words: Mike Garceau
photos and captions: Peter Cirilli

Saturday, December 17, 2016 was a great day for snowboarding. Especially on the East Coast with three events taking place in the region, and an epic day for the field of competitors that were standing sideways, ready to drop on the 2016 Rails 2 Riches venue at Killington Resort.

The action began with night moves from the Killington Parks Crew on Friday evening. With rising expectations year after year, the venue at Rails 2 Riches has consistently raised the bar and pacified the masses. Lead by the general himself, Jay "Rosey" Rosenbaum, and park grooming architect, Corey Tredtin, the crew put it into overdrive and brought another incredible vision to life. The debut of at least one new feature has become tradition for Rails 2 Riches, and this season that came in the form of a 20ft long, 8ft tall fenced A-Frame wall ride. Accompanying this monster centerpiece was a new flat stock down flat down and the classic round stock pipe, set as a down-flat gap to down. The venue can only be best understood by scrolling the gallery above.

Saturday morning brought a flurry of action, quite literally. Snow squalls were making for an interesting commute into Killington and continued through morning qualifiers… just another minor detail for competitors to overcome while putting everything on the line to secure a spot in the evening final and move one step closer to taking home a piece of the $25K Purse. The field ran deep with East Coast roots with the likes of Shaun Murphy, Tim Major, Max Lyons, Joey Leon and Zach Normandin. Then came the left coast transplants who made the trek back home, queue the likes of Matt Shaffer, Brian Skorupski, Will Steller, and the new comers Ryan Paul and Gab Jaques. On the ladies end, Killington loc's Maggie Leon and Jamie Trayer were amongst a stacked riders list. Lauren Tamposi, Kaleah Opal-Driscol and the 2015 R2R winner Ari Morrone rounded out the roster.

After a short practice session and a few words from the judges, it was game on. Qualifiers started off pretty mellow as competitors took a minute to navigate what would set them apart from the rest of the field. Zach Normandin was the first to figure that out, gapping the entire wallride feature into the down bar below. One hit of that size, and the fire was lit… everyone started swinging for the fences. No easy task for the judges, after much deliberation, the finals list was narrowed down to twelve men (Zach Normandin, Ryan Paul, Joey Leon, Nate Haust, Max Lyons, Shaun Murphy, Storm Rowe, Jake Gaudet, Levi Gunzburg, Gab Jaques, Tim Major, Luke Haddock) and five women (Kaleah Opal-Driscol, Lauren Tamposi, Maggie Leon, Ari Morrone, Savannah Shinske).

Let's take a short pause to set the scene. Night has fallen, the weather is perfect. The park crew has meticulously groomed and raked each feature. The venue is illuminated under the lights and a crowd of spectators is quickly growing and competitors are anxiously awaiting to drop. The 2016 Rails 2 Riches finals about to go on display would leave the judges pens just about out of ink.

The technicality of tricks, coupled with huge gaps into features, set this apart from any R2R final of years past. Lauren Tamposi would eventually end the night with best trick for lacing an effortless backside shifty, gap to front lip on the down-flat-down. Maggie Leon and Savannah Shinske would spend the night going almost trick for trick, and respectively landing in second and third place on the podium. Finally, R2R rookie Kaleah Opal-Driscoll would leave no question that the 2016 crown was hers. Kaleah flawlessly navigated from feature to feature, an array of backlips, boardslides, and 270's out… with a final attempt at a one-footed backboard that received a big response from the crowd, it was a clinic and a pleasure to watch. To the ladies of R2R 2016, applaud yourselves for putting on one of the best displays of women's snowboarding this contest has ever seen.

Moving onto the men… let it be recognized that there is a first time for everything. Rails 2 Riches men's snowboard final and the name Nate Haust have never once shared the same sentence. On Saturday evening, that would all change in a big way.

From the first drop of finals, to the very end, every single hit was hammer after hammer. Zach Normandin was going huge. Ryan Paul was getting inverted. Joey Leon and Luke Haddock were displaying incredibly smooth style while the tech wizards Max Lyons, Shaun Murphy, Gab Jaques, and Tim Major were making it very difficult to determine the difference between a switch or regular hit. This would go on for most of the session, but as time ticked off the clock and fatigued legs became apparent, it would be Max Lyons and Killington's pride, Tim Major, going right to the end… respectively claiming second and third place. All the while, Nate Haust was capitalizing on his first R2R final ever. With an exclamation point on every single trick and seamlessly riding away from each feature with an absolute authority, judges were pretty sure Nate was taking it home. With one final drop, finessing a front board atop the center wall ride and gapping off 270 to the down bar below, it was clear that this was his year. The night would end with Nate Haust at the top of the podium, $5K in his hand, and a well honored 10% rule in effect down the road at JAX Food & Games. Congrats Nate, and from all of us, thanks for the beers!

One final and very important shout out to be made. Big ups to Avert Guldemond, better known as DJ Scrumptious for filling the day with a perfect selection of tunes. The atmosphere around the 2016 Rails 2 Riches was once again, nothing short of electric.

2016 Rails 2 Riches Podium

1 – Nate Haust
2 – Max Lyons
3 – Tim Major
Best Trick: Ryan Paul

1 – Kaleah Opal Driscoll
2 – Maggie Leon
3 – Savannah Shinske
Best Trick: Lauren Tamposi

More slideshows here!