words: Mary Walsh
photos: Peter Morning, Adam Moran, and Mary Walsh
Kimmy Fasani is petite, wiry and athletic, striking with soft laugh lines around her eyes. Her light brown hair, kept in check beneath a knit beanie, frames her face. She has an easy demeanor, like the close friend with whom you've grown up sharing adventures, or rather, the one you wish you had. In late April, with snow still on the ground outside and evening temperatures hovering in the fifties in California's Eastern Sierras, Kimmy smiles widely as she addresses a group of two dozen female riders in the high-ceilinged den of a Mammoth chalet. The room feels electric with anticipation as Kimmy wholeheartedly welcomes everyone. Her presence belies her bantam stature; when she speaks, Kimmy is affably commanding, her eyes beaming with a passion and excitement that is dually contagious. At only five foot three, Kimmy's energy fills up a room and then some.
It's no surprise that this Tahoe-raised rider has an unequivocal presence. It's one of the main characteristics that catalyzed her influential position in snowboarding. The fact is, when Kimmy Fasani sets out to do something, she doesn't just tick it off her list, she knocks it out of the park. Cliched phrasing aside, this is evident in the arc of her professional career over the past decade, during which she has moved fluidly from NorCal am competitions, to park jump dominance, to backcountry lines, raising the bar with each drop she takes (first double backflips in both park and big mountain, influential video parts, pristine powder style, the list goes on). Her natural athleticism is enhanced by her dedication to her craft, but inasmuch as she has carved out her own impressive notch in the snow community, she sets herself apart even moreso by her dedication in bringing others along with her. While she's far from the crescendo of her own career, for the past few years, Kimmy has steadily been leaving breadcrumbs for young riders to follow as they eek out paths of their own.
It is these factors that were the force behind the creation of Amusement Park, an event that Kimmy concocted three years ago with the help of her sponsors and her home resort, and the concept of this gathering is remarkably simple: a week-long photo shoot and progression session for female snowboarders of all stripes, from world class slope and pipe competitors (X Games and Olympic medalists), to veteran backcountry riders with a canon of influential video parts, and up and comers, both in the contest and video realms. Much more than just an opportunity to collect imagery and footage, Kimmy created her event as an in-season beacon to bring together echelons of women's snowboarding to collaboratively share styles, instigate progression, to come together as a like-minded community. Pressure is cast aside as riders spend their days and evenings lapping and the outcome is not only impressive, but a really good time.
And women flock to Amusement Park for this reason. For the 2015 session, Kimmy invited a group of riders whose abilities and personalities combined to drive the crew collectively. Elena Hight, Hana Beaman, Kelly Clark, Silvia Mittermuller, and Jamie Anderson dropped in alongside up and comers Hailey Langland, Karly Shorr, Chloe Kim, Danika Duffy, and Kirra Kotsenburg. Stefi Luxton, Possum Torr, Madison Blackley, Melissa Evans, Kumara Kelley, Mariah Dugan, Jenise Spiteri and more impressed every time they pointed it off the Unbound jumps and jibs. Amusement Park is a fusion of various snowboarding styles and influences from across the board and for each person, whether rookie or veteran, judging by the proliferous Instagramming, the experience drives a hell of a lot of stoke. The setting contributes, too--it's no mistake that this celebration occurs toward the end of the season in one of North America's prime late season locations. The end of April at Mammoth provides ideal snowboarding conditions. Weather is warm, but not too warm. Snow is soft, but not too soft. The sun is shining, some wind makes an appearance, and Mammoth's Main Park is firing. Despite a challenging snow year on the West Coast, with warm temperatures and California's drought to deal with, TJ Dawoud and the Mammoth Unbound Park Staff have been undeterred all season, pushing snow to make a banner park for the 2015 winter. It's a testament to their abilities and the overall collaboration of the community at this resort that for Amusement Park, a perfect 50-footer stood on rider's left in the lower section of Main Park, flanked by rails, jibs, wallrides, trannyfinders, a stepover and a medium channel gap. For the group of women in attendance for this spring event, the park was dialed.
During the day, the riders lapped Main Park, stacking shots with the plethora of media. Madison Blackley laid waste to the waterfall rail. Possum Torr floated back ones over the top jump, while Stefi Luxton sent effortless threes. Danika Duffy and Jenise Spiteri locked down tricks on the wallride. Amidst the hustle in Main Park, a group of the most talented ladies to strap in were making their way through the lines, ticking off tricks on every feature. At its core, Amusement Park is an opportunity to bring together snowboarders who don't often get the chance to ride with one another. The cross-section of women's snowboarding that was lapping Main Park was just as exciting for onlookers as it was for the riders themselves.
