Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Empire Shakedown 2008

The Empire Shakedown 2008
April 4 and 5, 2008, Mont Saint-Sauveur, Quebec, Canada
by Lauren Traub Teton

We went to our first Empire Shakedown in Quebec this week, and it is one of the best snowboard events I’ve ever been to! And I have been to just about every snowboard event this season in the East.

A slow 8-hour drive in a blizzard and misty rain, and rush hour traffic around Montreal were endured, but were quickly forgotten when we took our places for Friday night’s rail jam at petit Mont Saint-Sauveur, an hour north of Montreal. The crowd would have been thicker if not for the bad driving weather but that just meant plenty of good viewing spots from the comfy grandstands, and room to move around, which was
certainly not the case Saturday night with crowds of over 15,000 spectators for the finals of the main event.

Friday Night Coors Light Rail Jam and Party

80 slots for amateurs were available in the rail jam beside the 35 pros that could ride. Two old-school metal rails and a gigantic corrugated drum, tarted up to look like a can of Coors completed the set-up. The riders were pleased that no stair rails were included because of the extra danger factor that comes with stairs.

Mike Casanova out of Breckenridge, Colorado competed using some of the
greenbacks from his first place win at February's NY City's Union Square Rail Jam
for his travel budget. He is riding as an unsponsored free agent at the moment and
carefully considering his next career move. Originally from Wisconsin, 23-year old
Mike is a really nice guy as well as a super rider.

Jason Dubois of Quebec and Chris Rotax of Vermont who both also made the
podium at Union Square, competed at the Shakedown. As did LNP (Laurent-Nicolas
Paquin) of Quebec with his smiley dark eyes and freak flag of hair flying. This guy was spectacular in Rome Snowboard's latest film "By Any Means" and was named 2008
"Jibber of the Year" by Snowboarder Magazine for that film part.

Kael Hill of Alberta, Canada took the top prize in the Coors Light Rail Jam ($5 000)
with a Nollie Backside Lip 5-0. Matt Kulisek, a local from St-Sauveur won the Ride
Snowboards amateur competition with a graceful frontside 9. Also on the podium for
the amateur side were Antonin Chamberland of Sherbrooke in 2nd place, and David
Gauthier of Trois-Rivières, 3rd place. All three won invites for the semi-finals in the big pro comp on Saturday.

The party Friday night was at the club Bourbon Street in Piedmont, the next town over
and the only place around big enough to hold the crowd. This was one of the largest
parties I had ever been to. That is until the next night's afterparty. 3000 people can fit inside Bourbon Street, and the partying and dancing were wild a la Quebec. Bouncers regularly pick up and throw out anyone who gets too rowdy. And I have never seen so many beautiful girls in one place in my life.

Saturday Main Event Semi-Finals and Finals - Slopestyle Jam

Saturday brought bright warm sunshine, with 55 degree F temperatures that made the
daytime snow slow and sticky for the semi-finals of the main event. 35 of the best
pro-riders from the US and Canada were invited to compete along with the 3 amateur winners of Friday night's rail jam. An insane halftime (mi-temps) show between the semi-finals and the finals was the VANS Skateboarding Competition. The snowboard rail set-up was jibbed by skateboarders, propelling off of a wooden quarterpipe before the cheering crowds in the stands. Thomas Parent won top honors and a cash prize of
$2 000.

Back on the snowboards, the finals saw the 15 top athletes of the semi-finals retained for a showdown. The Empire Shakedown is a unique competition, requiring that athletes master two different snowboarding disciplines (the AMP booter jump, followed by the rail) in a JAM format which we've only seen done at the Shakedown. The ski run below the booter is open to the public during the event, and snowboarders and skiers must ride through a narrow snow passageway right underneath the competitors asthey fly overhead from their jumps.

The Shakedown basically uses a rail jam format, for a slopestyle event. Say WHAT?!
In plain English, that means the riders can take as many practice runs as they want at any time during the comp. HOWEVER they must call out each of the 2 runs that will be judged before they drop in, and they have to say what trick they'll be doing. This makes it both easier and harder. Just ask Chris Rotax, who killed it all day, but just not on his "juger" or judged runs.

Chris's Vermont rail pal Yale Cousino is recovering from a knee injury sustained at the Union Square Rail Jam, and helped out here with the judging. Justin Short (who is tall,with long straight red gold hair) competed from out west, as did Bode Merrill (not to be confused with Bode Miller) out of Salt Lake City, Utah. Merrill, age 21 won first place in the "World Quarterpipe Championship" in Vermont two weeks ago on Easter Monday, and has been ripping it up in the East. His prize there was $1000 in quarters and a 50cc motorcycle, which is comically tiny considering his 6'3 inch frame.

