Words + photos by Keenan Faulkner-Cawley
Goon Jam Tour
Seven Springs, PA - Jan. 23rd, 2022
Located in the southwest of sleepy Pennsylvania lies a deceptively broad hill called Seven Springs, a nifty little nook in the Allegheny Mountains. The resort has spunk; character as well as characters. It appears manageable from the parking lot but one lift ride up reveals more terrain than you’d expect. We were catching word of the Alley - their long and winding park that pinballs you, back and forth, down the backside of the hill. And though thoroughly enjoyable, it was the rope tow park, dubbed Santa’s Beard, that hooked us; not only was riding it a rip-roaring time but we reckoned there couldn’t be a better place to invite people to put on a show for us.
And the locals surely showed up. There’s a large chance the rippers would’ve been there lapping the rope regardless of the event, even in the less-than-ideal (read: classic East Coast) weather the day offered. And that’s because our beloved boarder-world thrives there. But, also, as if the Magoon’s own rail jam tour wasn’t enough to garner a crowd, Keegan Valaika showed up to watch and get the groms riled up, as well.
The wind howled, the snowflakes fell, and by the end of the jam, the takeoffs and landings to every feature had been scraped off and/or crushed down into reflective glacial sheets. That was just my observation and it became clear that the West Coast has done a swell job of softening me up and skewing my perspective on what’s considered decent conditions. When asked what his favorite part of the event was, boarder Mark Peterman said, “Definitely the snow.” Backing up that sentiment, completely void of any facetiousness, was Cameron Dunmyer, who exalted, “Today is ripping!” These kids meant it; all they wanted to do was board and the evidence lie on the packed rope.
The girls and guys got busy throughout the entire session. It wasn’t that I wasn’t expecting to see exceptional riding - I knew there’d be rippers - but I suppose at some point during that morning’s bundling-up process, paired with preparing hand-warmers in the right pockets to avoid premature passing of my point-and-shoot and pens, my mind became preoccupied. I arrived at the rope as a fresh slate, and the boarders immediately got to carving into it.
Most of them started with the rail line; a nice, fat tube that led into a shotgun flat bar. That was hit after hit. After every 270 and 360 was done on and off, backwards and regular, backside and frontside, and in succession no less, we noticed that the kids were starting to fly off the hip. This was especially exciting to watch because the feature led itself to awesome air time and a cement-like landing. Indies and Methods were cranked, more high-flying 180s and 360s, not to mention the flippies - both frontals and backies - all brought down with the sound of a clapboard caught in a hurricane, immediately followed by encouraging chatter and laughter from the rope. Cam Ulery was quoted saying that his favorite part of the day was “watching everyone send the hip.” Not much to argue with there.
Except, perhaps, the notion of “everyone”; that might rival the actual substance of riding. It wasn’t what we’ve come to expect at a rail jam. That’s because “rail jams” have become synonymous with “contests” and the Goon Jam is not a contest. It’s taking back the original heart of a “jam” - a jamboree. The event isn’t about winning; it’s about boarding. Because boarding is what brings us all together - everyone. And no one exemplified that better on Sunday than Vinnie Moro. The young man immediately caught our attention with his tricks, backed that up by lending his encouraging smile to everyone on the rope, and sealed the deal with this response to my mid-rope questionnaire: “(My favorite part of the day is) that everybody is out here. You’ll never find a snowboard community like this.”
I’m hesitant to agree completely but I do see the merit in that: Snowboarding is living and breathing in Pennsylvania, and it’s alive for all the right reasons. The proof is in the smiles on the rope, the selflessness of uplifting others to try something new, the mindful trick selection and willingness to make mistakes. And the proof is also down the street at Always Boardshop! The proof is in their love of snowboarding and the choice to keep its genealogy intact moving forward as the next waves nears.
I proved myself false in that explication; Vinnie was right: there isn’t another snowboarding community like the one surrounding Seven Springs. There are, no doubt, a handful of others with the same backbone and structure - and they’re dire - but it’s the location that validates and differentiates this one. It’s the fact that there could just as easily not be a snowboarding community here. The fact that the scene could be comprised of people who don’t care - who don’t even know - what snowboarding can do for the youth and the young at heart. Those are the things that matter. To us, anyway; that’s soul.
We’d seen all we needed to see. We made the call and split. Everyone met up at Always. They got the BBQ roaring and PA’s definitive community congregated and reveled in the new faces, conversations, and the winter winds. Lucas grabbed the loudspeaker and we celebrated the following:
For women, it was Brittney Balog who personally got me juiced with a dedicated mindset and excellent switch 50-50s, Hayley Almes, who seemed to have a knack for getting upside down, and Sophie (SoSo) Bruck, who’s style and smile were radiant and magnetic.
For the men, we had to acknowledge Mark Peterman for his honest riding (not to mention his coffin sliding), Cam Ulery for his endless bag of tricks and persistence, and, as previously stated: Vinnie Moro.
Special thanks go out to Dillan Hodak, Shawn Kalatucka, Rob and Marana Zeglin of Always Boardshop, Keegan and Abby, and all of the boarders who came out; this would not be possible without you. And to our sponsors: Sims, Slush, Liquid Death, Baker Street, Tall Truck, Nothing Limited, Dang Shades, Stinky, Union, Splinters, Hah Feelz, Sticky Brand, Vans, The Bomb Hole, Prosser’s, Third Eye Co., Snow White, Wild Mike’s Pizza, Rad Gloves, VermontLocs, Bauer’s Brew, Pseudo Corp., Park Party, CND, Dank Donuts, Always Boardshop, Moodmats, GoPro, MDiSpagna Jewelry, and Gama Printing Co.