Snowboarders, skiers test their skills at Jib Fest

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The Steamboat Ski Area is still weeks from opening day, but that didn't stop skiers and snowboarders from warming up their skills outside the Powder Pursuits snowboard shop Saturday.

As a disc jockey spun records and pumped bass, dozens of riders and skiers lined up outside the shop in Ski Time Square to show off their abilities on a snow-covered "drop" and a long metal rail.

The apparatus and snow were trucked in for the store's second annual Jib Fest, a high-energy gathering celebrating the upcoming season and giving riders a chance to check out the latest in snowboard gear and apparel.

"It's just to get everybody hyped up for the season," manager Mike Benninghoven said.

Cheers for riders making it to the end of the rail were intermingled with groans, as some tricks were cut short by awkward, sometimes painful spills.

Store staff and merchandise representatives on a balcony periodically tossed T-shirts, stickers and other swag into the crowd of about 60 riders and spectators below.

"I'm just glad to get the season started," said 14-year-old Samuel Kopsa of Hayden, who is looking for some "big snow" this winter.

Chris Smith, who has owned the shop for 20 years, said the weather, including plentiful summer rain and wild animals heading to lower ground are signs of a big snowfall this season.

"I think we're going to have a huge winter," he said.

Between tricks, snowboarders headed into the shop to stock up on accessories and to see the newest trends in clothing and equipment.

Styles this year have more of a "street" look and include wool "suits" and jackets that look more like flannel and plaid shirts than snowboard wear, said Amy Hanson, who is part of the store's sales staff.

"That's really big with all the kids this year," she said, noting that big, down jackets also have been popular.

Hats with pockets for iPod or MP3 headphones and "cap strap and toe strap" bindings likely will be big sellers, too, she said.

With riders' tricks getting harder and more dangerous, safety is definitely in style, Hanson said.

Helmets, which range between $70 and $200, and "impact shorts," which are worn under snowboard pants to provide extra padding for falls, are good pieces to have, she said.

"We sell so many helmets. ... A lot of people are getting into it," Hanson said.

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