photos: Brendan Hart, Ben Kelley, Kyle Murray, and Nick Doucette
As of March 3, 2016 New Hampshire’s Plymouth State University has a campus with snowmaking capabilities. While this may sound offbeat in a scholastic setting, this recent milestone isn’t out of line with PSU. The first weekend in March 2016 symbolized just how much support snowboarding garners within the school and the area. It was wicked college—but in a good way.
PSU sits at the frosty doorstep of New Hampshire’s iconic White Mountains, where spots like Cannon, Loon, Waterville Valley, and Mt. Washington’s famed Tuckerman Ravine offer some of the best boarding on the East, and are all just a few exits down I-93. The school is basically a chairlift. Your acceptance letter, well, that’s your ticket.
For decades PSU has served as a bastion of East Coast snowboarding. For all of these years the college has been particularly indulgent with its enrolled riders—such as Mike Ravelson, Johnny O’Connor, Crab Grab captain Preston Strout, SNOWBOARDER’s editor Tom Monterosso, and many more. PSU is very much akin to the proverbial cool uncle—responsible, regulating, yet compassionate with the lawless tendencies of twenty year olds. College and snowboarding are two entities that often come together with unfortunate results. Like a failed high five on an institutional level. In some cases, when a university’s snowboarders want to found a student organization, they must undergo a process that involves strict rules, rigid standards, and a GPA that reflects an O’Douls diet.
This has not been the case with the Plymouth State Boardin’ Club. It’s important to stress that the Boardin’ Club is not a snowboard team—there’s no mandatory practice, flashy uniforms, or man-to-man butt-patting of any kind. It’s a club. Which inherently suggests distinct personality. You know, like a sandwich with bacon and other toppings of comparable awesomeness. Not only is it special, but its distinction is recognized by the college community.
So much does PSU value their snowboarders that the administration even allowed the campus to be rigged with snowmaking for the annual Jib Free or Die rail jam. The competition, though relatively young, is already a celebrated campus spectacle. A student org called MAPS (Marketing At Plymouth State), working alongside the Boardin’ Club, created the on-campus huckfest as a platform that would give its undergrads event planning experience. It’s been so successful that the college aligns the rail jam with its campus tours, using it as an instrument to allure prospective students. Not only is it important for the school, but it’s also a crucial vehicle for transmitting snowboarding to the rest of the campus. Boardin’ Club prez Luke Giacopelli said, “The best part about it is being able to show everyone at Plymouth State, not only how talented my friends are, but how much fun we have.”
This year the Jib Free or Die was looking on the “or Die” side, as snow was practically nonexistent. But MAPS rallied community support, ensuring that the show, and snow, would come back to the campus. Waterville Valley supplied jibs and park crew, Tenney Mountain loaned a fan gun, the Common Man furnished a generator, and the ice rink’s plumbing was tapped for water. Soon, it was snowing.
On a clear New England Friday afternoon scholars staggered out of their Thirsty Thursday dazes, mobbing around the setup. The audience, which included parents, police, and pupils, was met with an Xzibit-heavy soundtrack, giving the Boardin’ Club perfect conditions to put down a rollicking exhibition of snowboarding, in all of its edge-catching, shirt-removing, whiplashing glory. Many hams were dropped. Justin Sault, Kyle Dorfman, Travis Cullison, Phil Wettengel, Jackson Happ, and Bryan Watson were just a few of the standouts. There was also a slew of recreational riders. The type of snowboarder who may have only been on a board a handful of times, but will always attempt backflips when a crowd is present. Which is rather heroic, as it is unlikely they know what it’s like to actually land one. It can be imagined that Jerry of the Day submissions were prolific.
But all in all, the Jib Free or Die did its job once again, which, essentially, is to kick ass. Because it has been so consistently successful and provides so much enticement for new students, Jib Free or Die’s legacy is important to maintain. It’s possible it might even lead to significant developments for PSU’s future. MAPS faculty advisor Brad Allen said, “It’s not out of the question that we could build a seasonal facility, that would really promote snowsports right here on campus.” That’s right, an on-site rail garden is a real possibility.
Aside from such snowboarding enthusiasm on the homefront, PSU is surrounded with resorts that really cater to the college crowd. The same weekend as Jib Free or Die, Waterville Valley hosted College Fest, offering discount tickets, specialty beers, and complimentary barbecue to its collegiate clientele. Luke Mathison, who snagged SNOWBOARDER’s cover in the December 2005 issue, is an alum of the Boardin’ Club, and is now the head honcho at wvparks. Luke invited a handful of current PSU students to come session the slopes. The weather was atypically nice, more like early April than early March, and provided the bluebird backdrop for a really rad day.
This weekend, though memorable and awesome, wasn’t uncommon for PSU. This is just the documentation of what happens there on a regular basis, and a moment where certain activities properly highlighted how sublimely the Plymouth area allots snowboarding the reverence it deserves.
Read the full Dispatches: A Wicked College Weekend at Plymouth State University article on Snowboarder Magazine.