Snowboard on the Block took place in a new location with a new rail jam set-up and a new 2 day format. There were new drinks to choose from and new faces to see. With all this new-ness going on it was easy to be excited for the event; snowboard stoke level off the charts!
Another new thing introduced to the event was a hefty change in prices of items. Now for those of us who got in with a media pass it was a little tough to relate to those who had to drop $50 (or more for a VIP) on a ticket. Beer choice was high in quality, Sierra Nevada, but at a whopping $7 per can and no other option our wallets felt the pain. Assuming you are among the average person who likes to drink beer, you can probably consume about 4 a day. Maybe you go for well drinks instead but those also ran $7 and up since the “well” drinks involved higher quality spirits. Free Monster and Suja juice were the best options for the local ski bum freeloader. Anyway, simple math will tell you that you just spent $100 or more on two days of a small festival before any tips or food. Yes these high price high quality options made life a little more sober at the festival but it was still a good time, right?
Well let me break it down for you day by day.
I arrive early to retrieve my media pass and check out the venue. A long line greets me and upon further investigation it is caused by a computer malfunction not letting anyone in. By the time things get rolling the event is 30 or so minutes behind schedule. First thing I take note of is the new venue, Sculpture Park.
The grass on the ground is a massive upgrade from the concrete curbs we’re all familiar with from previous years. The lawn was inviting for anyone who simply wanted to lay a blanket down, have a drink, and enjoy some movies and music outside. Food trucks and gear vendors lined the outside of the park and underneath the massive stick figure centerpiece lay a bar, classy. I head over to Jones Theater, the indoor screening area, to check out some movies. Again the timing of the event is off now so no one really knows when a movie starts or if there was any reordering that took place. The theater is a little compact but carpet and comfy seating is another big upgrade from metal chairs and solid ground. I manage to catch half of the Method Mag movie before heading back out into the sun.
I go check out the Van Doren Pro Jam set up and it is definitely an upgrade from the previous years. The features are bigger, better, and cleaner looking: two down rails, two kinked rails, and one closed-out platform. The setup is reminiscent of the rail jams I have seen in other parts of the world, possibly becoming a “pro” standard. The sun continues to fall over the horizon as the first outdoor movies start rolling. The outdoor screen still sucks but the angle of the screen and the sun allowed for better viewing than last year and got better as the sun went down. To fix the issue they just need to drop black tarps on the sides of the stage to keep the sun from spilling in. Again, the grassy park allowed for quality viewing from back to front, the ground even rising in the back creating natural stadium style seating.
Mimosa was first up on the list of music. There were fans of his hard style electronic music, I was not one of them. Actually about 3/4 of the crowd didn’t really care. Unfortunately he was the only option to watch at the time as the indoor movies were over. The Snowboarder Movie Resolution followed and then the headliner for day 1, Chief Keef. I’m sure his music also has fans. I, again, was not one of them. A lot of people tried to get excited for the show by at least getting involved in the crowd but it was bad, so bad. Maybe I’m too old for it but I feel like I know rap, at least decent rap but this was exceptionally awful. His words were unintelligible, his crew just yelling nonsense into microphones, water spraying everywhere, the inner crowd jumping and chanting while the outer crowd stood looking as perplexed as Hillary does standing next to Trump at a presidential debate. The enthusiasm was there but the talent was lacking. You couldn’t pay me to go watch Chief Keef ever again!
We left day 1 with a bitter taste in our mouth but nearby food stop Sam’s #3 saved the day. We ordered their famous chili on some hot dogs and mixed with mac n’ cheese as a dip. It was delicious. I could write a review on this place alone but it has nothing to do with Snowboard on the Block so I will move on.
