There are only so many opportunities to gather the majority of your team in one place, and even fewer opportunities to make it happen right in your back yard. After two years of waiting for an event that we thought may never come to fruition thanks to Covid-related restrictions, Sidehit Seance finally took Sugarbush Parks by storm.
Almost unbelievable at first, the in-house crew slowly became aware of what the week was about to turn into. After a chill Monday of timezone adjustment and talking shop for Stale Sandbech and Len Jorgensen, the rest of the crew started to roll in. Team riders were snatched up at the airport hour after hour and the team slowly started to assemble at the Rome SDS headquarters in Waterbury. After the last flight arrived for the day the gravity of the beautiful monstrosity we amassed became apparent.
The final head count at the welcome party left us with SDS pros Stale Sandbech, Len Jorgensen, Madison Blackley, & Ozzy Henning, as well as a stacked AM lineup consisting of Casey Savage, Drake Warner, Jeff Hopkins, Kayli Hendricks, & Nate Haust. As everyone waited for dinner to arrive riders caught up with each other and made new introductions. As the newest addition to the AM team, Drake couldn't decide if he wanted to shoot the shit with the European juggernauts or fan out to Ozzy over his old video parts. Hopkins immediately brought the stoke to the party with exclamations of 'how ripping this week is going to be with all you boarders!' followed by huge cheers from the entire room. After refueling from long travel days with pizza and beer it was time to hit the AirBNB.
|How could you have a bad time with a crew like that?
A huge tip of the hat to team manager Matt Stillman, who used his years of internet prowess to find a house large enough to fit the entire team in while being located just 10 minutes away from Sugarbush. After riders dropped their board bags inside and scrambled to claim the best rooms, the post welcome party welcome party broke out in the living room. Eventually joined by late arrivals Ralph Kucharek, Hunter Knoll, and Ivika Jurgenson, the excitement finally died down and the anticipation of day 1 ramped up.
The weather on day 1 could not have been more perfect. 45 degrees and bluebird in the parking lot at 8:30am had the crew beyond stoked to get after it. The riders who had never been to Sugarbush took a single look at the park and were in disbelief at the amount of features packed into a single trail. After obligatory warmup laps in the main park it was time to head up to the course, built by the Sugarbush Parks crew and Snowboy Productions.
Rolling into the course with the twelve Rome riders (soon to be joined by Connor Cavanagh and minishred ripper Avery Bard) was like watching kids in a candy store. A seemingly impossible amount of features made from snow, trees, and metal peppered the small section of trail and flowed together harmoniously. The only thing left to do was figure out which line you wanted to hit first. A quick meeting with Snowboy Productions' head honcho Krush and it was game on.
Riders immediately started picking their lines and after watching Stale blast a first-run method on the hip followed by the smoothest backside 360 you've ever seen on the massive volcano in the middle of the course, others followed suit. So much for saving the biggest features for the last day. Some riders were opting for the smaller volcanos on the side of the trail which popped up to various tree jibs, but the large volcano was clearly the focal point for day 1. It took about 20 minutes for all of the photographers and videographers to start capturing the insanity that was going down.
|Stale Sandbech by Michael Paddock
|Ralph Kucharek by Stephan Jende
|Len Jorgensen by Michael Paddock
Each rider took their unique approach to the feature, but nearly every trick was followed by hoots and hollers. Stale and Len opted for 180s and straight airs right out of the style handbook. Hopkins was blasting 360s to the moon and nearly sending it to flat every hit. Ralph and Nate were fully torquing inverts. Casey and Hunter were in a flow-state trance, slashing and tweaking like it was a handmade 90's halfpipe. As the volcano session died down and riders met at the bottom of the course to eat lunch, the energy was buzzing. Bouncing ideas off each other, giving props to the riding level & course uniqueness, and hyping each other up for more was commonplace throughout the week.
|Jeff Hopkins by Mary Walsh
|Stale Sandbech by Pat Ryan
Shortly afterwards, sessions broke out on the hip and rainbow tree at the top of the course. Stale, Len, and Hopkins' massive hip airs were complimented by Connor's cripplers and Madison's variety of unique grabs. Ozzy and Drake were bombing off the top of the rainbow tree to flat while Casey and Kayli wasted no time getting sideways. Day 1 went by in the blink of an eye, and at 3pm boarding was done for the day. As everyone pitched in to rake the course it was apparent: not only was the Seance in full effect, but the powers that be conjured up the ultimate week.
|Kayli Hendricks by Stephan Jende
|Casey Savage by Stephan Jende
A quick parking lot pow-wow for some extracurricular beers and the team was headed back to the house, where Art Director and chef de cuisine Michael Paddock had been slow cooking chicken for taco night. Sunburnt and thirsty, marketing coordinator Max Lyons took it upon himself to be the team's Marg-tender (thanks for the name Madison). After feasting the team settled into their preferred post-dinner activities. Half the crew took to setting up shop on the deck overlooking a river, catching the last few rays of sun for the evening. SDS filmer Devin Bernard along with Snowboy hired filmer/editor Chris DeJohn created an impromptu workstation behind the bar in the living room where they imported footage until midnight. Others lingered in the living room before retiring to their rooms for the evening.
