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South Shore kicking out the jams

Jeremy Evans
Sun News Service

Throughout the decades, Lake Tahoe has been a venue for some of the world’s biggest winter sports competitions.

None has been bigger, of course, than the Winter Olympics, which were held at Squaw Valley in 1960. Later that decade, Heavenly hosted a series of World Cup ski races.

Then came the 1970s, when John Denver’s Celebrity Ski Classic originated on the slopes of Heavenly. Then there were the 1980s, when Tom Sims held the inaugural World Snowboarding Championships with a halfpipe event at Soda Springs.

By then, Lake Tahoe, with its azure waters and sunny skies, was a magnet for nationally televised events and deep-pocketed sponsors. Chevrolet, Sprint, Budweiser, Subaru, Nissan, Jeep, North Face ” they’ve all been sponsors of competitions that have passed through the area over the past two decades.

Those types of events, however, are usually for spectators and world-class snowboarders and skiers. In the 21st century, there has been an increasing number of events at Tahoe resorts geared toward showcasing local, home-grown talent.

One of the first was Glen Plake’s Gunbarrel 25, which began in 2003 on Heavenly’s 1,600-foot fall line known as “The Face.” There’s not a five-figure prize purse, but Plake’s connections in the industry result in plenty of equipment giveaways.

Starting in 2006, Heavenly also started its Jackpot Rail Jam, a night event on the World Cup terrain park where athletes earn cash on the spot from judges.

“Heavenly has a rich history of supporting local competitions that goes back three decades, from Rat Races to Jackpot Rail Jams to the Gunbarrel 25,” said Heavenly spokesman Russ Pecoraro. “While no one is going to become famous by winning these events, they do give our local athletes the opportunity to feel like Daron Rahlves, Shaun White or Glen Plake for a day.”

Both Sierra-at-Tahoe and Kirkwood have hosted United States of America Snowboard Association and Snowbomb Sick and Twisted competitions, which include disciplines such as big air and slopestyle.

Sierra, though, has typically hosted the most local-oriented events.

In recent seasons, it’s held competitions such as the American Jibber Rail Jam Series and the Volcom Peanut Butter Rail Jam, which continued this year. Sierra also is adding a Nitro Von Zipper competition and a Billabong event for girls this season called Flaunt It.

There are still world-class competitions such as the Subaru North American Freeskiing Championships and the North Face of Masters Snowboarding (Kirkwood) and Transworld Team Challenge (Heavenly). But the three resorts don’t plan on reducing the number of local competitions anytime soon.

“We consider ourselves the locals resort, and we’ve always had an interest in hosting grass-root events,” said Sierra-at-Tahoe spokeswoman Kirstin Cattell. “We’ve always strived to be the home resort for local skiers and riders who are trying to launch onto the competitive scene. It’s all with the same idea that we can help get locals noticed by the bigger companies.”


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