Hoots, hollers, “oohs” and “ahs” filled the courtyard of Time and Materials Taphouse Saturday, Jan. 14, as skiers and snowboarders hit jumps, rails and even threw themselves off the awnings of the building. The eighth annual Box Jam, hosted by Boardworks Tech Shop, brought a miniature terrain park to downtown Bellingham. At 44 degrees Fahrenheit with a clear sky, snow was not on the forecast, but skiers and snowboarders in full gear could be seen walking down State Street.
The jam’s course featured a drop-in, two jumps, a rail, a box and a quarter pipe. The course stretched 72 feet long and 15 feet wide according to Nate Braks, a co-owner of Boardworks Tech Shop. Entirely made of snow brought in from Mount Baker, it took “between 10 and 20 truckloads” to build the course, said Braks. “And when I mean truckloads, I mean full-on dump trucks of snow. We had to rent an actual construction dump truck. And also several pickup truck loads of snow as well.”
After two years off due to COVID-19, just under 400 people attended the jam to either watch or participate.
“We technically skipped [jam] seven,” said Braks. “Just the fact that everyone was able to get together again and kind of celebrate this skiing and snowboarding thing that we all love together in this way. Getting to do that again, I think everyone was especially kind of amped up for the event.”
The crowd consisted primarily of spectators, but anyone with a purchased ticket was encouraged to participate in the jam. Snowboarders made up the majority of the participants, but skiers still brought out their biggest and best stunts.
“It’s been cool seeing how much of a community gathers around this event,” said Dustin Berman, a snowboarder who has participated in all eight jams. “You know, it’s really just having a good time. It’s so good reconnecting. I live in Seattle now, so I came up here specifically for this, and it’s awesome.”
Rail and box grinds were the most popular tricks seen throughout the night, but the energy of the crowd brought out the best in participants with a few flips and larger stunts being thrown. Based on the audience’s reaction, the best tricks of the night were also the most dangerous. The highlight of the night was snowboarders jumping into the course from awnings in the courtyard of the taphouse.
“Both awesome and horrifying,” said Braks. “We had a lot of meetings with Time and Materials before this event and their staff. We went over a lot of, like, ‘Hey, just so you know, if we put this here, someone's going to jump off of it.’ So we knew that that was probably going to happen. And it was kind of like, that's why you have things like liability waivers and event insurance. All the things that go into doing something like that responsibly.”
Prizes were not awarded for any tricks thrown at the jam, but long-awaited prizes were given to the winners of a video contest Boardworks held over the pandemic.
“What we ended up handing out awards for was sort of last year's competition we did instead of Box Jam, which was the Mount Baker All-Mountain Showdown, which was a video contest that we did so people could still participate in a community event while social distancing,” Braks said.
The winners were a group of four local high school students who went by the group name “The Hogs.” The grand prize was $2,000, with smaller cash prizes awarded for the best trick, crash and more. The contestants were all voted for on the Boardworks website by viewers, making the winners the fan favorites.
In the coming weeks, a video recapping the event will be uploaded to the Boardworks Tech Shop YouTube channel. And photos from the event will be published on the shop’s website. More information on upcoming events can be found on the shop’s website as well as the shop’s official Instagram.
“You know, a lot of events like this don't really happen anymore,” said Braks. “I grew up really loving these sorts of things, and it made us feel connected to our snowboarding community growing up, so we wanted to pay it forward and keep that sort of thing alive.”
Click here to see more photos from the Box Jam.
Tarn Bregman (he/him) is a fourth-year environmental studies major who has also worked as a reporter and photographer for The Planet magazine. In his free time, Tarn can be found on Galbraith Mountain riding his mountain bike or hanging out at Bellingham skatepark. Tarn hopes to bring The Front’s coverage to niche sports and recreational activities locally and across the county.