UVM SSC’s “Pipe Dreams:” Behind the scenes


Sophia Balunek

UVM Ski and Snowboard Club hosted “Pipe Dreams” Jan. 27, drawing a large and energetic crowd.

Keagan Lafferty, Culture Staff Writer

Cheers erupted from the crowd as the first competitor executed a perfect board slide along a down-flat-down rail before jumping onto a barrel roll. The air filled with chatter, laughter and excitement for the thrilling night that lay ahead.

Skiers, snowboarders and a massive crowd gathered to begin what would be an unforgettable, electrifying event. This is “Pipe Dreams,” the Ski and Snowboard Club’s rail jam.

The club hosted the rail jam outside the Davis Center on UVM’s Central campus Jan. 27. The setup included several features, including a long down-flat-down rail, a large tube, a medium sized flat rail, a barrel roll and a tree built up as a natural feature. 

At the bottom of the course was a giant blow-up Red Bull arch, its vibrant colors and exceptional size easily capturing the eye of anyone in the area. A large table was set up at the bottom of the course, covered in free merchandise from iconic outdoor adventure brands, including Skida, Burton, Ski The East, LINE, 4FRNT, J Skis and more. 

The event included three rounds, in which competitors continuously rode the course. There were several judges who determined scores based on tricks, technique, style, control and overall skill and performance. As each round progressed, competitors were cut until a select few remained for the final qualifying round. 

Three winners were chosen for each category. The categories are based on gender and whether they are skiing or snowboarding. Winners receive prizes from sponsors, notably new skis or a new snowboard, as well as smaller merchandise.

SSC takes pride in its success, being the largest collegiate ski and snowboard club in the nation, and with this popularity comes immense opportunity. 

SSC’s rail jams provide a unique experience for skiers and boarders in the community and for students spectating the events, as well as sponsors and the club itself. 

While each element is meticulously set up to provide an ideal run for any skier or snowboarder who thrives in the terrain park setting, the preparation is a long process.

Senior Jake Morris and sophomore Sarah Shipman, the event coordinators for SSC, are in charge of planning all of the events for the club, the biggest being the rail jam. 

“The position involves lots of organization and multitasking,” Shipman said. 

Morris said they start rail jam preparation two to three months in advance.

First, they reach out to the University to figure out where and when the event will take place. SSC’s sponsorship officers then reach out to sponsors to get prizes for the event and merchandise to toss to crowd members. 

“We contact all our sponsors and everyone who’s providing infrastructure,” Morris said. “Then we sort out legal work, get all involved parties to sign contracts and certificates of insurance. Then we can go into actual planning, thinking about what we want the event to look like.” 

Morris says the most difficult part of planning a rail jam is having to work through the legal frameworks of the event. It takes lots of coordination, filing paperwork and contacting outside sources for the event to unfold properly. 

“The most difficult part of prep is that something will always go wrong, so you have to just prepare for that,” Shipman said. “And you can’t satisfy everyone. It’s about finding the most good for the most people.”

Shipman and Morris are also in charge of attaining rails for the event and planning the physical setup. 

“This is only our second year doing the rail jam fully on our own without a mountain partnership,” Shipman said. “[The resorts] used to help set up the rails and everything, now we do it on our own so we have to make our team bigger and think more in advance about that.” 

Once everything is planned, the two reach out to other officers and ambassadors to help with set-up.

“Many hands make light work,” Shipman said. “We couldn’t do it without everyone, it takes a lot of people.”

There are two roles in the Ski and Snowboard Club—officers, who have specific positions that work on every aspect of club coordination, and ambassadors, who help promote the club, increase member engagement and help out the officers with any extra tasks.

Setup for rail jam in the week prior to the event is the most significant part of the ambassadors’ jobs. Leading up to the event, ambassadors spend almost every night of the week shoveling snow for three to four hours. 

Ambassador Lauren Raved, a junior, spent hours working with SSC to set up rail jam. Setting up takes a lot of work, but they have fun while doing it, Raved said.

“My favorite part of the rail jams is seeing the crowd alive and everyone together,” Raved said. 

Skiing competitor Amblen Isenhour, a first-year, showed up to the rail jam early to help with setup. 

“I got here early partly to see what I was working with, and to meet people in the community and to get excited,” Isenhour said.

A certain number of spots in the rail jam are reserved for members of the freestyle ski team and the snowboard team, while the rest are given to other students. Since Isenhour isn’t on the ski team, he likes that the rail jam brings people together besides only team members. 

“We’re all united over skiing,” Isenhour said. “I love park skiing, and I think it’s fun to be with people who enjoy the same thing.”

Snowboard competitor Mark Noh, a first-year, is an active member of UVM’s snowboard team, and he showed up early for the event to help with setup. 

“Rail jam is a great bonding opportunity for the snowboard team,” Noh said. “We don’t treat it as a competition, it’s more just all the homies coming out and having a good time.”

Snowboard competitor Logan Skinner, a sophomore, is also on the snowboard team, and was vibrant with excitement during the event. 

“I’m feeling super stoked for these finals,” Skinner said. “I can’t wait to ride more on the set, the setup was honestly amazing. Seeing all my friends out here is such an inspiration.”

SSC’s rail jams require tons of hard work and coordination, but the final product is well worth the intense preparation. 

“We just try to have as much fun as we can, and getting people out here on campus to have a rail jam is awesome regardless of the amount of work it takes,” Shipman said. “It’s always worth it and we appreciate everyone’s support.”