Red Bull Jib-Tac-Tow — Recap & Photos

  |   Katie Kennedy
A new take on the classic game // p: Simon B

Red Bull Jib-Tac-Tow at Cannonsburg Ski Area, Belmont, MI

Words by Mary T Walsh
As an outsider to the Midwest’s rope tow culture, I have always been awed by it. Years before I ever saw Hyland Hills, Trollhaugen, or Beech (a Southeast version similar to the Midwest spots) in person, I had a reverence for the snowboarders that grow up at those mountains (and others like them) because rope tow laps are a proven incubator for many of snowboarding’s best rail riders. Grow up obsessively riding at a resort like this, and odds are, you’re pretty good. Time on the rope breeds creativity, dedication, and raw skill.
It also cultivates a diehard community in a unique way. When everyone is watching you on the Hollywood Line and you’re watching everyone else, for example, there’s an inherent inspiration, celebration, collaboration, and appreciation—all the stuff that builds excitement and solidifies bonds. Riding a rope tow park doesn’t require steep terrain, tons of snow, or good weather, as long as there’s a good park. It doesn’t even need daylight much of the time because the mountains all have lights. All that is needed is an insatiable drive to go snowboarding. A need that only dozens of laps in a very short time on the rope can satisfy.
On Saturday morning, just shy of 70 riders congregated in the baselodge of Cannonsburg, grabbing jerseys for the first-ever Red Bull Jib-Tac-Tow. Grace Warner was in town to host and judge the contest, along with Brett Kulas, who had also come home to join the judging panel. 16 teams of 3-4 people each had signed up for the double elimination contest where bragging rights and an all-expenses paid trip to Heavy Metal the following weekend in Minnesota were on the line.
On hill, Ava Peterson, Cannonsburg terrain park manager, and her crew had put together three tiers of three features each to create a life-sized tic-tac-toe board. The first tier included a flat box with creepers, a down tube, and a down-donkey rail. The second row included off-set tubes, an a-frame type feature, and a challenge rail. The final level had a flat tube, flat-down waterfall, and a down-flat-down. The variety worked really well. There was no standard row or column that teams went for to get a win and rounds were decided on the challenge rail, the DFD, and the transfer tubes, alike.

Ava started the plans for the park build in November. “I wanted there to be things for people to get creative on, like the creeper box,” she explained. “And I wanted to throw in a down rail, but I didn’t want it to “just” be a down rail. The Lakeside”—a perfect down bar with a kink on the very end—”is probably our best rail at Cannonsburg. I love that thing. And then for the Red Bull feature in the center, it’s a transitional feature. You can hit it from anywhere on the board.”
While Ava put in hours and hours of sweat equity into Jib-Tac-Tow, she is immediate to give credit to everyone that put in time to make the build with her. Cory Caswell, a cat operator from Timberline in Oregon flew out to push snow for the event. “He absolutely killed it,” said Ava. “He made our rope tow look ginormous.” Once the snow was set, the Cannonsburg hand crew set the rails and boxes. “Gibby, Colin, Will and Lucas were able to dig in the features in three hours, which is like a record hand crew build,” adds Ava. “And thank you Throwing Star, for everything.”
The park was pristine. A large bracket board on middle tier of the park announced who was competing. Stan Leveille was on the microphone and Chris the Cat was the DJ. All of the ingredients were there. So how does a game of Jib-Tac-Tow work? 

The minds at Red Bull distilled the concept of outscoring your opponents for a geographical-park advantage into an easy-to-navigate game that pitted Michigan’s finest rail riders against one another on the way to the podium. But don’t get hung up on the X’s and O’s; they are just a visual representation of teams going trick for trick. What’s most important is the element of strategy that the letters created. Once a square had been claimed by a team with a trick, that specific trick could not be done again in that round, through variations were allowed. What Jib-Tac-Tow really got at the heart of is what everyone enjoys about a Game of SNOW: the consequential nature of head-to-head riding, pressure to land a specific trick (or in this case, to land a trick on a specific feature) at a specific moment, and the excitement when it happens. While the rules of the game were different, the essence was the same.
From the start, teams were as focused on strategy as they were on tricks. Riders conferred with each other at the top as rails were marked with large X’s and O’s for visual reference. The judging panel (which I was a part of, full disclosure) was not only looking for properly landed tricks, but also for clean style—especially if the trick was an easier one. Games went fairly fast due to the high level of rail riding in the Michigan park scene plus the quick ride up from the rope tow. Gibby Corcoran, Colin Hayes, Derek Lemke, Chase Blakely, Adam Homi, Jake DeVries, Nyk Williams, Noah Genzink, Colin Pitts, Tye Kowalski, Chloe Wright, Chris Church, Will Knoth, Hannah Mennega, as well as Trollhaugen local Mike Skiba were all snagging squares for their teams throughout the day. 
Michigan turned out for the contest not only to ride, but also to watch. Friends and families lined all sides of the park, emphasizing the deep-rooted and supportive community of MI snowboarding. Everyone was so stoked on the set up. Grace and Brett jumped in the line-up during morning practice and a quick, mid-day break. Drake Warner and a few others were poaching. And DJ Chris the Cat kept the energy high. The top of the course was a sea of blue jerseys all day because with the double elimination format, it was anybody’s game until early evening. The sun had come out around 1pm and Cannonsburg was lit up. It was a beautiful day. In addition to the snowboarding, itself, all of this made Jib-Tac-Tow just the best. 
The finals match came down to two teams (all the teams had given themselves names for easy reference on the bracket board): Grumlinz (Adam Hohmeyer, Chris Church, Tye Kowalski, and Noah Genzink) and Chompers (Hannah Mennega, Jake DeVries, Colin Pitts, and Gibby Corcoran). They had just squared off in a nail-biting semifinals that had sent the Chompers to the finals and the Grumlinz back to semis for one more chance (double elimination, remember). In that round of semis, Adam, Chris, Tye, and Noah defeated Breaking Free (Chase Blakely, Derek Lemke, and Trevor Newman) and advanced to the last round. So it was finals and a rematch.
Finals moved quick. Four tricks, two from each team, had been laded and put all the pressure on the lower right are of the park, which contained the down-flat-down. Riders went back and forth in a classic DFD showdown until Jake DeVries landed a picture-perfect nosepress, securing the win for his team.
There’s a certain dedication at resorts like Cannonsburg that fosters a relentless love of riding while turning out really proper abilities. Yes, the repetition via the rope tow has something to do with it, but moreso, the community that’s created is real. Jib-Tac-Tow celebrated this and on Saturday, Cannonsburg made both locals and visitors feel right home, hanging out in the sunny park, watching as Michigan’s best boarders turned up and put on a show.
Big thanks to Grace and Brett; Ava and the crew at Cannonsburg, as well as Corey Caswell; Josh, Jenner, Allie, and Pat at Throwing Star; Katie, Hunter, Tim, and the entire Red Bull crew; the Warner family for being awesome; Stan; Chris the Cat; everyone who came out to Cannonsburg for the event; and of course, all the riders.
First Place: Chompers
Hannah Mennega, Jake DeVries, Colin Pitts, and Gibby Corcoran

Second Place: Grumlinz
Adam Hohmeyer, Chris Church, Tye Kowalski, and Noah Genzink

Third Place: Breaking Free
Chase Blakely, Derek Lemke, and Trevor Newman