words: Mary Walsh
photos: T. Bird and Mary Walsh
Tradition. It's the hallmark of the holidays. More imperative of a joyful Christmas than big ticket presents and the reason we will semi-drain our bank accounts to fly home and sit around a table with our families, listening to stories and drinking egg nog into the wee hours of late December. In New England, where the local mountains are fraught with icy trails, decked to treeline with manmade snow, there is likely nothing that is more traditional than a certified hardpack huckfest. Chris Grenier, one of Massachusetts' most hallowed natives and East Coast prodigal boarder, knows this and for the third year of his beloved Christmas-time contest, Holiday Hammers, he brought the spirit of the Northeast to the Brighton, UT, the mountain he calls home. Though the snow may be a little softer, the spirit of chucking carcass is alive and well in the Wasatch.
Three winters ago, Grenier threw down the proverbial hammer at Wachusett Mountain in Massachusetts with the first installment of what would become a seasonal event. The premier Holiday Hammers was one part rails, one part lifesize Tom Brady cardboard cutout, and one part shirtless backflips--a special combination that caused the hearts of the collective New England snowboarding scene to grow at least two sizes on the slopes of this beloved MA mountain. The contest grew the second year, in which even below average snowfall couldn't keep crowds of kids and New England legends alike from swarming uphill in the one-footed race. In 2016, Grendies sought to bring his East Coast roots out to his chosen locale and tapped Brighton Resort to host the first of two HH contests (the second on December 27th back in Mass at Nashoba Valley).
On Friday, December 23rd, a lineup of young boarders arrived at the Millicent baselodge at Brighton and signed up for this very unique contest with Brighton Marketing Director Jared Winkler. Outside, as Mother Nature turned the Utah morning bluebird skies to a cold gray (just a little more New England for the day), Brighton Terrain Park Director, Mouse and his crew of diggers had crafted a set up like no other. In the middle, from looker's left, a down tube, a down-flat-down-flat-down, a wave box, and a Bone Zone wood ramp to log rail stood stoic in the snow. The four rails were appropriate and proper, perfect for a rail jam, but it was the outer flanks of the course that were unruly.
The contest was broken up into four segments. The first was an hour-long rail jam. Pros and ams alike dropped into the Brighton rails. Andrew Tassel, Matty C., Cooper Whittier, Madison Blackley, Pat Fava, Alex Cato, Oliver Dixon, Kael Hill, Sam Elliot and more put on a show. Judges Nick "Pops" Poplawski, Tyler Blackburn, Kyle Fischer, and Austen Granger tallied tricks--prizes from Monster, Salomon, Traeger Grills, New Era, ThirtyTwo, Crab Grab, and Dang Shades and cash were up for grabs. Reveling in the holiday spirit, Kevin Court aka Gravedigger, an East Coast legend whose boarding skills are matched only by his penchant for dropping into sketchy lines at warp speed and throwing backflips where it seems like backflips shouldn't be thrown, was dressed up as Santa Claus.
Once the rail jam wrapped, next up was the one-footed uphill race, a staple of Holiday Hammers and possibly simultaneously the easiest and hardest way to win a snowboard to date. Two dozen young snowboarders lined up at the Milly base with their front feet strapped in. At Grenier's go, they raced up hill to meet Mouse who was standing next to a Brighton sign above the rails. Navigate a righthand dogleg and make it to the sign first, and claim victory and a brand new Salomon Snowboard. Reggie Clark was the quickest and took home an early Christmas gift from Salomon.
As smoke wafted from the Milly base as Austen Granger cooked up bacon and wings on his Traeger Grill and the sounds of DJ Matty Mo broke through the freezing air, the contest carnage continued. The Hellride Challenge, a half hour jam session on a technical monstrosity that threatened edge catches and hang ups: a down-flat rail to flat box to c-rail. Matty C, Cooper, and Jesse Ramirez were two of the few that were able to make it to the end of the thing--Jesse claimed victory.
The final act of Holiday Hammers was the best of all, the Sketchy Small Air. Four-ish rows of hand-shaped moguls crowded the run-in to a mini jump that demanded every trick be far bigger than the transition. The crowd, fueled by the momentum of the hallowed degradation of standard contest rules as Holiday Hammers continued was going nuts by the time Kael, Gravedigger, and Oliver pinned it toward the mini jump. Kael sent a 900. No one knows how. Oliver Dixon threw down a cornucopia of trickery that wasn’t without a few one-footers and upside down maneuvers. Griffin Seibert, and Hans and Nils Mindnich were poaching and floating effortless tweaked out grabs. There were plenty of bails, too; standing anywhere near the jump itself was a dicey proposition. After a myriad of blackflips, methods, and floaty threes had been landed, Gravedigger closed out the section and the entire contest with a six-pete attempt at a mogul backflip leading to a casual three on the jump. When Santa finally landed, the day was done. The first Holiday Hammers of the week was complete and Chris Grenier had officially provided an epic intro to Christmas weekend.
Thank you to Grendies, Jared and Al, Mouse and his crew, Monster, Salomon, Dang Shades, New Era, Bone Zone, Crab Grab, Traeger and everyone that came out to huck themselves for the stoked audience. This is what holidays are truly about.
Overall Winner and MVP – Sam Elliott
Woman’s Winner- Madison Blackley
First – Matty C. aka Turdlord
Second – Andrew Tassel
Third – Pat Fava
Bone Zone Best Trick – Gravedigger
Hellride challenge Jesse Ramirez
Sketchy small air – Oliver Dixon
Crab Grab Best Grab – Griffin Seibert
The second Holiday Hammers of the season goes down at Nashoba Valley, MA on December 27th! Register between 9 and 10:30am, this is gonna be a good one!