Revamping & Reassessing Rail Jam

It has recently come to my attention, through conversations with fellow students, that there is a lot of misinformation going around about Rail Jam, an annual event at Colorado College in which students set up ski jumps, rails, and boxes on the Preserve hill and do tricks off them as their classmates watch and cheer them on. A lack of understanding around the CC Student Government Association’s (CCSGA) efforts to improve Rail Jam has created an unnecessarily adversarial dynamic that is counterproductive to everyone’s goals.

Cartoon by Lo Wall

This year I am a sophomore representative for CCSGA, which is important to clarify upfront because it informs my perspective on the subject. But I also think it has given me insight into the processes around Rail Jam this year, which I’d like to share.

Last year Rail Jam cost $9,400, which made it the second most expensive event that CCSGA voted to fund all year, behind Blues and Shoes.

This doesn’t include events that are built into the student activity fee, like Llamapalooza, because CCSGA doesn’t vote on their budgets. Its budget was approved by CCSGA by a one-vote margin after a long debate over the inclusiveness of the event. 

The primary misconception I’ve heard from students around Rail Jam recently is that it’s not going to happen this year because CCSGA won’t fund it. However, a lot has changed between last year and this year, and the process is likely to look very different. 

Last year, when the event’s budget was proposed, it was the first that most members of CCSGA had heard about it. Some of them took issue with it because they believed that an event that costs as much as Rail Jam should appeal to a wider population than just skiers and skiing enthusiasts. 

And I agree with them. Skiing’s appeal is limited by a variety of factors, particularly its cost to participate. Because it is so expensive to ski, Rail Jam seems like an event exclusively for affluent CC students. Though Rail Jam is free to attend, it doesn’t appeal much to someone who’s never been skiing before, as long as watching people ski is the only activity. Also, since skiing is in many ways a celebration of the outdoors, the event should be more conscious of its environmental effects.

However, I believe that by including things like live music, more expansive food options, and other games, Rail Jam can be an event that, while still celebrating skiing and ski culture, will appeal to a much broader audience. And by looking at things like the source of the snow and the lighting for the event, we can work to reduce its carbon footprint. 

While I cannot speak for all of CCSGA when it comes to opinions on Rail Jam, I can tell you that as an organization we are working hard to get as much input as possible from the student body in order to make the event a better reflection of student interests. 

We are currently in conversations with the Freeriders Union of Colorado College (FUCC), the student group that puts on the event, the school’s administration, and any students who feel that Rail Jam needs improvement. Student Voices, a series of dialogues put on by CCSGA in order to bring CC students’ opinions to light, is focusing on Rail Jam for the entire first semester. If all of this is carried out well, which it has been so far, there will be no need for controversy when it comes time to vote on Rail Jam’s budget, because it will be a known quantity shaped by input from CC students in a wholly democratic process.

Ultimately, everyone wants to have fun events. There is no reason we can’t enjoy events but still acknowledge that they can be better by focusing on inclusivity and sustainability.  There should be no need for controversy or animosity.    

If you feel strongly about Rail Jam, either because it is one of your favorite events and you want to make sure it happens, or because you think you have ideas about how to make it better, CCSGA would love to hear from you. Talk to your class representatives about your opinions, come to the conversations that we put on, and come to our meetings—they’re open to the public. Rail Jam will be at its best if it is a reflection of diverse interests and perspectives, which will only happen if enough CC students are active participants in the conversations about it in the coming months. 

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