Jib jam brings new life to Gondola Square

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Two weeks ago, the first of three SoBe Friday Night Jib Jams brought hundreds of people to Gondola Square to watch local and professional skiers and snowboarders strut their stuff.

Organizers, merchants and athletes are hoping for a similar turnout this Friday night when the second jib jam session of the winter takes place in the heart of Gondola Square beginning at 6 p.m.

"I wasn't surprised that so many people came out for the first one," said Chuck O'Connell, area manager for Christy Sports and manager of the SportStalker store in Gondola Square. "Everybody had high expectations for these things from the start."

During the first event Dec. 17, spectators lined up three deep to watch snowboarders and skiers from Steamboat test their skills on a newly designed Cactofab rail, which will be installed in the SoBe Terrain Park later this winter.

The top riders from that event were invited to stick around to ski with several professional riders, who were in town for the Ultimate Bumps & Jumps, during the Jabra Rail Jam that followed the Friday-night opener.

Steamboat Ski Area spokesman Mike Lane said everyone was happy with the success of the first event, the size of the crowd and the ability level of riders.

However, he said organizers learned a few things that should make the second event even better and that a few changes can be expected.

The biggest changes may be in how the competition venue is set up. The height of the first rail, combined with the length of the man-made in-run, made it difficult for riders to generate the speed needed to ride the rail to its fullest potential.

Lane doesn't expect that to be a problem in the final two jam sessions because the new rails that will be introduced have a lower entry point, which should make the in-run more effective.

As in the first jam, the competition will consist of invited athletes, including professional skiers and snowboarders and members of the Mavericks Freeride team at Steamboat, riding the rail as many times as they can from 6 to 9 p.m.

The athletes will be judged by fellow riders on style, trick difficulty and overall impression. The peer judges will determine the winners. Awards will be handed out for best trick, worst crash and most style.

O'Connell said the first event brought a lot of foot traffic into his store and brought a new sense of life to the Gondola Square area. He expects an even better Friday night showing this week as people come to the mountain not only for the jib jam, but also for the fireworks and a torchlight parade, which also will be part of the New Year's Eve lineup.

"This is a good event for Gondola Square, and a move in the right direction," O'Connell said.

Lane estimates that the first Friday Night Jib Jam drew a crowd of 650 people. He thinks Friday's will be even bigger because of the fireworks.

The final Friday Night Jib Jam will take place Jan. 7.

-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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