By Will Eginton
Fifty skiers battled it out for a piece of the $20,000 prize purse at the seventh annual Rails 2 Riches competition at Killington Mountain Resort on Saturday. After logging just about every trick in the book, the Park City local and 4bi9 fixture John Kutcher walked away with the men’s win, followed by Dom Laporte in second and Keiren McVeigh in third.
Rails 2 Riches has become one of the premier rail jams in North America. With a new registration system--that requires the good word of a team manager, and an increased prize purse--Killington was able to take an already amazing event and ensure an even more insane level of rail trickery. Contingents from Breckenridge, Quebec, Salt Lake City, and of course Vermont stormed the venue around noon for the qualifying round. Every skier present unleashed their best tricks on three features--a down-flat-down, an oversized single barrel with extended donkey dick, and a down box with an aggressive donkey dick--with hopes of getting a chance to battle it out under the lights.
The skiers came out firing, landing every trick imaginable. Spins on, double switch ups, pretzels and disasters were par for the course for all the competitors. It was no simple task for the judges to break down the field of fifty talented skiers down to the final eleven. "We didn't even take into consideration simple 270s and 450s out," said Matt Benedetto, founder of the Eastern Collective and judge of the event. "The level of skiing was too high to even think about tricks like that." The quality of skiing bordered sheer absurdity. One skier, who laced a front swap misty 450 out of the down box, didn't even make finals.
At the end of the hour long jam, locals Sam Putnam and Keiren McVeigh got the nod for finals with the likes of out-of-towners Pat Goodnough, Dom Laporte, Hugo Pelletier, Ian Compton, Connor Bennett, John Kutcher, Will Hibbs, and Jeff Kiesel. Tired, sore and soaking wet, the finalists retired to the lodge for a three-hour break before finals.
As the sun faded behind the gondola and the floodlights kicked into overdrive, the finals began. Jackie Kling of Big Boulder, Penn., dominated the women's final. Her 270 onto the down rail, disaster, and blind switch-up on the down-flat-down cemented her victory over Julia Krass and Molly Prosser. On the men's side of things, Will Hibbs and Sam Putnam came out firing; Putnam strung together a progression of front swaps to both continuous and pretzeled spins out, while Hibbs opted for high-consequence disasters, including a lip 270 and a smooth 450 that he stomped first try. Conner Bennett put down some clean switch spins on and off the down rail, and Hugo Pelletier had some binding issues despite continuously putting 630s to his feet off of the down rail.
The ever-stoked Ian Compton spent finals trying some of the more creative tricks of the night, including a one-footer through the down-flat-down and a disaster into the donkey dick of the down flat rail. He brought his signature style into every trick he tried, and his speed and fluidity definitely stood out amongst the many talented skiers present.
While impressive, Compton's creativity was outmatched by seventeen-year-old Keiren McVeigh. Shying away from the trend of tornado spinning across every feature, Keiren spent finals surface-swapping and tailpressing every feature. His truly unique approach, innovative and stylish, propelled the Montpelier, Vt.-native to third place and his first major podium.
Second place ultimately fell in the hands of Dom Laporte of Saint Sauveur, Quebec. Often overlooked in Rails 2 Riches, Dom's more technical approach placed him ahead of Keiren's style-centric approach. He laced switch spins onto the down rail, stomped three swaps on the down-flat-down, and was one of the few competitors in finals to put in work on the down box.
The night ultimately belonged to none other than John Kutcher. While many competitors showed signs of fatigue throughout the jam, Kutch was firing on all cylinders throughout the hour-long Final Jam. With spins both ways and the only nose-butter of the night onto the down rail and flawless disasters onto the down-flat-down, there was no question who would take the top spot. He was on fire the entire night, and even won Best Trick--a cool six hundred bucks--with a disaster 450 on 270 out of the down-flat-down. "It's always been a goal of mine to get out here," said Kutcher about Rails 2 Riches. "This was the first time I was able to make it, and I'm very glad I did." When all was said and done, Kutcher headed back to Utah with over four grand in his pocket and a smile plastered on his face.
1. John Kutcher
2. Dom Laporte
3. Keiren McVeigh
1. Jackie Kling
2. Julia Krass
3. Molly Prosser