Trails to Rails

A snowboarding competition with a 180 twist

On a September evening, about 70 students met at the Liberty University Snowflex Centre to try-out for a stunt snowboarding competition.

This was the beginning of the two-month training process for Liberty’s sixth annual Trails to Rails (T2R) competition, where students with little or no experience snowboarding would try-out tricks and compete for a prize.

“It takes some skill,” Isaac Gibson, a coach for one of the teams, said. “But it’s mostly being confident and just going for it.”

Ultimately, 25 students will compete. The competitors were chosen during the try-outs Sep. 16–17.

According to David Promnitz, the assistant director of the ski-school, the competitors were chosen by one of the five coaches. He said that, while picking their team, the coaches looked for confidence and the ability to follow directions.

Gibson said when picking members for his team, he looked for students who looked like they were having fun and not taking the try-outs too seriously.

“You could just see that they were enjoying being out there,” Gibson said.

Gibson said that T2Rs sparked his passion for snowboarding and that he wants the same for his team.

After try-outs, the teams were ready to hit the slopes and begin working on new tricks.

For the next two months, each team would meet once a week for an hourly practice. Some of the competitors would come up to practice in their own time.

“They’ve just been improving so much from where they started,” Brenden McHugh, one of the coaches said, “I see excitement from them getting a new trick, and that makes me excited.”

David Promnitz, the assistant director of the ski school and one of the T2R coaches, said this competition gives students the opportunity to learn how to snowboard and how build up the confidence to try new tricks and find a love for the sport.

“Our main goal with Trails to Rails is to build the snowboarder community,” Promnitz said.

Rick Rafferty, a competitor on McHugh’s team, said he had always wanted to learn how to snowboard, but never had the chance before T2R. When he first tried-out, he said he needed the Snowflex staff members to show him how to put on the bindings.

After six weeks of training, Rafferty said he could land a 270 from switch off a box, which is difficult because the rider approaches the feature facing the opposite direction of what they are used to. He was also able to hit a rail and said he is working on perfecting his landing on the new feature.

“At first it definitely scared me,” Rafferty said, “I fell on it a couple of time. It’s pretty painful… but I’m getting there.”

Gibson said one of the most rewarding parts about teaching is watching the members of his team develop a passion for snowboarding, and seeing their excitement when they achieve their goals each week.

“I think the best thing about teaching isn’t necessarily them learning specific tricks or learning the craziest tricks, but seeing them be successful in whatever it is they want to do with snowboarding,” Gibson said.

According to both Gibson and Promnitz, one of the hardest part about learning a trick is getting pass the fear of messing up.

Promnitz said that it is sometimes hard to overcome that fear, especially after messing it up once. With 14 years of experience, he knows what it is like to mess up on a trick.

“I’ve basically fallen in every which way you can think of, and so I know how bad it hurts to fall learning new trick,” Promnitz said, “It’s sometimes hard for me to push somebody into those situations where I know they can get hurt. But when they’ve finally overcome that everybody’s happy.”

Though only one team will take home the victory, there is something that all the competitors can take away from this. While 25 students are learning new tricks these students are also building friendships and becoming part a community that share a common passion.

“This is seriously the coolest thing going on in my life right now,” Rafferty said.

Follow this link to hear the comments of some this years trainers and competitors.

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