Another thing that is special and spectacular about the Shakedown is the spirit and
animation of the crowd. They were packed together like pennies in a jar, breathless
with anticipation before each jump, and ecstatic at the finish of each rail slide. Since the mountain is open for riding at night, spectators had the option to ride the lift or hike up, to sit on the snowy lit hill and watch the event.

The excitement was contagious, with 2 announcers going at the same time, Patryck
Bernier, one of the event organizers spoke in French and Etienne Gilbert in
English. The music made it impossible not to dance and was as good as the tunes at
the after-party. And the crowd was the best looking and most nonchalantly fashionable
group we have ever seen in our lives. We would have loved to see a little display of show-off runs by the riders who worked so hard but didn't make the finals.

"The level of competition is very high and the boarders have been extremely creative;
some jumps we’ve never even seen before. The ambiance was incredible,especially today with the beautiful weather we’re experiencing" commented Brendan O’Dowd, President of DIZZLE Productions Inc, and one of the Empire Shakedown’s

When all was said and done, Mont-Tremblant native Charles (say "Sharl") Reid won
the 2008 Empire Shakedown grand finale this year after placing 2nd in 2007. The 17-
year old snowboarder also won himself $15 000 in prize money. Two other Quebecois boarders climbed onto the podium; Sébastien Toutant,with his very special backside 1080 double cork - double kink air, and gap to back lipslide on the rail.

Toutant is a 15-year old from Lanaudière, who rides for O'Neill under the superb
tutelage of our old friend Max Henault, and we predict you'll be seeing Seb's name a
lot. Third was Sherbrook’s Antonin Chamberland. Chamberland was in fact one of
just two amateur snowboarders to win a spot in the finals, the other being Saint-
Sauveur’s Matt Kulisek.

Winner Charles Reid said "I think the moves I really succeeded with, the frontside
1080 and the back side 270 were what won me the competition. I don’t really know
what to do with the $15 000 prize money, but for the moment, its going to the bank.
One thing is certain; I will be ready for Shakedown 2009." The prize was the biggest
purse to be awarded in Canada.

The after-party was huge, and open to all comers over age 18 who paid a cover
charge. It was conveniently held at the Saint-Sauveur base lodge, and the social
scene spilled out all over, with one outdoor section seemingly reserved for people to text message their friends. We've never been to a snowboard event that made a space
big enough to have a party where all were invited, so this one was great. Charles Reid proudly sported his first prize necklace at the party. It was heavy gold and spelled out "Shakedown 2008" in a style that would make 50 Cent jealous, for sure.

After-after parties broke out in various places including the tony Manoir Sauveur lounge that is probably still trying to rub the drink waterspots off its grand piano. The Shakedown is a party not to be missed, and we'll be back. We may even nip up to
Canada again soon to enjoy the charming tourist village of St-Sauveur in the summer
without our snowboard buddies. And to check out the latest fashions at Axis
Boardshop in St-Sau, who has one of the best snowboard, skate, and wakeboard clothing
collection we've ever seen. They're surely one of the reasons the people at the
Shakedown looked so fashionably fab!

Sponsors of the Empire Shakedown

Empire Stores is the namesake partner of The Shakedown. With five stores in the
Greater Montreal area, and its online boutique www.thinkempire.com, they are
Canada’s largest distributor specializing in snow and skateboard clothing and

In 2008, Empire Shakedown once again enjoys the support of: Vans, AMP, Ubisoft,
Coors Light, Ride Snowboards, Mont Saint-Sauveur, ZooYork, as well as Spy, Nixon,
Nikita, 686, IFound, Drop, New Era, Skull Candy, Tourisme Québec, and Moog Audio.
The participation of the following media should also be noted: Snowboard Canada
Magazine, Future Snowboard Mag (USA), Musique Plus, and 33mag.com.

DIZZLE Productions is the architect of the Shakedown. Founders of DIZZLE Patryck
Bernier and Brendan O'Dowd have been providing event management and other
related services since 2004. www.dizzleinc.com

The Empire Shakedown 2008 will be aired on the RDS Network (April 25 at 5:30
p.m.. DST) and on TSN (May 18 at 3:30 p.m. DST).

Don't Miss Great Snowboard Events in the East. SnowboardEventsCalendar.com