Shred Fest 2022 @ Liberty Park 11.05–06
Ski / Snowboard
Shred Fest is an annual, two-day event of rail jams, live music and vendors, held this year over the weekend of Nov. 5–6 at Liberty Park. After wading through vendors and games of cornhole and pong, I started my Shredfest experience with the Lumber Jack Expo, where people were given the cookies that had been sawed off the ends of huge logs being used in the competitions. Announcers informed us about wood-chopping competitions as we stood and watched people race to cut through logs, stand on top and split them in half, employing a Jack-and-Jill sawing technique.
Soon, the athletes started to warm up for qualifier rounds. The setup was on the small hill on the southeast part of Liberty Park, with runs made from synthetic snow. Features were set so that two competitors could shred at the same time—two rails beside each other at the top and two at the bottom. I met Sloane Gordon, who has been running the rail jam for five years. “There used to be 40 people at the rail jam; now there’s 80, so it’s pretty much doubled in size,” she said. Gordon was excited that there are now women’s rounds with equal prize money, something that hasn’t always been done. Additionally, the competition has developed past its local focus. “When I first started, it was a lot of local riders which is always exciting, but now there’s kids who fly in for this stuff,” Gordon said.
Veda Hallen, a boarder from California who’s been riding since she was four, was happy with the setup for day two as it added a few more features, including a doghouse and more rails on the side for the crowd. “It’s intimidating at first, but you get in your own zone and don’t really think about it. I kind of just sink all that out and vibe on what’s present to you,” Hallen said.
Before the first day’s women’s qualifiers, the band Future Mystic came on stage. I recognized the bassist from the Volcom snowboarding movie Creedlecosm. Looking into the crowd, I spotted the rest of the Volcom crew, including director and Salt Lake local Seth Huot. The company had members fly in from France and Quebec to attend Shred Fest. They were stoked to be in Salt Lake for the event, and Sebastien Picard described it as “ a huge collaboration of art, music, filming [and] shredding.”
The women’s qualifiers were sick, with skiers and snowboarders hitting solid front and back slides, a few tail taps and some 270s onto the rails. Nothing could have prepared me for the aggression that came from the men’s skiers. Off the bat, they skied fast and chucked their hardest tricks. Nathan Thoen, the lead singer from Canadian band Bombargo, participated and was a fan favorite off the bat. Boarding in skinny jeans and a brown leather jacket, he hit a couple Indys for the crowd, who cheered him on as his band members ran onto the snow to record him. Another fan favorite was Noah Rodarte, who dressed in big, red pants, an unzipped red vest and fiery-red hair styled in spikes. He had a rockstar persona that people couldn’t help but notice, and he fed off the crowd’s energy. By day two, the crowd had nicknamed him “Diablo.”
One men’s qualifying skier, Sean Jensen, had garnered attention in his fully lime-green getup. He was stoked over the clear weather for day two, since Saturday’s rain had softened the snow. The competition was wild, and the crowds kept cheering on their favorites. One boarder, Iris Pham, caught attention with her purple pants and buttery moves. Another, Jen Picarazzi, kept throwing the same trick to try and land it, just because the crowd told her to. When the crowd chanted for one skier to throw a double backflip and he didn’t land it, people around me became upset that the hill wasn’t big enough for riders to get the speed and space they needed to really show off. Timo Berg got back up and made a few more runs, which made everyone cheer louder.
The final run of the night was completed by snowboarder Aidan Hascall. With one broken binding and a foot hanging off the board, he threw and landed a misty flip. All onlookers went crazy, jumping and yelling out to him.
Immediately after the rail jam finals ended, Jai Wolf took the stage. Everyone ran over and started dancing and throwing pool inflatables up in the air. Members from Bombargo were being carried above the crowd as they danced to the DJ’s music. Stepping out of the crowd to watch the performance from the top of the hill was a treat. Sebastian Paul, a musician who performed earlier in the night, was talking with Picarazzi while crowd members walked over and said hello. It was a chill interaction to see, and it put into perspective just how connected everything at Shred Fest really was. I was way happy to see that Hallen took first in women’s, winning her a $1,000 check. Pham took second, and Volcom rider Egan Wint took third.
Overall, the rail jams were sick. I wish that the days’ other events had been timed closer to the competition so that people didn’t have to wander the same, familiar tents all day or just come late. Still, I left both nights feeling full of energy and psyched for ski season. Watching athletes work to land tricks in real time was really inspiring. I couldn’t help but check my phone to see when the resorts were set to open.
Photos: Jovvany Villalobos // @thevillagewolf // firstname.lastname@example.org
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