words: Mary Walsh
photos: Mike Yoshida, Mary Walsh, Ashley-Dawn Byrd, and John Cavan

Day 1 at Snowboard on the Block – Gallery and Recap.

Saturday morning opened up to unseasonably summery temperatures and clear skies. Not the weather typically associated with preparation for winter, but it was pretty nice for a preseason celebration. The crowd had grown from Friday night in anticipation of more films, including Bode Merrill's Reckless Abandon and the Union team movie, Stronger, as well as performances by AfroMan and Wolf Mother. As excited individuals circulated the booths in the sponsor village, next to the stage a hard working crew of foremen was ignoring the warm temps by chopping ice and blowing snow for the SOTB rail jam.

In late afternoon, the set up for the contest was ready. A small group of accomplished riders had arrived in Colorado to drop in. Zak Hale, Jesse Paul, Brady Lem, Jordan Morse, Nial Romanek, and Ian Sams, joined local boys Seth Hill and Dylan Alito, as well as a crowd favorite pre-event qualifier who joined the line up of pros. As soon as the course was ready, the boys began throwing down in front of a packed crowd. Dylan Alito, and Jaeger Bailey stepped to transfers from the close out to the DFD. Nial Romanek put down proper presses on the kink despite a binding malfunction that sidelined him the first few drops. Jordan Morse was meticulous, choosing the savagely technical and impressing, per usual. The judging panel was impressive, as well. Frank April, Harrison Gordon, and Bode Merrill were mentally judging. Chris Grenier was on the mic, riffing on the riders and translating the more technical tricks for anyone in the crowd that needed. When all was said and done, Jesse Paul walked away with a trophy full of beer and, in a unique turn of events, a trip to Las Vegas on a private plane for him and five friends. The catch? The flight was one-way only and it was leaving at 11pm that night. Rail contests don’t generally end in spur of the moment trips to Vegas (except for the High Roller Rail Jam in 2006, which was already there, making the commute to The Strip real easy), so the flight in itself was pretty exciting for Jesse and crew.

As the sun set over the Rockies, Bode Merrill introduced the movie he spent all winter working on with master lensman Jon Ray, Reckless Abandon (you can check out our full review of Reckless and we also recommend going to your local shop to pick up the DVD asap). Jesse Paul was able to catch the film before bouncing to DIA to catch his private jet. Following an intermission in which Afroman serenaded the crowd, the world premiere of The Union Team Movie: Stronger took the stage. Dustin Craven, Johnny O’Connor and Scott Stevens had flown to Denver for the release of the film, representing the multifaceted cast that is truly loaded with talent. Stronger contains a collection of impressive parts; make sure to check this one out immediately.

As the credits for Stronger rolled across the big screen in Sculpture Park and the slew of snowborders headed to the finer late night establishments in the Mile High City, Jesse Paul and his squad grabbed rides to the airport and walked across the tarmac onto their private plane. Snowboard on the Block 2016 was a rap, but the night, for many, was still going full bore. Particularly for Jesse, who let us in on just a little of his spur of the moment Las Vegas experience.

Post rail jam, when you knew you were headed to Vegas on Steve Aoki's private plane with five friends and no hotel, no return ticket. What was going through your mind?
Jesse Paul: Honestly, my mind was pretty busy with figuring out who was coming with me and getting their date of birth and weight. I only had ten minutes after winning to get that all sorted out. In between those thought, however, was, “Holy shit, I’m about to do something I may never get to do again in my life.” I wasn’t even thinking about Vegas or how I would get home. The private jet was the main prize for me.

So, flying on a private plane. What's it really like? Did they provide snacks? What was the best part of the trip from Denver to Las Vegas?
The private plane was a lot smaller than I expected, haha. I understand why I couldn’t bring more than five other people. Not a single other person would fit. It was amazing, though. There were free snacks and drinks, but nothing fancy. It wasn’t the “living room in air” you may be picturing. Although, we did bring on a case of beer and a bottle of tequila. It was during the boarding process that we felt most baller. We walked right on to the airstrip and into the plane. No security checks, no boring speeches, and no missing the flight (Brady and Jordan were late, even though we were supposed to have taken off already).

Why did all the dudes' shirts come off??
You better bet we were taking advantage of that flight and being shirtless isn’t allowed on your typical flight. There may have been a tinge of bromance in the air as we simultaneously chugged beers, shirtless and savored the fact that we would never forget those moments. However, I think we expected everyone to take their shirts off and live it up, but the girls just looked at us and laughed.

And once you guys arrived in Vegas, how was the sudden Sin City experience? We heard you went to Cirque du Soleil? Any gambling wins/loses?
Vegas was incredible! We were all just partying, wandering, and saying “yes” to just about anything. After it all, I ended up in the hole, Nial won $175 and Jordan won $100. I think the girls both left about even. The show was for sure one of the highlights of the trip! We saw Zumanity, which is an erotic Cirque du Soleil show and it was truly mind blowing. At one point, a barely-clothed dwarf performer was flying above the crowd hanging by silks doing about three flips a second as the music was blaring. I’ve never seen anything like it.