This time annually, Killington, VT holds the largest rail jam of the year. This rail jam is none other than Rails to Riches and the prize is exactly what it sounds like. The combined purse was $25,000 this year, with the first prize for the men’s snowboarding and men’s skiing division being a whopping $5,000. Contestants flew in from all over in attempt to take home the money.
The qualifying rounds were chaotic as always. With the diverse array of contestants, everybody knew they had to really have the juice to get to finals. They spent over an hour hiking up the hill over and over to get as any hits in as possible in before time was up. Just in the 20 minutes that I spent watching the qualifiers between taking laps of my own I had seen some of the craziest tricks that have ever been done in front of me, as well as a handful of collisions.
After the qualifiers were over, I linked up with contestants Mike Brewer and Christian Franchino in the lodge to have lunch before we heard who was making it to finals. As the list rolled out, finals round was starting to look more and more exciting. First we heard Christian’s name get called followed by Mike’s shortly after, giving my friends and I more reason than ever to be hyped to watch the battle soon to come.
As finals started to heat up, it became obvious that this was going to be the most lit R2R that I have ever attended. The competition was far more even than past years, to the point where nobody could tell who was going to take it home. Everybody was skiing to the best of their abilities, and the conditions were just about as good as they could have been.
After the last hit was finished, we all anxiously awaited the announcer to give us the news. Emile Bergeron took home best trick by launching a giant blind 3 switch-up, which also contributed to landing him in third place. A known force to be reckoned with, Dale Talkington, took home second after skiing with incredible consistency and landing some monster tricks.
After Emile and Dale were announced, nobody knew what exactly was going to happen. Khai Krepola had won in the past, and Sandy Boville was also a favorite, but a large group in the crowd had a different turnout in mind. The announcer did not seem as if he was too familiar with the contestants, but as he read off the first place winner he announced: “I have been told this place is about to go nuts, because in first place we have Christian Franchino.”
The whole place erupted instantly. In the past the entertaining factors of R2R had been dulled down by the saturation of big name pros flying in from everywhere, but this year it was different. Although Dale is quite well known Emile and Christian are both underdogs, so a podium like this has not been seen in years. I can safely say that this was the most electric contest that I have ever been to, and could not be more stoked on the outcome. Big ups to Killington for setting this up, the competitors for putting on such a great show, and everybody who spectated with me.
Check out the recap video put together by Champlain Alumni and Ski the East Production Manager, Cam Willis, below.