Off The Hill: Z Griff and the days of backyard snowboarding
Off The Hill
Bull of the Woods
What: The third edition of a grassroots log-rail jam and brand-new banked slalom, featuring a collection of local snowboarders on hand-built features in the Breckenridge woods
When: Thursday and Friday, Jan. 4-5 beginning at
Where: Carter Park in Breckenridge
Cost: Free to attend
The Bull of the Woods log jam and Running of the Bulls Banked Slalom are open to the public. Competition is invite-only. The sledding hill is closed both days for the event, and no outside alcohol is allowed. For more info, check the Summit Daily for a preview on Thursday.
One trick in snowboarding is heralded as all-time by any and all: the full circle. To carve a complete circle is considered a righteous achievement. I was raised in the Mount Washington Valley of New Hampshire in a small town called Glen. The town is near the entrance to the Pinkham Notch. From the house, you can see the world-famous extreme terrain of Tuckerman’s Ravine. It is a 10-20 minute drive to four ski areas, including an hour from Franconia Notch, where Olympic champion Bode Miller and brother Chelon (sadly, now deceased) are from. This small state has produced the likes of Pat Moore, Chuck G. and Scotty Lago, to name a few. The newest is the 2015 Junior Worlds halfpipe hamp Madison Barrett.
There are a few reasons for this phenomena but one is surely this: we all grew up sledding. Long before I ever strapped into a snowboard, I used to get serious at the sledding hill. It was surely my first instance of gravity-fed speed on snow — my first time crashing, getting snow everywhere and jumping anything. The type of pure fun you can only have in snow. No lifts. Hike … for hours. Dig … for hours. Come in when it’s dark.
My childhood best pal, Brian Collins, had the best sledding hill on his grandfather’s property, and we’d take a field trip there with our school. Imagine: Your school bus shuttling you for second-grade sled laps. We would also do tricks off snowbanks into deep snow at recess, and I distinctly remember walking out on pow that had frozen over on the playground. It would glaze over, and we would try to walk light footed on it as far as we could without breaking through the layer.
Later on, we moved to Newport in southern New Hampshire, and again I was lucky enough to live close to a ski hill. We weren’t JO-type ski kids, but yes, we skied and raced as youth. I was fast, too. I was in the third grade when we moved south, which made me about 8 years old, and we didn’t have passes our first couple of years. I had pocketed my dream of being a young downhiller, and the fam didn’t ski as much in those days. We played basketball and tennis and would go ice skating and sledding.
In the winter, a nearby golf course became the sledding hill. We’d spend hours there. In this new town, I was lucky enough to meet my lifelong best pal, Ethan Johnson. He grew up in a beautiful farmhouse situated on — get this — a hill. It was a steep hill, and his mother, Patryc Wiggins, used to set up gates and train on a neighbor’s (much longer) hillside when she was a high school ski racer. She won the state title hiking up and training on that hill. That’s the hill I started on. It was a humble hillside, but, make no mistake — it had hardware.
It was an incredible experience. We had one snowboard, a Christmas present to childhood pal, Travis Bates. It was a Nale Zeke 142 (Elan’s now-defunct first snowboard brand was Elan spelled backwards). We took turns on it, and I was always last. It was Trav’s board and Ethan’s hill, and maybe that’s why I snowboard so much now since I had to wait then. I watched them both hike up before my turn. I was trying to be patient but desperate to go. I mean, we were shouting, “What was that like?” on Trav’s first run.
When it was my turn, it was a blessing in the purest sense of that word. I blacked out (or maybe “white-lighted” out), and don’t remember that first run. I’ve remembered every run since. That first run, the board picked me up and took me for a ride. It has every run since. You could literally see Mount Sunapee in the distance, where, years later, I would become a snowboarder. It was probably a grey New England day, but my young life had been illuminated. It was the first thing I decided I liked on my own, and we were calling it love soon.
Back to the hill
This year, some two decades later for me, we make the ultimate trick — the full circle — by returning to the point where we started: the sledding hill.
I am happy and proud to announce that we have partnered with the town of Breckenridge and will be holding the third-annual Bull of the Woods at Carter Park and in the woods above. This will be a town party like no other, thrown by Trilogy Events (an offshoot of Trilogy Enterprises) in partnership with the town. The Bull of the Woods is a rider-built and rider-judged snowboard event with all features made from wooden logs. It has grown from a grassroots torch pickup to an event that celebrates community, collaboration and creativity in addition to demanding the attention of the snowboarding world.
And it all started here: literally in Summit. The art of “schwackin,” “logging,” “slidin’ wood” — anything you call it, it all started here. It is something specific to snowboarding, not to mention the Carter Park sledding hill is the home to one of the first-ever rope tows. This is our community.
These sledding hills and ski hills have history. The mountains are unmoved by our attempts, but still we always try to leave our own line, our own mark while noting the achievements of the pioneers. We are not trying to own anything so much as pay our tribute to the mountains and the life through passion and dedication and commitment.
Introducing the banked slalom
At some point in the journey, we asked each other: Since snowboarding and my community has helped to shape, define and enrich me, how can we help to shape, define and enrich it in some way? To protect it and promote it in the purest sense?
This year we are happy to also announce the addition of the Running of the Bulls Banked Slalom. This event is to be held in the berm track that leads down to the sledding hill. The eight hand-built turns will literally bring me back to where it all began: the sledding hill.
Some are saying the event has gotten too serious. Some are saying it’s not serious enough. All I can say is try to remember your sledding days when things get tough.
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