MISSION RIDGE — Sometimes, smaller and less competitive is better, even for people who are into competition.
Take, for instance, Mission Ridge’s Black Out Rail Jam on Saturday night.
Employees half-bury a bunch of boxes, barrels and rails in the snow, build some snow walls, and in a few hours, there’s a brand new playground.
Throw on some lights, add music, and the jibbing and jamming begins.
“I like the Mission Ridge one more than most, because there’s a rope tow, so you don’t have to hike,” said Olivia Kesterson, 17, a junior at Wenatchee High School who competes on her snowboard nationally. “And, there’s a less competitive vibe, so you’re not as nervous about getting the trick that everyone else is doing.”
Instead of having different divisions for amateurs and professionals, men and women, youth and adult, it’s a free-for-all.
“It’s not the X Games. It’s not corporate. It’s very rider-friendly, and it’s a good time for all the spectators,” said Brad Miller, known as B-Rad by fellow boarders.
Miller — who works at Revolution Snow and Skate in Wenatchee — hits most of Mission’s rail jams. The shop is usually a sponsor, and helped start up the rail jams at the Ridge about eight years ago.
“We just wanted to have something fun for the kids on a Saturday night,” said Miller, who often emcees it.
The jam is like a group contest, he said. “Everybody goes out at the same time, and they just ride together, in a big group. And during that, when somebody does a cool trick, and the crowd cheers, we call them up and give them a prize,” he said. Like a pair of goggles.
Toward the end of the night, they pick out the person who did the best trick, or had craziest run, and honor them with the largest prize — a snowboard.
“It’s real laid back, and fun,” Miller said.
Many years, you’ll never know what you’ll find half-buried in the snow, just calling out to the boarders and skiers who show up.
In the past, they had a Coca Cola machine. They’ve had semi-tractor tires and quarter-pipes, flat bars and round bars, even satellite dishes. Anything a skier and snowboarder can hop up on, slide along, and come back down with an aerial lift or flip.
Kesterson said it’s the atmosphere she likes most about the Mission Ridge jams. “You don’t have your own heat — you just go all at once, and it’s more fun that way. If your friend skis, and you snowboard, you can hit it at the same time,” she added.
As a female snowboarder in a male-dominated sport, she doesn’t often get to competitive events with her skier girlfriends.
Kesterson said she used to ski. But at age 9, she thought her brother and his friends all looked cool snowboarding, so she gave it a try and hasn’t looked back.
Now, she finds herself on the slopes with boys a lot. “Riding with guys can push me, but they make everything I want to do look so easy,” she said in an interview before Saturday’s rail jam. “I like riding with girls because they understand the fear. Guys are less afraid. Girls are trying to push themselves, but they’re not trying to kill themselves. For guys, it’s a lot more competitive.”
That’s not to say girls can’t do some pretty amazing tricks. “I’ve been riding with a couple of ladies who are professional, and they’re doing things that a lot of the guys I know are afraid to try. Girls are definitely stepping out.”
Kesterson has competed in Oregon, Canada and California. This year, she’s sponsored by Burton, a well-known snowboard manufacturer.
“We started her skiing when she was about 4, and she took a turn to snowboarding, and that girl has not stopped,” her mother, Val Kesterson said. “She lives and breathes it.”
It doesn’t matter what the weather is like, her daughter’s ready to hit the slopes. “It’ll be zero degrees, windy, rainy. She’s up at the crack of dawn,” she said.
Val Kesterson said she likes the Mission Ridge rail jams because they’re down at the base of the mountain, so parents, grandparents and fans can come and watch.
“I have to work, or I’d go,” said Randy Kesterson, Olivia’s father. He said as a nurse at Central Washington Hospital, he’s more likely to tell his daughter to be careful before a competition than he is to encourage her to push herself to the next level.
“I want her to do well, but I’m pretty concerned about injuries,” he said.
Still, he added, he hasn’t seen her do anything that seemed out of control, and she seems to be pretty careful.
“I don’t know if she knows how proud I am of her,” he said.
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512