Airing it out

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Don't huck yourself and die.

That's the advice given to a group of skiers and snowboarders eagerly awaiting the start of the annual Big Air Competition at Snow Trails in Mansfield.

The snow has held up surprisingly well, and conditions here on this cold Saturday evening are far better than on the rainy, 70-minute drive northeast from Columbus. The fog has rolled, and a gentle fluff falls onto a groomed, manmade kicker illuminated like a fleeing criminal beneath towering lift-post lights.

Hucking yourself is a must, dying only a possibility, on the six-foot-tall ramp that propels riders over a 40-foot flat deck and onto a steep landing area. Even in perfect weather, kickers like these can be tricky: They're built to absorb the foot shock of big air, but quite painful to those who go halfheartedly and can't clear the gap.

"The jump's awesome," says snowboarder Kevin Sayler, who landed 180 grabs with Daft Punk on his iPod and a broken tailbone. "It's definitely one of the better jumps in Ohio."

Each of the more than 60 riders gets two attempts to land their best trick, which is scored by a panel of three judges looking for degree of difficulty, amplitude and style. A constant quest for bigger and better means that many land painfully enough to elicit ohhs and ahhs from a crowd of several hundred gathered along the landing.

"I did well in practice, but in the comp, I cased it," laments Erika Dahlby, the only woman to enter. "I just tried not to die. I was gonna try some grabs but that wasn't happening."

For the most part, grabs were happening, as were spins, massive inverts and huge backside airs busted to the bottom half of the transition. Midwestern extreme riders are a different breed, and the event showcases a solid Ohio bunch cutting their teeth in lackluster conditions and benefiting from the industry's increased focus on artificial terrain.

"The progression of our parks has really helped them," Nate Wolleson, Snow Trails marketing manager, says from the side of the deck. He adds that seven new features were built this season, giving the resort's trio of parks a mixture of amenities for experts, intermediates and beginners.

Local skier Spencer Schmitt has ridden parks only since last season - but he couldn't resist the thrill of attempting a 540 tailgrab in the contest.

"It's like falling off a cliff," he says at the bottom of his second run. "You're in the air, and the next thing you know, you're going down."

Winners Circle

More than 60 skiers and snowboarders entered the annual Big Air Competition at Snow Trails in Mansfield, performing dangerous tricks for sweet prizes like Bose electronics and Amp gear. Here's how results panned out.


1st: Chris Laker

2nd: Brad Bulzan

3rd: Matt Heffernan


1st: Jon Evens

2nd: Gram Burress

3rd: Will Estep