Jack Jump: Mount Snow competition rolls on for 36th year in a row
WEST DOVER — Thomas and Maxwell Carroll are no strangers to sitting down on a ski and racing other kids their age.
"They've been competing since they were peewees. I think they first competed when they were 3 or 4," said their mother Allison Carroll, who lives in New York City but teaches lessons at the West Dover-based Mount Snow ski resort. "They're turning 8 today. They're twins."
Her husband Eugene was wearing a jacket making him resemble Chewbacca, a Wookie and friend of Han Solo in the "Star Wars" movies. He builds jack jumps for family and friends to use at the Jack Jump World Championships held at Mount Snow every year.
Sunday's event marked the 36th year in row that the resort has welcomed the unique sport. Jack jumps are homemade and feature different equipment. But all have one thing in common: a single ski with some sort of seat attached.
"Every year we recruit more people and we build more jack jumps to encourage more people to come out and do it because we just think it's the most fun of the year," said Allison. "It's our favorite thing to do here."
She said the course was fast and thought the gates were set up tighter than in years past. In her opinion, the hard-packed snow would keep the course from getting too rutted out.
Allison recalled "a giant thunderstorm" one year.
"It blew out one of the transformers," she said. "The lifts were down so they had to have mountain ops (operations) take us up on snowmobiles. It was hilarious. I was like, 'I wish they did that every year. I'd love to take a snowmobile up.'"
Instead, they ride up via chairlift like skiers and snowboarders do every day at the resort.
Three men from South Chittenden County talked about the spring conditions after barrelling down Charlie's Chase, a trail mostly dedicated to hosting different types of racing at Mount Snow.
"The course is beautiful. It's fast and you can put an edge in," said Dave Richardson following a practice run. "It's going to get real icy though, that's for sure. Once 85 guys run that and five women."
Sean Hirten brought attention to the nice March day. The sun was out from its beginning.
Their friend Craig Bunton was competing in his seventh jack jump event at Mount Snow. Bunton has made the podium, meaning he finished within the top three, every year he's participated.
"We ride obsessively up at Bolton Valley," Richardson said of a resort up north which allows jack jumps all the time. "We ride like twice a week. This is just the one day down here they let us ride on the mountain."
He noted his gratitude for Mount Snow Lift Services Coordinator Gina Sarlo's running the event, acknowledging that the resort has to pick up some extra insurance in order to hold it. Jay Peak, another northern resort, also allows jack jumps.
Inspection is done at Bolton Valley to make sure edges are good, no holes are on the inside which can soften up the skis, and leashes are tied to the jack jumps, according to Tom Haviland. Skis were picked up at a reuse shed at a dump in Richmond for jack jumps he built.
Beside his own jack jump, two others were borrowed by his son Zach Haviland and Zach's friend Devon Walter for the event. They all live close to Bolton Valley.
Walter showed the Reformer his jack jump, saying a spring had come from a Michigan-based manufacturer that went out of business.
"It helps absorb some of the impact," he said.
"'Helps' is the operative word there," added Zach, who introduced Walter and other friends to the sport.
Turning requires more leaning, Walter said. That's due to only one edge being used at time on either side of the ski.
"You have to have a leash on them because sometimes if you don't have a seatbelt you might fall off and they tend to get away," he said. "We personally put seatbelts on them so we don't get bounced off if we go very high or hit any jumps."
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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