A giant airplane contest. A slip-and-slide. As Oregon State University students, Ryan Kirkpatrick and Dan Genco tossed around ideas for a fun campus event.
They were looking to build their resumes before graduation. They wound up building a business.
In 2005, Kirkpatrick and Genco launched the “snow on the quad” event, which grew into the Campus Rail Tour. Snowboarders and skiers compete on a ramp with trucked-in snow on campuses in Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, California, Washington and Colorado as well as Oregon.
“We did it the first year without a hitch with the insurance and risk management stuff,” said Kirkpatrick, a 2006 graduate in general science. They started coaching students who wanted to learn about their business and sponsors offered to endorse the event. The one-time event developed into a business.
Now in its fifth year, with 10 tour stops, the snowboard and skiing competition returns to Corvallis at 5 tonight. Athletes will compete for prizes and a chance to advance to the championships in Portland on May 28.
Wednesday night, the Campus Rail crew of eight and about 20 OSU student volunteers erected the 25-foot tall ramp with a 100-foot run in the center of the quad. Friday afternoon, they’ll truck in 30 tons of snow fresh from Mount Hood.
The OSU graduates aren’t getting rich, yet, but they’re having a good time.
“You make more money as a roofer but you don’t get to snowboard all over the country,” said Kirkpatrick, an avid snowboarder.
The team travels in a bus from venue to venue. “It’s like camping. It’s like a snowboard summer camp,” Kirkpatrick said. “We hang out with a lot of cool, passionate people.”
Kirkpatrick also sees the event as a chance for snow sport athletes to shine for their friends.
“We’re reaching one million a month on the road,” Kirkpatrick said. “This brings it off the mountain and in to the people.”
Bringing it to the people costs $25,000 per venue. The ramp cost $50,000. Trucking the snow from Mount Hood, for example, to the Corvallis event will cost $5,000.
The ramp features three separate drops and rails, including a double-barrel kink with a down-flat-down.
“We like to see the people hitting the rails and riding them,” Kirkpatrick said, noting that they screen the contestants before they invite them to participate.
In Corvallis, they received more than 150 video entries from snowboarders and skivers. They invited 80 to compete. The first 60 to show will get to participate.
Between 5 and 8 tonight, the competitors will make as many runs as possible in a 45-minute heat. Finalists from the three heats will compete for an invitation to the Portland championship and top prize of $5,000 cash.
The event will happen, rain or shine. “We had 70 mph winds in Reno,” Kirkpatrick said. “Logistically, it’s so hard to reschedule.”