Summer is slowly ending in the high country. With daytime temperatures still sitting in the mid 60s and the nights beginning to finally cool down, we’re all waiting to take in our first deep breath of that fresh chilly air. Winter is on it’s way and the hype for the first real snowfall is building by the hour. And how could we start winter without some pre-season hype and a sketchy rail jam. With Snowboard on the Block dead in the water, a new Denver festival has arrived to take its place. Welcome to Shred Fest, a community celebration of shredding! And lumberjacks! And beer!
Now Snowboard on the Block was a massive event for Colorado. It brought pro riders from all over the world to come shred some giant gnarly rail set-up on the least amount of snow possible. It brought us new films from every major snowboard production company. It even brought big names in the music industry like Chief Keef, Afroman, Wolfmother, and The Misfits (sans Danzig.) SotB brought the hype for winter but sadly was writing checks its butt couldn’t cash. With a void in the fall festivities, Denver needed a new winter kickoff event. Almost magically, yet predictably, a new fest showed up and it’s called Shred Fest.
Shred Fest is a “by skiers and snowboarders for skiers and snowboarders” community event meant to bring us all together and get us pumped for winter. They hit all the staples of a proper “Shred” fest: food trucks, live music, movie screenings, rail jam, and beer. Now the scale of this event is far smaller than SotB, about one-third of the size. Shred Fest felt like a local’s community event while SotB felt like a mini Lollapalooza. This wasn’t a bad thing as nothing felt rushed and the crowd wasn’t overwhelming. With tickets coming in at $15/person, including a $40 ticket for unlimited beer, it was a really solid deal considering SotB was climbing toward $50 before any food or drinks.
The food for this event was provided by food trucks. Each one was unique ranging from Falafels and pizza to fresh sushi and poke bowls. I tried the Ahi Tuna poke bowl aptly named the “Pokemon Bowl” and it was delicious. The beer was locally sourced from watering holes across Colorado and it was flowing like wine at a roman bacchanal. For $40 you could drink as much as you could want and plenty of the guests took advantage, some more than others.
Shred Fest may not have been able to get the biggest names in the music industry but that doesn’t mean the music was bad, in fact the music was pretty solid. The live music was a good mix of country rock, bluegrass, hip hop, and a DJ set by Neon Indian. Other than Neon Indian, all the live bands were locals of Colorado and all the genres were fitting for the Denver community. The first group up was Kinky Fingers, a four piece band that floated between country jams, soul, and surf rock and somehow made it work. Next up was Reason the Citizen, a local Denver boy raised in SoCal, and honestly one of the freshest hip-hop artists I’ve heard in years. For a live hip-hop show he was fun, on point with his rhymes and timing, great recognizable beats under his own words, and plenty of energy to give to the crowd—all 30 of us in front of the stage. Seriously check this guy out, he’s way better than Chief Keef who had headlined SoTB (I really hated that show, seriously it was terrible.) The third act was Rapidgrass and their name is pretty apt. An arm in arm, jump around, good time of bluegrass. They even wrote their own song about how terrible I-70 is on a powder day. If that doesn’t say, “I’m a local dedicated skier in Colorado,” I don’t know what else to tell ya. Two thumbs up for these dudes.
Finally the night ended with a DJ set from Neon Indian. The jams were mostly house style and better fit for a club or a crowd of 3,000, there was about 75 people left at this point. By the time he went on at 9pm, the temperature had dropped to around 40 degrees, the crowd had dispersed, and most regrettably, the beer had run out. All in all the music was solid but if there is anything Shred Fest could learn from this they should save their money on “big” names and continue to bring in live local bands. We may not know who they are but as long as the music is good, you’ll find us dancing.
During the earlier portions of Shred Fest there was a lumberjack contest between Colorado Springs University and Montana University. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen logging at a snowboarding event but it fit strangely well. Watching a team cut a log down as fast as they can with a giant saw in person or hucking axes 15 yards at at bulls eye is much more exciting than it sounds, especially with a cheering crowd. DO NOT TRY AT HOME! But if you want to all you need is an axe and a target, preferably a piece of wood. The contest was a cool change of pace and mixed with beer, all the more enjoyable (no one was drinking and throwing axes, I think.)
Of course the staple portion of any shred festival is the rail jam. Shred Fest was no exception here and probably learned a very important lesson about early season rail jams, always bring as much snow as possible. The rail jam was initially scheduled for earlier but was pushed back, I assume, because of a beaming sun. Fortunately the air wasn’t too warm down in Denver or else it would have probably been a one round free-for-all until the snow was gone. The 1st round began around 5:30pm after the Kinky Fingers played. The feature setup was a simple four piece jam: a down-flat rail, a pole jam, a flat-down rail, and a bridged wall ride at the bottom. Compared to SotB, this was a mellow rail jam but was far more inviting for riders. At SotB we had become familiar with features that meant life or death, the skills required were of pros who can wager their career on a big paycheck.
At Shred Fest we got to enjoy cheering on our friends and local shredders from around the county. The speed during the day was a tad slow but by night during the finals the riders had no problem putting down tricks they were looking for earlier. As cool as it is to see your favorite pro rider throw down on the stage in front of you, it’s always more fun cheering on your friends. After the finals we got to enjoy Nightmare’s new movie “Nightmerica.” Incredibly it was on a screen that was perfectly visible outdoors. Somehow SotB continued to have the worst outdoor screens every year for their movie premiers so this is a great win for Shred Fest. During the day Disconnect was also playing on an endless loop. More movies could have probably played throughout the day but we’ll leave that on the side for now.
Overall Shred Fest was a small but successful festival. Compared to SotB, Shred fest felt friendly, approachable, and community driven. A lot of things were done right like food, beer, and live music. The rail jam was great but next time just bring more snow, much more snow. The biggest flaw to the event was the scheduling. Shred Fest technically kicked off at 2pm and ended around 10pm but very few people were left by 9pm. The beer and food ran out around 8pm and it was pretty cold by 9. If the event shifted back to a start time around 1pm, knocked out out their headliner DJ for a headliner film, and planned on ending the event around 7pm more people would still be around and they could probably save some money for that extra snow or more beer. I’m excited to see if they come back next year and plan things a little differently.
Official Rating: 3.5 Angry Snowboarders out of 5