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Freestyle meets Mount Hood

By ADAM LAPIERRE

News staff writer

May 3, 2006

Sunny skies, slushy snow and riders in sunglasses and T-shirts was the scene this weekend on the slopes. And on Saturday at Mt. Hood Meadows, the term “riders” took on two meanings, with one set of “riders” being clearly distinguishable from the other.

From off the lifts and down the slopes, skiers and snowboarders tore up the three-or-so inches of sticky, slushy snow on its way to the water table.

And at the base area, riders of the other kind pedaled hard down a plywood path, hucked themselves off a 10-foot wood ramp and sailed through the air on their heavy-suspension freeride bikes.

The freestyle jam-format competition was dubbed “Snow Jam,” which brought about 15 riders from the northwest to Mount Hood for the first event of its kind at Meadows. A jam-format, such as it was, gives competitors as many chances as they can in a given amount of time, which was an hour and a half in this case. Riders then convened and voted for who they thought were the top finishers in each division.

Bend radical Chris Jordan pulled off a 20-plus foot back-flip, which was impressive enough to win the first-place vote from his fellow competitors.

Behind the progressive, grass-roots competition was the Gorge Free Ride Association (GFRA), which is based out of Hood River. With the help of Meadows and a handful of sponsors, Jake Felt, Douglas Johnson and Gary Paasch designed and built the massive wooden kicker. Meadows groomers then built the approach and landing out of some of the softest, kindest landing material around.

The snow was so soft, however, plywood had to be laid down for a takeoff and landing path so riders could keep up enough speed on the approach and prevent tumbling head over heels on the landing.

As the spring takes hold and the summer approaches, the GFRA is getting ready for another season of pushing the limits and progression of freeriding in the Gorge. The group is responsible, in large part, for much of the development taking place in the Post Canyon area. By working with Hood River County Forestry and private land owners, a new system of development is now in place that allows riders to create and maintain freeriding terrain and features in the area, while also giving County Forestry the power to regulate where, when and how much can be done to different areas.

Most recently, members of the GFRA completed a walk-through of the middle Grand Prix area of Post Canyon with County Forestry and, according to Felt, they got the go-ahead to start a new project in that area.

For more on freeriding in the Gorge, visit: www.gfra.org.

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