Pronounced “apple-atcha”everywhere below the Mason-Dixon line, the Appalachian mountain region specific to NC has been the home to a couple notable snowboarders over the years. For this reason we can’t exactly make the claim that the area is having its breakout moment, but there is certainly more momentum coming from the southeast than ever before with the combination of Luke Winkelmann, Zeb Powell, Batwing Headwear, the Mullins family, all rising in their respective ranks.
Perhaps the next landmark in North Carolina's road to snowboard notoriety unfolded at Appalachian Ski resort (App Ski, as it’s called locally) through the Red Bull Railyard event–A head to head bracket contest with judged runs through 3 tiers of rails, hosted by Luke Winkelmann.
Day one of the event was a public jam that would crown one male and one female to enter the head-to- head brackets of international talent that all hoped to walk away from the tar heel state with $5,000. The 15 potential opponents for the male winner being Alex Caccamo, Darcy Sharpe, Luke Winkelmann, Rob Roethler, Zeb Powell, Brady Lem, Seb Picard, Riley Nickerson, Zak Hale, Riley Tardiff, Brett Kulas, Dillon Henricksen, Jesse Augustinus, Keegan Hosefros, and JK Mullins. The 7 ladies - Annika Morgan, Ari Morrone, Brantley Mullins, Danyale Patterson, Charlotte Flowers, Lauren Dermino and Grace Warner.
The men’s champion of the public contest was Nick Fox, a rider that I had never heard of, but am certain is going places, as he outrode Will Vear, who I don’t think ever fell. But Fox’s combination of technical switch tricks and massive transfers made him the judges top pick. On the ladies side, Breck Bensin was a powerful force that outshined many of the riders in the four heats, both men and women. It was clear that some people came to this event with the intention of being noticed.
One thing we learned quickly was that App Ski is a dry mountain. As in, they don’t serve alcohol there. This was a reality I personally never considered, but was probably for the best, considering our first night out at the ransom bar we all quickly discovered how, well, cheap booze was there. It became some sort of sick test to see how little it would cost to buy a round of drinks for the ravenous bar lurkers around. Buying 7-8 drinks at a time for what it would cost for two in California. Needless to say we woke up that morning a little pickled.
And for a dry mountain, the weather was quite different. A thick fog hung in the town most of the time we were there. Like some sort of horror movie, the fog was so thick at times, that the hotel staff said it commonly sets off the sliding door sensors of the hotel. It’s quite common for the entire first floor to fill with fog, a phenomenon that apparently has caused several guests to call the front desk with concerns the hotel is on fire.
Nightlife during this event was fun, but complicated. There isn’t really Uber and once the official event shuttle would make its all too early run back to the hotel, the band of individuals left behind would enter a sort of primal party mode, knowing there was really no guarantee we could make it home. There were taxi driver numbers provided by the hotel, but it wasn’t uncommon to watch the taxi driver promptly park his car after dropping you off and park himself on a barstool at the very bar he was driving us to.
After the public contest, the competitors all met at the Howard Station, a local BBQ spot that hosted us while we drew names for the brackets. Luke Winkelmann would pull a name out of a pitcher, and then the rider named would choose a name out of the pitcher to be their opponent. The randomness of it all provided for some very entertaining matches, the craziest one to the locals certainly being Riley Tardiff Versus Luke Winkelmann, a true North Carolina showdown. In fact, the amount of local pride in this are was palpable. On the finals day, when Jk Mullins, Brantley Mullins, Zeb Powell, Charlotte Flowers or Luke dropped, the crowd seemed to erupt.
As the brackets whittled down, Nick Fox, who I once again underestimated, continued to lay the pressure on his opponents and climbed all the way to the final round, taking on hometown hero and host, Luke Winkelmann. After a 10 minute deliberation by the judges, where I made my final efforts to entertain the crowd, it was revealed that Luke had only surpassed the young gun by half a point. The third place battle between Darcy Sharpe and Seb Picard became a Canadian cash that would top in Shape’s favor.
On the ladies side, Grace Warner was able to put down a solid run with a frontside board slide through the DFD, a board slide hop over the creeper, and front board to fake on the down bar, but her ambition to take that final trick to Safeway 270 kept her from the top spot. Annika Morgan’s seamless boardslid through the kink all day, and rode with a certain kind of power and confidence that the judges appropriately rewarded with first place.The third place battle between Brantley and Lauren was won by Lauren, as Brantley struggled to land a back one switch 5050 on the final feature.
Some other fun facts about the weekend worth mentioning :
- Riley Nickerson’s ski ball stunt (as seen on my instagram) was done on the first try.
- Brantley Mullins missed her college graduation to compete in finals.
- Nick Fox had the underdog story of a lifetime.
- Luke Winkelmann did a majority of his runs entirely.
- Darcy Sharpe did a switch Smith grind in finals.
- Mark Clavin Did in fact hit the rails after two straight days of taunting.
- I may have convinced the 500 person crowd that it was Mark Clavin’s birthday and gotten the entire crowd to sing to him. An act. I would repeat later than night at the after party, stopping the music to get a group happy birthday song going, only to demand that he be lifted in the the air and crowd surfed around.
- Annika Morgan DJ’d a euro-house set that really brought us all back to STRT JAM.
- Lauren Derminio is like a vibe shaman, and potentially a more powerful partier than anyone else on the trip. The nucleus of the party organism if you will.
- Jesse Augustinus is a connoisseur of trap music, and also had a memorable DJ set.
- Max Warbington still holds the title of recap god.
- Darcy Sharpe allegedly went swimming in the pool with all his clothes on. I suspect this pool had not been cleaned since August.
- Annika Morgan
- Grace Warner
- Lauren Derminio
Best Trick: Annika Morgan
- Luke Winkelmann
- Nick Fox
- Darcy Sharpe
Best Trick: Zeb Powell