Craig Coker’s 2011 War of Rails: Results, Recap, Video and Photos
I've been to a lot of rail jams in my day, and nothing quite compares to Craig Coker's 2011 War of Rails.
I arrived in Ontario, CA on Thursday with Luke Van Valin and Gus Kenworthy; we made our way up to the mountain-side ski cabin that Craig had so graciously rented out for us. With a slew of competitors, media, friends, and family coming into town for the big weekend, Craig, in fact, had rented out just about every house in the whole city to accommodate everybody.
On Friday, we headed up to the hill to check out the venue. Snow cats and park crew were hard at work putting the finishing touches on what looked to be one heck of a setup. Many familiar faces were at morning registration, and I was not surprised to see some that some of the heaviest hitters in the game had made the journey up to Bear. An $8,000 first place prize is evidently a solid lure. The buzz amongst the gang was contagious; everyone speculated that a feature like this was bound to inspire some serious trickery.
The positive energy was slightly dampened, however, as a massive snow storm rolled into the hills on Friday evening. The forecast was grim, and all we could do was hope for the best as we packed it in for the night.
Looking down at the main feature.
The scene outside of my bedroom window on Saturday morning was troublesome. More than two feet of snow had accumulated, and the storm showed no signs of letting up. I thought this was SoCal? (I know, I know, I'm complaining about epic pow. But come on, it's a rail jam, cut me some slack here.)
Nevertheless, we suited up and made our way up to the base of the mountain where the setup was located. The course had come to life overnight, but the large drifts of snow that had piled up disguised the true awesomeness of the setup. After some course maintenance, a practice session was held, and athletes struggled immediately with speed issues.
It didn't take long before Craig and his team of consultants decided to postpone the event until Sunday. To keep everyone entertained for the remainder of the day, Craig hosted a giant raffle in the base lodge. Skis, Kicker systems, tons of gear, tons of schwag — everyone was going nuts hoping to get their hands on some product. Craig, being the awesome dude that he is, donated the proceeds to eight-year-old Nigel Holland, a Big Bear local who is battling cancer. Nigel was on hand to meet the whole gang, and as a big ski-fan, he was thrilled to meet many of the competitors.
Although some people had reservations about bumping the event to Sunday, as there was no guarantee that the weather would improve, all I can say in hindsight is… boy, oh boy, was that a good decision.
I'm pretty OK with this.
Bluebird, warm, calm, freshly groomed snow — perfection. This was the Bear I knew and loved. Practice got underway bright and early, and the athletes were amped. Having briefly sessioned the features on Saturday, the competitors were able to give some feedback to the park crew; by go-time, all the small kinks had been worked out and the day was prepped for utter madness.
Practice gave way to a 30 minute jam session. Each competitor earned a score for each and every one of the features in the course; this ensured that each rider would have to display their skills on a variety of jib types. The lowest score from each round would be dropped, so it wasn't the end of the world if, let's say, for example, wall rides weren't your thing. Eager to advance to the semis, the scene during qualifiers can only be described as mayhem. Looking left, right, up, down, and behind, there were skiers everywhere.
Casabon gettin' those ups!
A little crowd pleasing for Sean Jordan.
Only twenty athletes would earn a spot in the semifinal, however, and once the crazy-qualies had concluded, the judges quickly announced who had advanced, and before we knew it the next round was underway. This time, the pace slowed slightly, but the ante upped tremendously. We saw big spins and flips on to, and off of all the features. We saw insane wall rides, hand plants, switch ups, disasters, transfers… you get the idea. To put it simply, the level of riding was absolutely mind-boggling.
What was most impressive was the consistency with which the athletes were stomping their tricks. Rodeo 450 disasters to the flat-down rail were looking like a-walk-in-the-park-status for many of the guys. Despite the high-level of riding from each and every one of the athletes in semis, only 10 (+2 wild cards) would advance once time had expired.
Khai Krepela gettin' tricky with it.
A break between semis and finals allowed for riders and spectators to take some hot-laps on Bear (which, if you're unfamiliar with the resort, is one of the funnest things you'll ever do on skis — jibs are everywhere), and also to enjoy some epic BBQ action on the patio of the Beach Bar. At this point, a throng of Cali locals had gathered at the base to check out the action; a live DJ was churning out tunes, and the party was bumpin' by the time athletes made their way to the top of the course for the start of finals.
Your finalists: Spencer Milbocker, McRae Williams, Giray Dadali, Tosh Peters, Phil Casabon, Gus Kenworthy, Karl Fostvedt, John Kutcher, Kolby Ward, Khai Krepela, Sean Jordan, and Casey Kruger.
Khai Krepela and McRae Williams getting their bonk on.
Jeff Kiesel grabs tail.
The group of twelve had forty-five minutes to slay the course — and slay they did. Working their way from feature to feature, the boys stepped it up to an entirely different level. Each rider laid down a solid trick on one feature, and then moved on to the next. The goal: to earn the most possible points in the time allotted. All the while, riders took a break from the metal (and wood) to catch some air on the jumps, and to transfer over the channel gap. The jumping aspect of the event was all about crowd pleasing, and maxing out the fun-meter.
Craig Coker, and the Olenick bros.
When it was all said and done, Phil Casabon, Spencer Milbocker, and McRae williams came out on top. Throughout each and every round, these three lads consistently performed tricks of jaw-dropping magnitude. Time and time again, spectators could be seen standing with their arms out, in that sort of questioning way, wondering, "how?"
Spencer Milbocker, McRae Williams & Phil Casabon
In all my years of rail jamming, the 2011 War of Rails ranks at the top of the list. The perfect weather on game-day, the progressive feature, the level of riding, the overall kick-ass atmosphere, and the gracious hospitality from the Coker family — it was certainly one for the scrap book.
I'm hoping Craig will announce dates soon for his third annual event, because I'd like to pen (not pencil) this one into my calendar ASAP.
1st McRae Williams
2nd Spencer Milbocker
3rd Phil Casabon
4th Gus Kenworthy
5th Sean Jordan
6th Karl Fostvedt
7th John Kutcher
8th Casey Krueger
9th Kolby Ward
10th Tosh Peters
11th Khai Krepela
12th Giray Dadali
About the author:
Henrik Lampert loves hot dogs, the Boston Bruins and Norway. He's the Online Editor here at Freeskier.