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3rd Rail Jam Brings Hip-Hop To The Mountain

Hip-hop/graffiti/snowboard party hits Bogus Basin


Timmy Grins is pretty sure he'll find a wife at Bogus Basin.

"Tell the single ladies out there in the 21 to 25 range I've been on Oprah. I'm a really, really good guy. I'm like [a] lottery ticket," Grins says.

About four years ago, Grins and his partner Pat Hession masterminded an amalgamation of cool, blending hip-hop, MCs, street artists, fashion, culture and snowboarders. They called it the Under Armour 3rd Rail Jam--after the lethal, electrified rail of New York subway system--and turned it into a country-crossing party on wheels. Now that party is coming to Bogus Basin for the first time on Saturday, Feb. 12.

"We're very young, very aggressive, very grass-roots. [We] move in from one stop to the next--it's all about that one stop," says Grins. With an army of MCs, DJs, boarders and graffiti artists, the rail jam travels from one ski hill to the next, taking over each resort with a rails course and up to 100 riders per stop competing for cash, prizes and Sparta style glory.

"It's not the type of thing where we move in and move out and have finals elsewhere," Grins says.

They started small in 2007, taking the party from their home base of Mountain Creek, N.J., to Lake Tahoe and then Beech Mountain, N.C., their second year. The 3rd Rail Jam has expanded its 2011 schedule to include eight ski hills--double the stops in 2010. Grins singled out Boise for more than its pretty ladies.

"There's definitely quite a bit going on in that neck of the woods," Grins says.

And with the party atmosphere the 3rd Rail Jam brings, for a couple of days there will be even more.

"I really try to keep [the music] underground, old-school hip-hop--like A Tribe Called Quest," says DJ Dolamarx. "Especially for a snowboarding, X Games style kind of competition."

Dolamarx and DJ Image spin tracks for the competition, which has its own Slacker Radio station.

"I'll slip some of that Big Boi stuff in there, too. For the punk stuff I'll try to do more like Bloodhound Gang, NOFX--keep it interesting," says Dolamarx.

In addition to spinning tracks, eight MCs who travel with the tournament will take the stage to face off in the Battle Below Zero: a no-holds-barred exhibition of rapping and flow skills. 

"They'll be judged on crowd response, on their beat, on their lyrical flow and their lyrical content," says Dolamarx.

The whole point of the MC battle is to pair original beats, created by the artists, with their own freestyle lyrics laid on top. Dolamarx emphasizes the importance of the content being homemade. An artist could use, say, a Nicki Minaj track and rhyme over it, but Dolamarx cautions:

"If they wanna do it, they can do it, but they're not going to win the competition, you know what I mean?"

On the sidelines of the event, a troop of graffiti artists will spray up fresh street art onto portable plywood installations, bringing a visual element to the hip-hop culture.

But the main event is the rail jam itself. A rail jam puts a snowboarder or skier on a track toward rails set in the ground--think a skateboarding park. The competitor uses the rails to perform tricks, grinds or spins, striving for a fluid grouping of moves. The 3rd Rail Jam competition is broken into four separate divisions: an all-girls category, one for kids 15 years and younger, best of breed and a skiers' division. Evan Williams of Boise's The Board Room will be competing in the event.

"If it's a rail jam you just kind of prepare for that, trying to get as much time riding rails as you can before the event," says Williams, who rides for The Board Room's snowboard team. "[You build] a repertoire of tricks that you're comfortable with. You want to try to get as much time in whatever prospective event as you can, and get enough training--have some tricks that you feel comfortable doing."

It won't be easy. Grins say the stops so far have drawn an average of 100 competitors--with 180 at their home mountain in New Jersey.

"Some of the main criteria is definitely going to be style points, how stylish a rider is as he's hitting rails, doing different tricks. Another criteria is definitely going to be difficulty as well," says Matt Rigby of Newt and Harold's. He'll also serve as a local judge for the competition.

"A big thing is uniqueness, too. New tricks, progressive linkage of tricks. Front, back-side lip slides are pretty basic trick maneuvers. Nose presses--balancing while touching the nose or tail down the whole rail consistently--spins onto rails, 280s, the occasional 450, but I don't know if we'll be seeing any of that specifically."

Rigby may not compete anymore, but he knows what skill looks like.

"I don't know if I can keep up anymore with the younger kids. I've definitely had my heyday," he says.

Taking the top spots in each division nets riders some cool prizes: swag from sponsors like Beats by Dr. Dre, 33Third, Grenade, Under Armour, Kangol, Bern, Launch Snowboards, Ninthward Skis and the United States Marine Corps. Winners also take home cold hard cash.

In addition to the prizes, $5 of every boarder's sign-up fees goes to Amped 4 a Cure, which seeks to generate money for cancer research.

"I think Boise is going to be huge. The people out there are really 'on board' with the program," Grins says, pun intended.

Hopefully the Bogus Basin ladies like a corny joke.