Rider Rally & Telemark Academy Kick Off at Big Sky

How do you make the best event of the year even better? You add more participants, and more disciplines. 

That’s what happened in Big Sky, Montana, today, as Rider Rally and Telemark Academy joined their friends attending National Academy for a shred buffet of riding and learning.

“It’s the first time we’ve held Rider Rally and National Academy together,” said AASI Snowboard Team Coach Scott Anfang, who has already spent a few days on the slopes with a group of snowboarding National Academy attendees. He said that he’s stoked for more riders to join the event today.

“While the National Academy crew has had more of a focus on sharing some of the educational highlights from Interski 2019 in Pamporovo, Bulgaria, Rider Rally will shift its attention to the skills needed to ride Big Sky’s massive terrain,” said Anfang. 

“We’ll have three to four topics every day, including key takeaways specific to Big Sky, carving clinics, and some work relating to the importance of skidded turns.”

Most importantly, the event will celebrate its return to Big Sky 20 years after the first Rider Rally was born on the mountain’s steeps. Brainchild of AASI Snowboard Team member alum, former PSIA-AASI Board of Directors president, current VP of the Interski Presidium, and Montana local, Eric Sheckleton started Rider Rally as a way to encourage snowboard instructors to push their professional limits, in both their riding and teaching.

“It’s really an amazing story of a grassroots event that helped encourage many snowboard instructors to reach the highest levels of teaching,” Sheckleton said, “including a few who went on to become AASI Snowboard Team members.”

Sheckleton said that when Rider Rally started, there often wasn’t even a specific clinic topic. There was, however, a strong sense of community, and a network of riders that attended the event as it roamed from Jackson Hole to Snowbird, Breckenridge to Steamboat, and then A-Basin before returning to Big Sky. With a focus on emphasizing fun, either on the snow or in one of Rider Rally’s best traditions, a night of bowling, Rider Rally brings snowboarders together to celebrate the sport and build community.

“The most important thing Rider Rally does, which can sometimes be hard in our sport, is to help develop passionate snowboard instructors,” said Sheckleton.

Which is also the goal of Telemark Academy. As PSIA Telemark Team member Grant Bishop said, in a similar vein as Rider Rally, the free-heel crew will share highlights from their own Interski presentations, as well as what differences and similarities in teaching that they observed from other countries. They will also do a lot of skiing.

“There’s a lot of energy coming into Telemark Academy this year,” said Bishop. “Part of that is coming from Interski, and some of it is also kind of a lead into next year’s Team tryouts. Most of all, people are really excited to ski Big Sky.”

With its incredible steeps, endless array of groomers, and excellent snow conditions, Bishop said, “Big Sky is one of the best ski areas in the country. In my mind, it’s one of the best mountains you could ever learn on. And that’s coming from a Jackson Hole guy!”

- Peter Kray

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