Jib Fest: Back and better than ever
Determined members of campus snow and snowboard club ShredMC collect snow from parking lot piles and build scaffolding, drops and rails for event, happy to be back after missing 2020 during pandemic
Saint Michael’s winter sports connoisseurs and casual spectators, mostly students, gathered by the 300s Townhouses on Friday, December 3, for a recent tradition at the College that marks the start of campus winter festivities.
The popular ski and snowboard event called Jib Fest sadly was absent from campus last year due to the pandemic, and everybody seemed to agree how nice it was to have it back this year. Several hundred people watched skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels participate in the always well-attended evening activity hosted by the Saint Michael’s College Ski and Snowboard club called ShredMC.
Although the weekend snowstorm did not quite arrive in time for Friday’s Jib Fest, ShredMC worked hard to create a suitable site for the participating skiers and snowboarders by collecting snow from various parts of campus to cover rails and scaffolding. It was enough to allow for various jumps and tricks by the participants, whose goal essentially was to travel down a ramp and slide onto a railing, all while maintaining balance on their skis or snowboards. The extra flare of the more experienced participants wowed the crowd as the student skiers and boarders dared to try spins and flips along the way.
Open to all students, this campus-wide event long has been a significant crowd-gatherer through its earlier pre-pandemic years, usually despite the bone-chilling low temperatures typical this time of year. Friday night was no different, and students came bundled in coats and mittens against the biting chill in the air when festivities began at 7 p.m.
An hour-long practice kicked off the event. This provided a chance for student competitors to check out the rails and scaffolding and strategize their own way around the terrain. Soon after they began their practice runs, students started to gather. Even in the cold temperatures, Friday’s crowd mostly had smiles on their faces – likely because this was the first community gathering since everybody returned to campus from the Thanksgiving holiday break, with a focus on fun.
Throughout the event, which ended shortly before 10 p.m., the spectators cheered competitors, creating a warm feeling of community that carried forward among students well after the last run had been “shred.”
Behind the scenes
ShredMC President John-Paul “JP” LaBarge, a senior from Dennis, MA, majoring in environmental studies, explained the considerable labor of love from ShredMC club members that went into building the elaborate Jib Fest structures, thanks partly to major help from campus Facilities crews.
LaBarge said he well remembers the strong impression in made on him as a first-year and sophomore to see St. Mike’s upperclassmen from ShredMC building previous Jib Fest structures, and he vowed to keep the tradition alive as a senior after COVID canceled the 2020 event.
Typically, Jib Fest has involved a more formal judged competition for snowboarders and skiers, “but this year since we’d missed last year and many club members didn’t have the chance to meet each other, we said, let’s just have a more informal exhibition and give away prizes to people landing tricks and doing impressive stuff,” LaBarge said. “We saw it as just a good way to bring people together and showcase their skills.” He estimated that 10 snowboarders and 25 skiers made runs as participants in this year’s event. LaBarge himself is a skier and was among the participants.
Before the event, LaBarge and fellow club members obtained the two major prizes from a Burlington skate shop: two nice skateboard decks. Those ended up going to Connor Starr ’23 — a business major and MJD minor from Springfield, VT — and to Ben Harris ’23, a business major from Burlington, CT. The former was to recognize impressive runs that Starr made; while the latter was in a random toss of the prize itself among the enthusiastic crowd including participants in the manner of a bridal bouquet toss.
.LaBarge explained that skateboard decks were good prizes since most skiers and snowboarders, including himself, fill their time during summer by skateboarding as “the closest thing to grinding rails and hitting jumps.” Other smaller prizes handed out Friday included ski socks and hats beanies, winter hats and long sleeve t-shirts. Much of it came from Maven Skate Shop in Burlington, with ShredMC’s budget covering the costs.
He said a highlight for many was that the Student Life staff arranged for a food truck, Red Clover Catering, to serve up pulled pork and grilled cheese sandwiches that proved quite popular. LaBarge said it felt like most of the student population attended the event. “We built a ski ramp in the middle of campus, so people were naturally coming out and saying, ‘what’s going on,” he said.
Weather conditions figured prominently into the entire calculus for this year’s Jib Fest. “The day before on Thursday we had rain that melted everything from the early-week snow, so we took a couple crews of students, anybody with a pickup truck, and went around campus shoveling snow from parking lot piles and bringing it over,” he said. Then it got “read cold Thursday night so it was freezing all day Friday, maybe upper 20s,” which he said was “just right just what you want. It was a little chunky, but we dealt with ice balls when SMC Facilities brought in a front-loader and crushed up the piles.”
Another friend, Sebastian Oetterer ’22, drove his truck over the chunks to help get just the right consistency, and later even volunteered to DJ the event Friday, bringing his own equipment and mixing songs to bring everything together. “Building the structure took all week,” LaBarge said. “We already had built the rails before this year and just brought them out, and we got scaffolding from the College paint crew and used it to build the whole drop-in.” A few pieces of equipment they also rented.
He and club members this year particularly have appreciated cooperation from the stewards of the College’s Natural Area across Route 15 – primarily biology Professor Declan McCabe, for letting them store rails in an unobtrusive way in the area. McCabe and others involved with the Natural Area encountered members by chance one snowy day last year and chatting them up, and now are allowing club members fairly free access to the slope that, in the 1970s, was home to a ski jump. Nowadays, ShredMC members often will go down there after a big snow and build smaller temporary jumps or structures, making for a nice focal point and gathering place for the club.
LaBarge gave a shout-out to Carl Grumbine ’23, a business major from Putney, VT, for coordinating the building of this year’s Jib Fest structure. “He was a key player, though it was a team effort –everybody was killing it,” the club president said.
Club members have been pleased with positive feedback they have heard. “Everyone is saying this year’s event went really well,” LaBarge said. “People were saying the design of our drop-in was one of better designs they had seen.”
“When we didn’t have Jib Fast last year, I said, ‘I just have to make it happen and do it proper this year so younger students see what it’s all about, the way I did,’” LaBarge said. “Every year the students put their hearts and souls into the build, and it’s really cool to have the College supporting us in doing something that I personally have been doing since I was a kid with my brother, building drops and rails in the back yard. You build your own course and it’s a special thing.“