As the original home of the Whitelines Rail Jam, The Snowboard Test in Kaunertal is always one of the best events of what’s now become a full-blown series. But while every year is entertaining, none of the previous Kaunertal jams came close to what went down last week. In terms of the level of riding, the crowd, and the overall atmosphere, this was definitely the best Whitelines Rail Jam yet.
We’d hooked up with DC to up the prize pot this year, and thanks to their army of willing helpers (cheers Stenti, Hannah, Fran, Edd and Frankie!) and the lads from FBBB (Ali, Mikee, Neil big up yourselves) we kicked things off only a little later than we’d planned. DC had set up their ‘easy-up’ tent at the bottom of the course, which gave riders the choice of either a big, blue donkey dick rail (as MC Scott Penman put it, “whichever donkey that came from has something to be proud of!”), a c-rail or a round red gas pipe.
Kaunertal had shaped things to perfection, and sent us up a snowcat loaded with a hefty-looking generator and a hench old soundsystem. Once we’d switched the militant jungle sounds coming from chief organiser Craig Scrivener’s iPod for some slightly more chilled tunes, appointed Jonny Russell and Sam Nelson as head judges, and cracked open the first of the free beers, we were ready to roll.
What started as a decent turnout of riders swelled to a proper crowd as Brits were joined by curious local passers-by, who soon stuck in too. The forty-five minute open-jam format meant everyone could get involved, with the only limit on the number of hits being the time it took you to run panting back up to the top. Right from the off the action was impressive, with Andy Nudds showing the solid skills that made him a Nike Chosen finalist. Meanwhile his partner in crime (and Westbeach team-mate) Matt MacWhirter whipped out the tricks that saw him clean up at this Tahoe rail-jam earlier in the winter.
Lewis Sonvico and Rowan Biddiscombe were proving that not every talented Englishman comes from Yorkshire; Gus Leith and Stu ‘Monkey’ Horsham were holding it down for the Scottish faction and the likes of Matt Higson, ‘Hot’ Carl Howden (google Hot Carl, I dare you), and Cody Heirons were also looking like contenders. And that’s just mentioning a few. There was so much sickness being thrown down that the swarms of photographers and filmers (Whitelines included) were struggling to keep up with all the action!
As a crowd gathered to watch, Scott Penman set to work working it – if you’ve not heard this dude on a mic before, make sure you get down to the next event where he’s MCing. He’s one funny bastard. Alternating between ripping the piss (“has anyone seen Angus Leith’s mangina?”) and bigging up the assembled riders (massive, mic-breaking cheers when Neil Campbell went for a one-footed board slide), Scotty got everyone smiling. There was a bit of a dark moment early on when Chris Chatt, one of the few riders tackling the C rail, judged it wrong and smacked his head with a horrendous clang. But once it was worked out that he was just about OK, the fun continued.
FBBB’s Mikee Cee, directing operations up where the judges were sat, had possibly the least enviable job at the jam – helping them whittle down the massed riders into an eight-man (and three woman) final once the forty-five minutes was up. There was plenty of umming and ahhing and more than a few other folk chipped in with their opinons, but in the end Jonny and Sam called Rowan Coultas, Cody Heirons, Andy Nudds, Angus Leith, Matt MacWhirter, Carl Howden, Ollie Dutton and Lewis Sonvico back up to the top.
In the women’s category, Scottish shredette Emilia Vanni was joined by Katie Blundell and two locals (one of whom Penman professed to be desperately in love with) for a four-way showdown. Each rider got three runs, and once again the standard was ridiculous. Emilia beat Katie and the Austrians to earn herself the woman’s prize with a badass bag of tricks including boardslides, but after two runs, it looked like the blokes final would be a tough one to call. And then, to make life even harder, on the third and final run, everyone stepped up their game even further, throwing down what seemed to be a never-ending string of insane rail tricks back to back. Nuddsy, bish. MacWhirter, bash. Coultas bosh… everyone was stomping, how would the judges pick between them?
In the end, after much deliberation, Mikee announced that the judges had failed on judging. There was simply no calling between the finalists. So instead of picking a winner, they announced that they’d selected five of the eight to go through to a ‘super-final’. They’d get two more runs each, but (and here’s the hard bit) they wouldn’t be allowed to repeat any of the tricks they’d done in the previous three hits.
MacWhirter, Nudds, Sonvico, Heirons and Dutton were the chosen ones, each having to prove that they had strength in depth of the kind that would make Mancini jealous. Dutton answered a call from Penman to gap the whole thing, hiking up higher than anyone and dropping in at eye-watering speed, tapping the very end of the donkey dick with a seatbelt grab.
Nuddsy’s legs of steel (and a frankly insane front board 270 on the C-Rail) eventually secured him the win, and 100 euros cash, but it was squeaky-bum close between him, Dutton, and Cody Heirons, who bagged third place. Matt MacWhirter, who’d been steezy as hell all day, got the Riders’ Choice award, winning him a well deserved 50 euros.
But that wasn’t all – blown away by the standard on display Scotty had suggested on the mic that everyone dig in their pockets, and put in a bit of small change to show their appreciation. “Sponsor a poor British snowboarder, help them survive. They’ll write you letters and send you photos of themselves with big, sorrowful eyes. Just one euro a month can make a real difference. Call 0800…” The atmosphere was such that when Angus Leith went round with a hat the total to be added to the prize pot was insane – no less than 150 euros in small change, plus one pair of sunglasses, a pair of Skullcandy headphones… and a spliff.
It was quickly agreed that the extra cash should be split between the five super-finalists. A well deserved extra few bucks for what was possibly the finest display of jibbing ever seen by the British scene. With big things planned for the board test next year, the jam can only grow, but here’s hoping that the special atmosphere which saw everyone doing their bit for British snowboarding, doesn’t go anywhere. After all, a couple of euros is a small price to pay to witness properly world class riding, isn’t it?
WHITELINES RAIL JAM KAUNERTAL 2012 RESULTS
1st Andy Nudds
2nd Ollie Dutton
3rd Cody Heirons
Riders’ choice: Matt MacWhirter
1st Emilia Vanni