Last Update: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 @ 2:45 p.m. MT — Video embedded at bottom of page.
Sun Valley Resort's Dollar Mountain played host to the first ever Tom Wallisch Fantasy Feature Competition yesterday afternoon, drawing competitors and spectators from all corners of Idaho, and beyond.
The event kicked off in mid-December as Scott reached out to the public in search of creative park feature designs, the best of which would be built by Sun Valley Resort's Park Crew and sessioned on competition day. Those who wished to submit a design were able to utilize a list of jibs provided by Sun Valley Resort (SVR)—the available jibs being those currently a part of its arsenal. After receiving myriad submissions, Wallisch—along with staff at Scott and SVR—narrowed the field and ultimately selected a design drafted by 24-year-old Patrick Sullivan of Gunnison, CO.
For his efforts, Sullivan was extended an invitation to Sun Valley to partake in the event, or if he preferred, to join on the sidelines. Unfortunately, Sullivan separated his shoulder early this week and was unable to make the journey. Sullivan will instead be rewarded with a slew of Scott product.
Despite his absence, Sullivan expressed his thanks to the staff at Scott via e-mail. He wrote, "Thanks for choosing my design, I'm really stoked you all liked it enough to choose it as the winner. I can't wait to see it built and skied by the best."
Down the line at Dollar Mountain.
Having selected the winning design, the SVR Park Crew set to work. Dollar Mountain, secluded from the other ski area here at Sun Valley—Baldy, as it's called—is home to SVR's terrain parks. Dollar boasts a fast lap time, impressive features and a youthful vibe. That being said, it's the ideal venue for an event like the Wallisch Fantasy Feature Competition.
Nearly 60 competitors arrived at the open registration and signed up to partake in the action. Countless others journeyed to the hill simply to watch, or for a chance to meet Mr. Wallisch. The show kicked off at 10:00 a.m. with an autograph session. Tom received a rigorous hand workout, often signing multiple autographs for many of the kids. It was not uncommon to see a child reach the front of the line, receive an autographed poster, and return to the back of the line only to cycle through repeatedly for an autograph on a helmet, then a jacket, then a ski pass, and then an underlayer, etc.
In the late morning, the autograph session transitioned into an hour of full mountain lapping. This time block allowed the skiers to warm up before competing, but more importantly it gave them an opportunity to ski with Wallisch—a hero to many—in a relaxed setting. Whilst the gang lapped the hill, many of the youngsters expressed their excitement at the chance to ski with Wallisch. One individual by the name of George (9-years-old and a local to Sun Valley) exclaimed, "Tom is the best. It's so awesome to ski with him. I have, like, 40 pictures of him on my wall."
At 1:00 p.m., competitors gathered at the site of Sullivan's feature—the jib pipe, as it came to be called. Tom briefed the group on the rules of the contest: Athletes would showcase their skill during an open jam session which would last an hour and a half. Following the jam, 15 competitors would advance to the finals—five from the men's group, five from the under-12 group, and five from the women's group. The finalists would then have two runs to impress Tom and fellow skier John Kutcher, who would serve as the head judges.
Competitors line up to receive autographs from Wallisch.
Topher Plimpton, Scott's Wintersport Marketing Team Manager, was thrilled to see the event come to fruition. Plimpton remarked, "This first started in early October when we sat down with [Brian] Callaghan [Sun Valley's Terrain Park Manager] to collaborate on some cool ideas, think of some cool events and get the local crowd involved. Callaghan thought of this 'design a feature idea,' and Tom was totally down and willing to work with us. We ran the online contest, picked a winner, and the SVR crew was incredible in terms of making this a reality. It's great to see this go down right now and to see so many stoked kids."
Callahan shared Plimpton's excitement, noting, "Patrick Sullivan sent us a sick sketch of this jib-pipe, and our rendering is almost exactly what Sullivan had drafted up. It's an eight-foot ditch ramp with rails on top that you can find tranny's galore on, and hit all kinds of different ways. It took us five days, working 12-hour days, just to get the pipe shape in here. It took a quarter mile of chain sawing to make all the cheese wedges all wedged out. The rail installation took us two days, too. The terrain park crew killed it, the kids came out, they're going to throw down their best, Tom is having a blast, and it's a great day. Really excited to have Tom here, and hope this is something we can continue to do every single year."
Competitors atop the course, waiting to drop.
The jam then kicked off and we were witness to total mayhem. The competitors dropped left and right, trying their best to find creative lines within the jib-pipe feature. Athletes dropped into one of two rails at the top of the course: a flat-down rail and a flat-up-flat rail. From there, they could hop into the pipe—the more popular choice—or continue along the deck of the pipe towards the bottom. Down below, competitors had a down rail on the left side of the pipe, and a couple of down boxes on the right side. The features could be hit straight-on, or also from the side (this would require skiers to air out of the pipe and to lock on to the rails from a sharp angle). A unique feature, it challenged competitors to think outside of the box and to be creative in their approach to the jam.
Once the group had charged through the course for an hour and a half, the horn sounded signaling the end of the jam. Wallisch and Kutcher then selected fifteen worthy competitors who would advance to the finals.
In the final round, athletes had two chances to lay down a solid run. The finals saw an assortment of switch-ups and spins off the various features. Nearly every finalist utilized the pipe, hopping from the upper rails into the transitions, and then carrying on to the lower set of features. A large crowd gathered alongside the course to cheer on the remaining few—loud roars errupting in appreciation of the most difficult manuevers.
An athlete sends a 450 disaster onto one of the lower boxes.
When it was all said and done, Wallisch and Kutcher nominated Jake Barrett from the men's group, Eli Roberts from the under-12 group, and Alexi Micinski from the women's group as the winners. Roberts impressed judges with his technical spins onto and off of the rail. Roberts displayed a tenacity and drive that was remarkable. Micinski earned her spot at the top with solid consistency, and an impressive 270 onto one of the boxes at the bottom of the pipe.
Barrett, 14-years-old from Boise, ID, exclaimed, "The setup they had up here was sick and everyone killed it. All the competitors were super stoked on it, and I'm super super stoked to take the win."
Wallisch himself said of the day, "The event went really well, we had a great turnout. It's a super cool scene here in Sun Valley, so it's a great place for us to do an event like this. I thought the feature itself turned out really cool, and it was awesome to be able to open things up to the public to design their own setups. We had a great time looking through a ton of really sweet designs once people had submitted everything."
Wallisch continued, "It's definitely a unique feature—what with the halfpipe shape in the middle and all—it's pretty different. It's hard to figure out a good line in a setup like this, so it's awesome to see the kids learn and experiment and try to figure out how to get the best possible lines. All in all, great event, everyone had a great time today, and it's awesome to stoke the kids out up here and be able to hit this setup with them. Stoked on the turnout, I had a lot of fun today."
Wallisch and the winners.
Following the finals, the winners were awarded copious amounts of Scott product, including skis, outerwear, goggles, poles and helmets. A raffle was also held, and many others thus received similar product.
With a successful event in the books, Wallisch and friends will now spend a couple of days exploring Sun Valley. Today, we're slated to explore Baldy—the aforementioned "other" ski area—in addition to a local hot spring. Our home for the weekend, the Sun Valley Lodge, also boasts a large outdoor skating rink and one of America's original bowling alleys. Surely, we'll take advantage of these amenities post-dinner.
2012 Tom Wallisch Fantasy Feature Competition Winners:
Men: Jake Barrett
Women: Alexi Micinski
Under-12 category: Eli Roberts
*Stay tuned as we'll update this post with additional photos.
Tom Wallisch Fantasy Feature Competition Video — by ESPN