow" needed to cover their new multi-rail feature, organizers will use a modified wood chipper on 10-15 tons of blocked ice, Laverty said.
The Backyard BBQ is the first rail jam of the resort's new A51 River Run Rail Series. The second competition will take place Nov. 3 for opening weekend, with the final session occurring on the last day of the season in April, Laverty said.
"Here at Keystone we work year-round ... building unique features," said terrain park supervisor Tony Wertin. The River Run Rail Series showcases a few of the new features.
On Saturday, skiers and snowboarders will compete for $6,000 in prizes at the rail jam, which had sold out in the men's divisions for both skiing and snowboarding as of Wednesday. Top prizes are an Epic Summit Value Pass plus entry into Transworld TransAM for snowboarders and a freestyle competition planned in Breckenridge for skiers.
While the session gives pros and amateurs the opportunity to come out early and test out new tricks or dust off the cobwebs in preparation for the upcoming season, there's plenty for spectators to do too.
"It's going to be a party atmosphere at the bottom, so while the rail jam is going on the spectators can be jamming out and eating good food," Burton said. Drinks and barbecue are available for purchase, and swag giveaways range from an Epic Summit Value Pass to GoPro cameras. Vendors, including Never Summer and Faty-pus, will have their latest gear on display. Saturday is also the last day to purchase a season pass at last spring's price.