Rail Jam returns to downtown for fourth year

Josh Stanton

Freeskiers and snowboarders of all ages and skill levels will take to the 100 block of Front Street for the Downtown Showdown Rail Jam Saturday evening.

The event features a terrain park built from snow brought in by the truckload. The course is then laid out by Brandon Croney, owner of The Compound Ski and Snowboard Shop in Marquette.

“My crew of guys that have always helped me are some of my best friends and employees over the years that volunteer their time,” Croney said.re-RailJam_ET

The volunteers do everything from bringing the snow in and packing it to strategically placing the tabletops, jumps and rails. Croney said a slope groomer provided by Marquette Mountain will then smooth the surface. To finish off, volunteers use water to ice down the course to make it as fast as possible.

This year’s event will feature a brand new pyramid, wall-ride-type box obstacle that Croney and his staff titled the “Double Trouble Triangle.” With all of the man hours, time and money donated to this event, Croney wants to make sure that all efforts are recognized.

“It really is a huge community thing,” Croney said. “We try to give notoriety to all local businesses by making sure that the course is well-signed and that each rail is sponsored by a particular business.”

One of the major contributors to the event is Associated Constructors LLC. Croney said they donate a lot of hours and manpower to the event.

“I would like to give a shoutout to Jim O’Dovero Jr., our builder and operator, who does all of the table-top shaping for us,” Croney said.

In the Rail Jam’s first year, the event brought in approximately 1,000 spectators, and this year, the numbers are expected to reach 2,500, Croney said. One of the event’s biggest draws and prominence boosts is that it’s sponsored by Red Bull.

“We’ve got [Red Bull] coming with their DJ booth and blow-up banner. It’s certainly a unique atmosphere,” Croney said.

Building up hype for the event and making it feel big is important with this competition, and it starts with the sponsors.

“We really like having Red Bull on board. It brings a sense of notoriety to the event,” Tara Laase-McKinney, event and promotion coordinator at the Marquette Downtown Development Authority, said.

To combine resources, the Rail Jam was originally held on the same weekend as the UP 200 sled dog race, but after two years, the event took off as its own separate entity and “really expanded,” Laase-McKinney said.