Things started much smoother on the second day. I strolled into the park and the sun was beaming down at a solid 80 degrees. I’m sure pushing back the festival by one month came with the idea that it would be cooler and easier to make snow for the rail jam but Mother Nature does not care. I went over to check out how the rails were holding up. There were many snow sculptors and a single snow blower making the magic happen. Things were starting to look good so I went to grab a drink and watch some movies until competition time. A couple hours and a fresh bought pair of gloves later it was time to head over to the rail jam and watch the bodies fly. Based on how things started I expected to see a clean snow base covering all the wood and cheese grater stairs with a smooth drawn out landing. I was very wrong.
The set up looked like something out of a Mad Max movie with all the metal and wood still very visible. The landing was a mere couple inches of snow and flat. Now I don’t know if the plan was to keep the snow minimal or if they were short on ice by about 50 tons. Those of us on the ground discussed the situation at hand preparing for the worst: someone breaking a leg, face getting dragged across a metal staircase, or simply a cancellation of the event. But the show must go on! In true professional fashion, the riders stepped up to the rails and made things look smooth as ever. There were some big slams but no one was injured beyond needing a quick breather. Dylan Alito and Jaeger Bailey were quick to stomp some big tricks but it was Jesse Paul who landed some of the most creative and clean moves by the end. One of those tricks from Jesse included about a 15ft ollie to flat. Extra kudos to local hero of Summit County Alex Martin for earning a spot with the big boys and throwing down in the rail jam. It’s one thing to compete in a rail jam, another to do it with the pros of jibbing, and another much bigger thing to do it on a giant sketchy set-up risking your entire season for a moment of glory. After all was said and done the riders and spectators were pretty relieved to be past the rail jam and move on to calmly sitting and enjoying music and movies.
The outdoor movies continued to run until we got to musical act 1 for night 2, Afroman. Now I expected the usual songs to be played like “Colt 45” and “Because I got high” but I didn’t expect Afroman to be such a good entertainer. He was jamming on his guitar, cracking jokes, and chugging a Colt 45 throughout the show. More importantly I could understand all of his rapping and sing along. It was a great show and tons of people were involved, pillars of smoke rising through the crowd, we all had a real..gooddd…timeeee, ya mannnn. Next was Union’s movie STRONGER and then the grand finale with Wolfmother. I was far more familiar with this band than any of the other musical acts and genuinely excited to see them perform. These dudes killed it on stage hitting crowd favorites like “Woman,” “Joker and the Thief,” and as an encore “Colossal.” The energy on stage could be felt in the crowd as a mosh pit began to take over. Wolfmother shredded, people sang and danced, it was a great finish to Snowboard on the Block.
Snowboard on the Block like every year had its ups and downs, unfortunately more downs. Now I loved the venue, that is the biggest improvement from the years before. The event definitely does not need a 2 day format though. It did allow for a better movie schedule layout but most of the movies played on both days. Just have a list of some movies on repeat inside the Jones Theater and things will be fine. Then play the major movies outside after the sunsets. Most of us are fine sitting inside all day watching snowboard movies, that’s our choice so please give us that choice. Also, stop playing movies outside when the sun is up as the screen is hardly visible until later. Use this time to have fun events or cheaper local bands and the rail jam. Oh and the rail jam, try and be a little more prepared when it comes to the snow. These riders are pro which means they can deal with a poor setup but no one, spectator and rider, should have to contemplate life and death while staring at rigid bare metal and splintered wood edges.
Both of the musical acts from day 1 were average to awful, drop those 2 and save money for just 2 big acts. Wolfmother and Afroman were amazing and hit the Denver, Colorado, and snowboard scene properly. I will once again state picking any rock and punk is a good choice over rap, specifically anything from the Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtracks. I know a lot of my snowboard savvy friends avoided the event on price alone so eliminating one day and 2 musical acts should save plenty of money. Also the option to drink a $2 PBR would be a great addition next to the $7 Sierra Nevada. Overall, things could have gone smoother and been cheaper. Snowboard on the Block is becoming more of a festival with snowboarding than a festival of snowboarding and I am curious to see how next year goes. If things are looking the same, especially the price tag, we call all agree you won’t see many snowboarders at the event.