By Alexis Hernandez-Roland
Photos by Blotto and Ashley Rosemeyer
It's the middle of August. I flew into New Jersey Monday morning, snowboarding was the furthest thing from my mind. It was mid-80s and sunny. The only reminder I had of what was to come was my 50-pound board bag. I proceeded to make my way out to Brooklyn; I hopped on a bus, took a train, then got on another train. After two and half hours and more walking, I finally got to my friend's flat. I chilled and got comfortable. The competition was four days away. I had plenty of time to relax, adjust, practice riding, and maybe do a bit of exploring.
Cut to Wednesday, my homies Nali Prevedel, Hannah, and I were making our way out to Big SNOW American Dream. The traffic was insane, as expected, but the excitement made it go by fast. We hopped out of the car and quickly threw on our boots as soon as we arrived. We walked into the giant mall, went up the escalator, and entered through what seemed to be an ordinary ski shop. They had gloves, hats, jackets, stickers, etc. Everything you'd need for a day on the hill. We got our tickets at the counter, walked farther in, and entered the "chalet" portion of the building.
We threw our stuff into the lockers and headed out the doors. Immediately a wave of cold air hit us. It felt refreshing after being outside in the heat. The whole thing felt surreal. We were standing in the middle of a large freezer with a chairlift and 160 vertical feet of terrain. On the right side of the lift was a fenced-in area designating the terrain park. It had a few nice rails, a little box, and two jumps. Not much, but pretty spectacular, considering it was still the middle of August.
We started lapping, slowly getting into the groove of things. I noticed Iris Pham crusin' through. She was going top speed and lacing the rails. I saw quite a few other people lapping, a few homies, and a bunch of locals.
Thursday was the day of the qualifiers. Anyone was able to enter and compete. The winners of the qualifying round would be given a spot to compete in the next round of the competition. Qualifiers kicked off in true rail jam format, everyone all at once. The energy was high, and the level of riding was insane. Qualifiers ended with the Wildcard spots going to Tara Kipilla and Adam Hornberg.
Friday was day one of the Slush Game of Big SNOW. I left the flat around 9 a.m. and took the required two trains to the bus. I arrived at Big SNOW bright and early, anxious to hop on the snow. I grabbed myself a cup of tea while I waited for the slopes to open. Slowly people started to roll in. I laced up my boots, put on my helmet, and walked out to start training. I went through my trick list, practiced for a while, then took a break.
Before I knew it, the first round of the competition was starting. Judges for the event were Jeremy Jones and Lance Hakker. There were sixteen different matchups in total. In the Women's division, some notable matchups from the first day include Savannah Shinkske vs. Lilly Calabrese. Savannah won the round throwing a very clean front blunt-same way 270, along with a backlip and a back-tail same way 270. In the round of Iris Pham vs. Tara Kipilla, Iris showed incredible control throwing down a backboard pretzel 270, a frontboard, and a frontboard pretzel 270.
In the Men's division, the match of Mike Liddle vs. Copper Whittier was a fun watch. Liddle threw down a back 180 pretzel 360; how someone's body could even turn like that is beyond me. Whittier then launched a hard way back 180 to the bottom of the DFD rail. The guys threw several 270s, backing each other up. The match ended with Liddle moving on to the next round, only having an SN.
That night many people were quite exhausted from the day and retired early, although there was a significant group that chilled in the lot. Apparently, the parking garage was popping off. I hopped in my homie Reagan's whip, drove back, and proceeded to go straight to bed.
As Saturday morning rolled around, the whole dome was bustling with energy. Everyone was excited with anticipation for the upcoming battles. I was most excited for day two. In the quarterfinals, I was riding against Kennedi Deck.
I had seen them around and knew that they were a strong rider. We played rock-paper-scissors to see who went first. Kennedi won, so they set the first trick. They then proceeded to set and land nine tricks in a row. I was wholly impressed. I managed to match them trick for trick before they finally fell. Then it was my turn. The first trick I threw down was a back 5050 front 360. There was a bit of back and forth. They got the first letter on me with a front nosepress. I eventually won the round, but Kennedi put up a hell of a fight.
Right after the quarterfinals, there was a 15-minute break. As the semifinals rolled around, the crowd grew bigger. People lined all the way up the side of the course, trying to get a good view. Stan was on the mic, making friends and pissing nobody off, per usual. Desiree was running the Slush Instagram livestream. In the semifinals, the matchups were Mike Liddle vs. Zak Hale, Luke Winkleman vs. Jed Anderson, Jill Perkins vs. Iris Pham, and me vs. Savannah Shinkske. I really enjoyed watching the Luke Winkleman vs. Jed Anderson round. Both riders are very technical and do their tricks with incredible style. Luke ultimately won that round and went to finals.
The finals were between Luke Winkleman and Mike Liddle, and Jill Perkins and I. Given the fact that I was late grabbing a cup of tea, it was only fair that Jill went first. She started off the round strong going straight for a gap to frontboard on the dfd rail. She had beat me and ultimately won the previous year with her giant airs to the bottom of the dfd. I hadn't gapped the rail yet that day, so I hiked a little higher up, went straight, and hoped to god I had enough speed. I ended up landing in a perfect frontboard.
She then proceeded to gap to a backlip. She landed square on the rail and rode away cleanly. I also landed a backlip, although it was a little hairy. When it was my turn to set the trick, I again went for the back 50/50 front 360. I then followed it up with a switch front board. After that, we went back and forth for a while. Each one trying to outdo the other. I then went for a switch back boardslide on the dfd rail. She didn't land it, but because it was her last letter, and we were in finals, she got a second attempt. She took full advantage of that attempt and laced it perfectly the next run. After a few more runs, the match ended with me in first and Jill in second.
In the men's finals, Luke and Mike Liddle were going hard. I wasn't able to watch much of their match, as I was competing myself, but what I did see blew my mind. After a brutal battle, Luke pulled out on top with Mike in second.
We were swarmed by people and cameras. All I could think about was how I wanted to eat and get out of my boots. As everyone gathered around, awards were announced. Lauren, aka LoLo Derminio, and Lucas Magoon both won awards for essentially being awesome. LoLo was the loudest one on that hill, shouting and cheering at the top of her lungs. Mike, Luke, Jill, and I were then handed our comically large checks as we posed for the cameras. We smiled from ear to ear; it had all been so much fun. After the comp, I walked up and down the sidelines, talking to and thanking people for showing up and coming to watch.
I quickly changed, threw my shit in my homie's car, and walked back to the local restaurant bar. All in all, it had been a good few days. I reconnected with old friends, made some new ones, got to ride snow in August, and came away with new bragging rights. Not much more a guy can ask for, ya know?