Leavenworth to Stevens Pass: A Bavarian Rail Jam and Sunny Skies in the PNW

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Walking into a Bavarian village in the mountains of Washington for the first time felt a bit odd. Within two minutes of entering Leavenworth, WA, I smelled bratwurst, saw girls in traditional barmaid garb serving pints of beer, and nearly ran the Subaru into a horse-drawn carriage in the middle of an intersection. It was the weekend of the Bavarian Ice Fest, and crowds had filled the small town square to witness the rail jam and fireworks.

The rail jam setup was simple, but a little more dialed than last year’s: a down-flat round rail stood alone, with Stevens Pass webbing to keep the crowd and the nearby sledding kids out of harm’s way. When we arrived, the comp was already underway, with none other than Ryan McClaughlin—who featured heavily in MGM’s Community and maintains the blog Hot Lava Snowboarding—on the mic.

We headed back to the hotel for warmth and a quick change of socks before the screening of Community, still feeling like I stumbled onto the set of The Sound of Music. A movie theater had been staged at the festhalle, Leavenworth’s local events center. The Stevens Pass staff raffled off enough gear to fill a pickup truck and then rolled the film.

Having already seen Community, I was surprised at how different the film felt on the second round. The surrounding energy was palpable; people strained forward, eyes locked on the screen, with an occasional whoop or a holler echoing through the hall. My fellow audience members were the people who ride Stevens Pass; they know where those pow stashes are, the kids up early every weekend morning, ready to shred the park—they were just as representative of Stevens Pass as the riders in the film. After the final clip rolled and the lights flicked back on, satisfied, knowing smiles flashed across the room in little waves, as if we had all shared some kind of delicious pie. On the way out I briefly chatted all things mustache and snowboarding with Cory Rain, Community’s creator. His hard work paid off—he’ll be traveling to Europe in February to film with ISenseven. Congrats, Cory.

Venturing out into the cold streets after leaving the festhalle proved to be a good idea. It turns out Icicle Brewing makes a smooth, robust porter and an IPA that will appease most hopheads. A steady flow of local characters made their way in and out, with Mr. Rain himself making an appearance, along with a few riders featured in the film.

The following morning, we got out to Stevens Pass to shred groomers and a park soaked in sunshine. Lift lines were short, and nearly every person I saw or talked to was in good spirits, despite the lack of fresh snow. Working on your goggle tan this time of year in the PNW is such a rarity that it brings about a certain kind of optimism. Taking full advantage of the sunny day, I lapped the park a few times, and enjoyed the set up: several jib features and smaller kickers sat astride one another at the top, providing different lines to choose from before splitting to either side of a copse of trees. Both avenues continued on to a series of well-tuned kickers—rider’s left was for the big boys, rider’s right a little mellower. The two trails eventually rejoined towards the bottom of the slope in a plethora of rails, fun little hits, and, of course, the only halfpipe in Washington. By the end of the day it was pretty sliced up, but while on the lift I noticed one rider throw a nice McTwist. Turns out Washingtonians can ride transitions.

A special thank you goes out to Nate Escalona with Stevens Pass and Jessica Robinson with the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce for helping to make this trip possible. Several days later I still have a song from Community stuck in my head. I’m unsure if I should pass credit to Mr. Rain for selecting a prime soundtrack, or if it’s actually some sort of mental thing: a lingering desire to be part of a place that so many riders love to call home.


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