Today, under a bright California sun, forty athletes attacked a spectacular rail setup at the base of Bear Mountain. With $30,000 on the line ($15,000 going to the winner) competitors went all out, pushing the limits in the hopes of taking home a chunk of the change. Today was war. War of Rails.
Following Friday’s qualifying action, the stage was set for an exciting showdown. On the docket: Two semifinal heats and the highly anticipated final. Twenty skiers advanced through yesterday’s prelim, and awaiting them today were 20 pre-qualified professionals—many of them recognized as some of the best jibbers in the game. The battle raged through three 30-minute jam sessions, and when the smoke settled, Utah’s LJ Strenio emerged victorious, with Colorado’s Pat Goodnough finishing second and Dale Talkington rounding out the podium in third.
The first semifinal round kicked off at noon. Skiers dropped into the course one at a time, many of them working to incorporate as many features as possible in the allotted 30 minutes. With so many options to choose from, however, tackling the entire course in half an hour was no easy task.
To give you an idea of just how impressive this year’s WOR setup is, we tap into yesterday’s recap for a quote from John Kutcher: “Last year, we thought the course was crazy,” he said. “Then we showed up this year—and you can sort of see last year’s setup hidden inside this year’s—but it’s a whole new beast… It’s like the beast ate last year’s setup, then ate a bunch of new rails, and puked it all out into one big awesome pile.”
Meanwhile, just a snowball’s throw away, spectators enjoyed life on the sundeck outside Bear’s base lodge. Monster Energy erected a sizable scaffolding-lounge, designated for VIP, and this was the spot to be. Beer flowed (so too did the “Rum and Coker” special) hot dogs sizzled on the grill, shirts came off, a team of stunning Monster Energy models flirted with those in attendance, and all the while folks enjoyed front row seats to the big show.
With the conclusion of the second semifinal, MC’s Luke Van Valin and Reed Speedman announced the fifteen finalists: Pat Goodnough, Khai Krepela, Sean Jordan, Dale Talkington, Tim Gage, Keegan Kilbride, Sandy Boville, Maximilliam Smith, Brendan Trieb, Shay Lee, Hugo Pelletier, LJ Strenio, Dominic Laporte, Karl Fostvedt and Kyle Smaine.
At 2:45 this afternoon, those fifteen put on a show that Big Bear won’t soon forget. Throughout the 30-minute final, we saw dozens of impressive tricks. With each stomp came a roar of applause from the masses assembled on the patio. Snowmobiles shuttled competitors to the top of the course, ensuring each athlete had ample opportunity to impress the judges.
2013 War of Rails: Speaking with LJ Strenio, Pat Goodnough and Dale Talkington
Third place finisher Dale Talkington earned high marks with stunts including cork 5s and 7s onto the massive wallride, a disaster 270 onto the down-flat-down and a cork 630 and 810 off one of the cannon rails. Runner-up Pat Goodnough skied his way into the judges’ hearts with a handful of insane trickery including a lipslide 270, pretzel 270 out of the gap-to-down, and a switch 630 onto the same feature.
Taking top spot was none other than LJ Strenio, whose performance today was certainly worthy of the “standout” designation. LJ stomped a variety of impressive stunts including a misty 450 out of the “U-tube,” a blind 810 tail off the cannon, a back 450 on the cannon-to-wallride feature and a switch 270 on, pretzel 270 out of the intimidating goalpost rail. Most memorable of all? LJ sent a lofty double flip up and over the table top; the stunt earning the loudest applause of the day from the peanut gallery and seemingly sealed the deal on his victory. Despite having stomped a handful of top-notch tricks, LJ felt he was just getting underway as the whistle blew. “Dude, we need, like, 20 more minutes,” he exclaimed. “I’ve got so many more things I want to do.”
A short while later, LJ was called to the top of the podium. To say he was enthused following the announcement would be a drastic understatement. He sprinted to the podium. In fact, I’ve never seen anyone so thrilled to win an event. Hootin’ and hollerin’, his excitement was comical.
And while only three would enjoy a moment on the podium today, each of the 15 finalists is to be credited with amazing performance. It was one heck of a show.
As I conclude, I must give thanks to Mr. Craig Coker for hosting yet another fantastic event—this being the fourth annual War of Rails. The chatter among athletes, industry attendees and spectators alike shuffles from the quality of the course design, to the impressive skiing performance of the athletes, to the beautiful SoCal weather, to the convenience of the venue—allowing spectators to party hard whilst enjoying the contest—and so on. The consensus: It’s a joy to be a part of this event.
Stay tuned for video highlights from the contest. See photos from 2013 War of Rails, day one.