The evenings were when the group really got down to business. At 5pm each day, the women of Amusement Park met in the Unbound office for the sunset shoots. These shoots were unusual, not in the fact that they were comprised wholly of females, but in that the vibe was a unique combination of enjoyment and determination. Boxes of pizza made the rounds, park crew-driven sleds shuttled riders uphill, and the Main Park speakers set to the 2000's Hip Hop station on Pandora blasted Ludacris, JLo, and Ja Rule. A group of the men of Mammoth joined in on the sessions, creating the perfect chemistry for the shoots to go off. Mitch Richmond, Greg Bretz, Jaeger Bailey, Brock Crouch, Red Gerard, Garrett Warnick, Jared Dawoud, Brady Lem, Brandon Davis, and a handful of others provided gentlemanly priority to the women while also upping the ante. The mix was a good one and as Kimmy's husband and accomplished skier Chris Benchettler manned the GoPro for followcams, the riders threw down. Hailey Langland sent tuckknees heard across the Sierras. Jamie Anderson threw big, stylish spins. Elena Hight lofted textbook methods. Karly Shorr showcased a massive set of cojones as she sent the jump deeper than all others, emerging after each go to drop in again. And Kimmy, fresh into the park after filming off piste all year, provided plenty proof that she's one of the most accomplished women in snowboarding. Each evening, as the sun receded behind the Minarets and painted the sky with brilliants yellows, oranges, and pinks, the riders of Amusement Park shut Main Park down.
Amusement Park is much more than just the on hill action, though. The result of a week spent at Mammoth with the group of riders in attendance was revitalization at the end of the season. These women had been filming video parts, taking contest runs, stacking shots for online edits and winter can be long. Good, but long. Upon arrival at Mammoth, Kimmy made sure to create an environment that was welcoming for each individual. From the terrain and schedule mapped out with Unbound, to the plethora of healthy snacks and thoughtful gifts for the riders, to the unintimidating, momentum-filled setting on hill, Kimmy infused each aspect of Amusement Park with thought and care to provide the best week of snowboarding possible. With such attention to detail, Kimmy has created an event with a unique and special sense of community, and at the risk of sounding trite, it is pretty incredible the snowboarding that emerges from the scenario. Saturday Morning, seventy women and girls, ages six to sixty attended a Burton Girls Ride Day with groups making turns in a surprise foot of fresh with the pro riders before celebrating with a mid-day apres in Tusks in the Main Lodge. Later that night, Kimmy humbly celebrated her birthday with all of the riders in the Mammoth Village (with plenty of Mimi’s Cookie Bar treats to go around). On Tuesday morning, she organized a Protect Our Winters presentation at Mammoth's middle school. On the final evening of the event, she held a bowl-a-thon in town to raise money for Boarding for Breast Cancer. It's challenging to adequately put into words what a large variety of things were accomplished during a few short days, but it boils down to Kimmy's personal commitment to snowboarding and its community at large, and because of her interest in not only pushing herself, but raising all around her up alongside. And because of this, the women of Amusement Park rallied with Kimmy throughout the whole week.
On the final night shoot of Amusement Park, the second cat filled with riders headed up the hill. This night, the jump would be the only feature sessioned. Danika Duffy, a Mammoth local who spent much of the 2015 winter expanding her street chops traveling with the JetPack crew, sat in the vehicle, stoked but nervous to hit the intimidating jump. A few straight airs while the sun was still high and Danika gained her footing in the line up. As the sun lowered, she was sending spins, continuously lapping. By the time darkness had overtaken Main Park, there were only a few girls left riding and Danika was one of the very last. And this is what Amusement Park is all about: a welcome proving ground where women can shake off nerves and assert their snowboarding within a supportive and talented crew, where enjoyment is paramount and because of this, progression is fueled. As gloves were removed and boots were unlaced on the final day of Amusement Park, the excitement was just as palpable as it had been on the very first night.
Congrats to Hailey Langland and Karly Shorr, who were awarded Channel Island surfboards and surftrips as the 2015 Amusement Park rider-votes Standouts.
A massive, heartfelt thank you to Kimmy Fasani, Cara Williamson, Chelsea Waddell, Burton Snowboards, ClifBar, Skullcandy, and LuluLemon, TJ, Tyson and the Unbound Park crew, Molly, Lauren, Peter, Kevin, Weaver and the entire crew at Mammoth, Chris Benchettler, Mimi and Delaney at Mimi’s Cookie Bar for their extra sweet support, and all of the guys that came to ride, too, and everyone who made the third annual Amusement Park an amazing event. Thank you.