As the team rolled up to the course for day two fueled by Paddock's famous breakfast burritos, the Sugarbush and Snowboy crews were hard at work maintaining the snow levels and shaping features. With more time needed for salt to set, VT-born ripper and member of the Pink Dollar Possy, Jeff DeForge, led a spur-of-the-moment run in remembrance of Sugarbush legend Tony Chiuchiolo. As 40 plus riders bombed from the summit of Mt. Ellen it was clear that day 2 was going to be electric. With everyone gathered back at the course, stories of Tony's impact on the Sugarbush community were passed around as the features finished setting.
Day 2 started with a bit less form than the first day. Riders spread out over the entire course. Some opted to hike single features, while others were enjoying flowing from top-to-bottom. The early day 2 MVP award went to Madison (donning an all green facemask in honor of St. Patrick's Day), Kayli, Ivika, and young Avery Bard. The four immediately got to destroying the flat tube on top of a snow mound and within half an hour they did nearly every slide and press in the book.
|Ivika Jurgenson by Pat Ryan
|Kayli Hendricks by Stephan Jende
|Madison Blackley by Ashley Rosemeyer
By midday almost all eyes were fixed on Mr. Savage. Unable to stay away from wooden features, Casey did at least six different stalls on a wooden hitching post which had seen no action the day before. The last hour of the day consisted of a down rail session where Drake showed off the levels of tech and consistency that only rope-tow riders could ever achieve. The final act of the day was a celebratory SDS hellride through the course which concluded with nearly 20 riders entering the bottom bowl section at once. As everyone pitched in to fix the effects the 60 degree day had on the course, Nate was pondering what to do with the stall feature that had completely melted out at the bottom of the course. After a quick decision he decided it would make for a sick day 3 pole jam. Within half an hour the feature was in the ground with hopes that it was stable enough to last through the night.
|Casey Savage by Mary Walsh
|Crew Bowl Ride by Michael Paddock
After another parking lot conglomeration it was time to head into Waterbury for St. Patrick's Day dinner. Bringing 20 unruly snowboarders into a public restaurant on one of the largest drinking holidays undoubtedly led to a bit of rowdiness, but none louder than the arrival of SDS Sales Manager Dan Sullivan. Arriving fashionably late dressed in a green suit (a 15 year tradition for Sully) Sully was met with hooting, hollering, and a pour of Irish whiskey. After celebrating the holiday in full Sully fashion with shots of whiskey and Guinness the team was carted back to the house for the final day on-hill.
It could have been the whiskey, sunburn, or straight up physical fatigue, but day 3 started off visibly sluggish. A few extra cups of coffee and a few extra minutes of morning stretching helped motivate riders and once everyone reached the course it was once again go-time. Much to everyone's excitement Nate's pole jam stayed in the ground and looked amazing. After watching Nate test it out, almost every other rider started to become interested in the feature. A little steeper than initially thought, the pole jam was sending riders to the moon. Nate and Hopkins were blasting 360s almost 15 feet in the air, Len was doing some of the most unique grabs and one-footers, Hunter was jibbing boards being held in the air. With the last day vibes so high, even Ralph was enticed to break his multi-year metal hiatus to hit the pole jam, which he did with a smooth frontside 180.
|Len Jorgensen by Michael Paddock
|Hunter Knoll by Ashley Rosemeyer
|Jeff Hopkins by Michael Paddock
By lunchtime exhaustion was setting in. Riders were hiking slower and taking a few more minutes at the top of the course, but everyone continued to have smiles plastered on their faces. As riders bowed out into the woods one by one, a few trudged on for one final session at the bottom of the bowl. Stillman, who had strategically conserved his energy for the final session of the Seance, led things off with a tripod across the snow pad. Not the type to let their team manager session a feature alone, Ralph and Hunter hopped in with their own butters. Stale and Len, who were still riding the entire course, would occasionally roll through and tail drag the pad at high speeds. To cap off the session Nate fashioned a makeshift feature out of team riders' boards which he firecrackered across.
|Nate Haust by Ashley Rosemeyer
As everyone said their goodbyes at the top of the course, one final crew parking lot hang took place. A single look around at the crew we gathered for the week and the reality of the situation set in. Years in the making we finally had the chance to bring the Sidehit Seance to life. The stars had aligned for a week of perfect weather which kept the stoke level high on and off hill. All Ways Down to run it back, we'll see everyone at next year's Seance.
An extra special thank you to those who made this event possible including Snowboy Productions, Sugarbush Parks, and Monster Energy. To keep up with content from the Seance, check out #SidehitSeance on Instagram.
Watch the Snowboy Recap below and make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the official Rome recap, dropping this fall.