words: Mary Walsh and Garrett Warnick
photos: Ryan “Huggy” Hughes, Mike Yoshida, E-Stone, T. Bird, and Aaron Blatt
Early Tuesday morning, a slew of young snowboarders wiped crust from their eyes, pulled on snowboard socks, and looked out to graybird skies and colder-than-expected temperatures. Overnight the mercury had dropped, allowing the Seven Springs Park Crew, led by Joel Rerko and Park Manager Jeremy Anderson, to groom the massive jumpline and hip plaza to perfection in preparation for the slew of shreds. As breakfast was consumed and boots were tied, Mother Nature smiled upon western Pennsylvania and removed all traces of clouds from the sky, opening up the kind of bluebird weather that you usually only see using the LoFi filter on Instagram. Day 3 of The Launch 2014 was on.
The morning began with laps on the upper rail section and through the superpipe. Spencer Schubert, Zak Hale, and Hunter Wood made the technical look casual and Mike Ravelson was pushing his ever-creative snowboarding even further with tricks on a snow curb and closeout rail. Groms Justin Phipps, Miles Fallon, and Luke Winkelmann were finding unique lines through the park.
The jumps were on tap to be tackled midday, as the ropes dropped at noon for warm up laps prior to The Launch webcast at 1pm. The temps rose to just shy of 70 degrees and a few dozen riders were poised at the drop in waiting for the radio signal to huck themselves off first the butter pad, then the first jump, and finally the massive behemoth booter at the base of Springs. When asked for three words to describe the session, The Launch 2013 Standout Nils Mindnich stated stoically, "My. Balls. Dropped." But though the jump may have taken massive confidence to drop into, Sam Taxwood, Nils Mindnich, Garrett Warnick Chris DePaula, Jacob Krugmire, Nik Baden, and more showed no hesitation chucking themselves from take off to landing. Hans Mindnich threw a mental back rodeo three. Ben Ferguson and Taylor Gold remained standouts on the features and Grant Giller sent a helmeted yet shirtless backflip to provide proper closure to the session. Describing the tricks wouldn't do the scale of the jump and considerable technicality any justice, so make sure to watch The Launch Day 3 video to see what went down.
As the afternoon went on and the sun continued to beat down—worth nothing that the Seven Springs Park Crew did an amazing job keeping the lane salted and riding quick—riders again lapped the upper rails and pipe. As the sun began to set, a group of riders gathered on the deck of the superpipe in preparation for a sunset shoot on the hip. Again, the size of this monsterous 70-footer was just short of massive and the gap from take off to transition required no misjudging of speed or line. And once again, this group of up-and-coming snowboarders showed why the next generation is ready to ascend into the ranks of the pros. Seamus O'Connor was sending it and nailed a picture-perfect crail. Chase Josey was on point, proving his comfort on transition outside the confines of the halfpipe. Garrett Warnick brought his unique skate-influenced style to the hip and Nik Baden was sending it to the sky, though a disaster to the coping broke his board down the center, ending his runs prematurely. Much of The SNOWBOARDER Movie: Foreword crew are in town for The Launch; Sam Taxwood was boosting some of the biggest airs of the day, along with Hans Mindnich. Nils Mindnich, who is always at home on a proper hip, was stoking out onlookers with textbook style. While every rider that dropped in was showcasing insane ability, Ben Ferguson, the first to drop, was a definite standout, sending a lofty method down perfectly to the end of the tranny on his final hit. "Ben Ferguson destroys the Launch yet again for the seventh year in a row," said Taxwood. "Everyone was ripping. Everyone was killing it. Ferg's just standout at this point." Continued Nils, "Ferguson is a damn good snowboarder and he's got a frickin' good method." If you want a sneakpeek of this session-ending trick, there's about twenty different angles currently on Instagram, just search #TheLaunch2014.
With that, Day 3 of The Launch 2014 was a wrap and all of the sun-soaked snowboarders headed into the Seven Springs baselodge to relax and review the day's highlights. There's still plenty more where this came from though, with one more day to log tricks and snap shots and two more recap videos to go.
At the end of the evening, Garrett “Worm” Warnick came up to our crew of happily weary editorialists and wanted to offer up his take on Day 3 of The Launch. Take it away, Worm.
*With a long Day 3 in the books I can’t tell you how good it feels to kick back and drink a soda in the mountain hotel. Today was by far the most intense riding that we have seen at this year’s Launch. As soon as the webcast started, the kids went to work on the two massive jumps. The slight headwind and low light only added to mayhem of the session. Sam Taxwood was in full swing today rocking his signature white jeans and tweaking tuck knee 900’s to the fullest extent. Launch standout alumni Hans and Nils Mindnich were destroying the jumps with a variety of stylish tricks. Ben Ferguson was also at the forefront of the pack doing insane switch back fives and textbook methods. After a lunch break the clouds cleared and the riders started to eye the hip. Ben Ferguson was the first to hit it and quickly after him the pack followed. Highlights from the hip include Ferguson’s 20+ foot methods, the Mindnichs’ hip mastery, Staxwood’s tuck knees and Brock Crouch’s tail grabs. At the end of the day it was all eyes on Ben Ferguson as he set the hip record with a massive method. He was happy to call it wrap and start smelling his glove after that one. Everyone killed it at The Launch today and I’m excited to see what tomorrow has is store for us.”