words: Mary Walsh
photos: Ryan “Huggy” Hughes, E-Stone, Mike Yoshida, T. Bird, and Aaron Blatt
captions: T. Bird
Springtime on the East Coast is a fickle beast. The old adage says that if you don't like the weather, just wait five minutes and this statement held true for SNOWBOARDER Magazine's The Launch 2014 presented by Volcom. This year at Seven Springs, a powder day kicked off the week, but transformed overnight as the thermostat rose to over 60 degrees for two days of bright blue skies. Just as the crew was getting used to the warm temperatures, the morning of Day 4 arrived socked in with fog and consistent rain. It wasn't a pretty start to the final day of the event, but as the morning wore on, once again Mother Nature shone down on Springs and cleared the sky. The 100+ riders, all under 21 years old, were undeterred by the meteorological happenings and it's a testament to the park crew at this western Pennsylvania mountain that the entire Launch build, from the Industrial Parkway rails to the enormous duo of jumps, as well as the halfpipe and channel hip plaza were kept in prime riding condition each and every day despite the onslaught of variable weather.
Each year, The Launch is built upon massive features that allow the under 21 set to push the boundaries of their snowboarding outside of a contest setting and it's impressive (to say the least) to watch snowboarders from twelve to twenty years old chuck themselves off enormous jumps, over giant hips, and onto consequential rails. But while a Ben Ferguson method, a Gabe Ferguson double cork, a Mindnich brothers hip session, a Seamus O’Connor crail, or the loose style of Sam Taxwood and the creativity of Garrett Warnick may represent some of the many highlights from the week, it's equally as exciting and inspiring to watch these guys just take casual park laps as it is to see them send it off the biggest of features. Wednesday, Day 4 of The Launch 2014 embodied this sentiment, as once the sun came out, snowboarding’s up and coming generation was taking runs in the park and having a heck of a good time, hitting both groomed features and side hits with equal finesse.
As soon as the lifts started running, Nils Mindnich, Jayell White, Sam Taxwood, and Ben Bilodeau were taking cruisers through the upper rail section. Hunter Wood was riding halfpipe for followcam laps. Red Gerard, and Toby Miller held reign on the first jump as did Blake Axelson, while Jake Pates was throwing double cork back tens on the second jump.
By mid afternoon, a session had started on the channel hip plaza. One group of riders was dropping from the deck of the pipe to send it either over the rider's right hip or on the tube through the channel. On rider's left, a pack made up of many of the youngest riders at The Launch was providing hard evidence that age doesn't matter by pointing it toward the wallride and quaterpipe. Reid Smith was planting the quarter while Milo Malkoski put one down on the coping of the wallride. Justin Phipps, Luke Winkelmann, and Mac Malkoski were charging as well, while elder Launch statesman Spencer Schubert put down proper frontboards on the channel tube. Seven Springs local, Trevor Eichelberger was tranny-finding off the wallride, taking unique lines all afternoon. Jacob Krugmire hit the backside corner of the hip's landing and spun a nine with about three feet of air. Chase Josey and Jack Herald were dropping double from different angles, Jack with an air-to-fakie on the wallride while Chase hit the tube. Garrett Warnick was throwing back fives on the hip along with Ryan Wachendorfer, who was spinning banger alley-oops. Spencer Whiting also left his mark during the hip session. And this was only a portion of the riding going down, which luckily can be seen in two upcoming Launch recap videos that will be dropping over the next few days. Yes, that may be a plug, but it’s a worthwhile one because the riding at The Launch has been good. Really good.
And so, as the sun sets on Pennsylvania, The Launch may have wrapped up, but the riding put down by the this year’s group of invited riders defies any preconceived notion that age dictates style. What everyone involved with The Launch witnessed this week at Seven Springs once again reaffirms that snowboarding’s future is in good hands. Thank you to everyone that came out and made the seventh year of The Launch a success–all the riders, the parents, and of course, the crew at Seven Springs.