Rail Jam: Sliding into 6th Block

This past Friday night, Colorado College skiers and snowboarders competed in CC’s annual Rail Jam. The Freerider’s Union of Colorado College (FUCC), a coalition of CC’s ski and snowboard enthusiasts, created a mini-terrain park on the Preserve Hill. Both participants and vocal observers watched as students, male and female, competed in freestyle tricks. FUCC Co-Chair Christopher Birch, CCSGA President Dorsa Djalilzadeh, and CCSGA Vice President of Finance Ariel Filion spoke to the preparation and facilitation of the event, in particular, the consideration of the rising commitment to inclusionary dialogue surrounding an often-exclusionary activity.

Photos by Celia Herdic and Josh Birndorf

Birch described the tumultuous preparation surrounding a logistically difficult event. “It started late before winter break, getting into contact with local businesses to work out the logistics. And then it ended up culminating that week of, with trying to finalize invoices and service orders and such,” Birch said.

The city of Silverthorne transported four trucks of snow to CC specifically for the event. The Colorado College Facilities Department created a mound of snow from this pileup, while the FUCC spent five to six hours constructing the course itself. “The snow we did a little bit differently this year. We did the event a little bit earlier than normally. We thought that maybe, hopefully doing it earlier, sixth block first week, that maybe we would have a little snow on campus.  And, luckily, we did; it was nice and cold,” Birch said.

An aspect of Rail Jam that is often unnoticed is the FUCC’s collaboration with local Colorado businesses. Birch and fellow Co-Chair Alexander Makic worked closely with these companies to ensure snow, lights, hay, and scaffolding arrived in time for the day of the event. “The lights are from a local rental company downtown called Bill’s Tool Rental. And we got 63 bails of hay. I drove out to Falcon, to this place called Bartlett Hay and Feed Co. They helped me load the 63 bails into the back of the U-Haul and drive that over to the Preserve area.” Waco Scaffolding & Equipment Co. provided the remaining supplies for the event.

Birch emphasized the necessity of these companies for the execution of the event, particularly considering that 73 percent of the $9,964 budget goes to supplies and set-up. Due to the continued collaboration with these companies, the number has largely stayed consistent from year to year.

Yet, this year, the FUCC switched their focus from the difficulties of logistical planning to the concerns surrounding the inclusivity and sustainability of the space. Due to prior criticism surrounding the event, CCSGA, in collaboration with the FUCC, initiated a student dialogue series to concentrate their efforts on how to ensure that all students who wanted to go to Rail Jam felt welcome.

Filion, an initial facilitator of these inclusionary efforts, spoke to the inspiration behind this action. Through her two-year tenure, Filion reviewed upwards of 500 CC affiliated budgets, noticing a trend of controversy surrounding the events that required larger monetary needs. “I really wanted this year, in my role as VP of Finance, to make sure I’m not only doing the financial aspect of my job. But also, that part of my job is ensuring that the events that are going through our office are doing the best that they can, in being as inclusive as they can, and as affordable as they can,” Filion said. Upon Djalilzadeh’s election as President, the two met to discuss the continuation of a series of dialogue dinners, this year with an increased focus on inclusive events.

The dialogue dinners, particularly in regards to Rail Jam, inspired candid and often opposing opinions to be vocalized. As Djalilzadeh explained, “I was interacting with Rail Jam as just a student in the last three years. I obviously had my issues with it because I’m a student of color, minority student, and don’t ski: born and raised in Colorado, don’t ski. I just wasn’t in that space at all.” Although many students feel a similar sense of exclusion, she also recognized the many students who don’t. The goal: make the planning and preparation of Rail Jam a collaborative space, between different groups and organizations that may not otherwise have the opportunity to interact. Through these conversations, Djalilzadeh and Filion hoped to encourage and implement individual ideas in the facilitation of this ultimately school-wide event.

Djalizadeh praised the FUCC’s willingness to engage in this collaboration and, ultimately, catalyze other inclusionary efforts in campus activities. “Having the Co-Chairs of FUCC be really communicative with us, and be willing to help us, was awesome. And, I think that was the impression a lot, that FUCC and Rail Jam are just doing their own thing, and insular, and comprised of white dudes,” Djalilzadch said. “But the thing is they were so, so excited to work with us and were really accommodating. And I’m so proud of what FUCC was able to do and what we were able to help them to do.”

As a result of these conversations, FUCC did put their plans into action. “We tried to do a lot. But, as it got going, certain clubs were more adept to working with us. So, we ended up collaborating with the Video Game Club and SOMOS,” Birch said. “Normally, the security takes the upstairs McHugh Commons area as their headquarters and that kind of sections that off and negates us from using that at all. But, this year, I found an open date and reserved that space, so SOMOS and Video Game Club were up there.” Both SOMOS and Video Game Club had different events in McHugh Commons, a dance and competition, respectively, that occurred alongside Rail Jam. The location allowed the club’s members to participate in their event while also feeling included in the larger CC community.

Birch also spoke about the holistic expansion of the event to include a CC DJ, a performance from the Tiger Eyes Dance Team, and marshmallow roasting. A CC alumna even donated a snowboard, which was raffled off in support of DACA.

Beyond Rail Jam, Filion commented on CCSGA’s continued efforts to promote diversity and inclusion. “Every event that wants to happen should be able to happen. We are not here to shut any events down; we’re excited about it, if you’re excited about it. We just want to make sure everyone feels welcome in spaces and make sure that this is happening with every event.”

Meg DeMarsh

Meg DeMarsh

Meg DeMarsh

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