Archived Outdoors

‘EPIC’: First-ever rail jam at Cataloochee attracts 50 competitors

out frBy Lindsay Wertz • Correspondent

After hours of work and preparation, six terrain elements sparkled imposingly under the lights on Cataloochee Ski Area’s Rabbit Hill Run last Friday night in preparation for the inaugural Cat Cage Rail Jam.

The Maggie Valley’s resort first-ever rail jam — where boarders and skiers do as many freestyle rail tricks as possible during an allotted time frame — attracted more than 50 competitors of all ages and skill levels. The rails and boxes were arranged by skill level and resembled features used in the popular X Games.  


 After a brief warm-up period on a night where temperatures were around 35 degrees, competitors gathered at the top of the slope. Terrain Park and Lift Manager Travis Simmons went over the format of the competition. Their collective gaze riveted on the crest of the slope, supportive friends and family watched the contestants emerge with a shotgun start to begin the first 45-minute freestyle jam session.  

Seated off to the left of the terrain park elements, judges Alex Gragg, Jared Lee and Ben Sutton immediately began scribbling down bib numbers of the contenders performing the most impressive moves. Some riders paraded their aerial tricks and shredding skills with precision while others careened wildly off to the side of the rails.  

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As the first heat came to a close, the three judges narrowed the field of snowboarders to their 15 favorites. Because of the limited number of entries, all skiers and women riders made it into the finals.  

Halfway through the final heat, a handful of riders began to overshadow the field. A 10-minute warning blast let riders know their time was almost up, and DJ Side Three helped amp the spectators who cheered loudly as competitors threw out one gravity-defying stunt after another in a last chance to impress the judges.  

Awaiting the judges’ final tally after the jam ended, camaraderie flourished and high-fives were exchanged as competitors recapped their performances and congratulated one another.

“It was an epic experience, long overdue,” said Jared Lee after he deliberating with his fellow judges. 

Finally, Simmons appeared at the DJ booth with the results. Cory Haberstock took home the title, the winner in the men’s snowboarding competition. With the title came a Scott Stevens CAPiTA snowboard.

“I love snowboarding. Being with all my friends and hanging out up here is my favorite thing about Cat. Big thanks to Travis, Luke, the Cat Cage guys and everyone,” said Haberstock.

Sean Panella came away with second place and a set of Union bindings. Third place and a pair of DC Rogan boots went to Colby Baker. Panella said that his best trick of the night was a “Front Blunt 270,” while Baker said his favorite feature was the “Donkey Kinked Rail.”

   In the men’s skier category, Aaron Riedal’s “Blind Swap 270” made enough of a splash with the judges to secure him the win. Sydney Shoulhofer won the women snowboarders’ division and Nico Pipitone triumphed for the under-14 snowboarders.

Sydney Lankford took first place in women’s skiing.

“Being that it was the first jam and that it was brought together so quickly, hopefully it will bring some publicity to the mountain. We would love to have some more women skiers and riders out here next time,” Lankford said.  

Cataloochee Ski Area staff faced a major time crunch in planning, promoting, getting sponsors, and building rails and boxes. In only two weeks, they put Cataloochee on the terrain park map. Simmons was thrilled about the outcome.

“It was a great success, the conditions were excellent, and we are looking forward to our next one,” he said, throwing out kudos to General Manager Chris Bates and to the entire park and lift crew for digging out snow for rails and building ramps.

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