WENATCHEE, Wash. — It's not a place where you expect to find skiers and snowboarders.
But once a year the street that leads to the Pybus Public Market in downtown Wenatchee becomes a snowy slope where competitors ride rails and the whole town comes out to play.
On Feb. 7, 2020 the sixth annual Numerica Rails and Ales took over Wenatchee’s streets. Mission Ridge Ski and Board Resort supplies the man and woman power for this event. We caught up with marketing director Tony Hickok pre-show.
"We're right in the heart of downtown Wenatchee — ready to have a great time tonight, what we're doing at Mission Ridge is bringing the mountain to the people of Wenatchee.”
They haul seven side dump trucks full of snow and then Mission Ridge’s trail crew grooms it and adds metal ramps. Then thirty-five competitors and five thousand spectators come together for this winter celebration that ends with a handout of cold hard cash: Hickok is carrying more than $3000 worth of prize money in his pockets as he helps set up the show.
“Don’t tell too many people that,” he joked.
First prize is 500 dollars for best male skiier, female skiier, male snowboarder, and female snowboarder. Equal payouts for men and women, because it takes equal courage to ride rails on a thin layer of imported snow.
“It's not for the faint of heart. they're awesome at what they do,” said Hickok of the mostly regional riders who show up for the event.
Male riders outnumber the females, which gives the handful of women competing tonight great odds of winning something. Kim Ewing, a snowboarder from Leavenworth, sums up the female bonding in the small group.
"We are girls supporting girls absolutely."
After all, it's support that gets you through the crashes.
"It's fun, it's terrifying, it gets our adrenaline going, it's awesome,” said Nikki Roemer, another snowboard rider.
"You fall off the rail, it cracks your back really nicely, it's kinda like going to a chiropractor," snowboarder Natasha Roskach added. "Real therapeutic, you know!”
As these riders compete, it's clear that Rails and Ales is about more than who can do the best trick.
"My favorite part is just stepping back mid-event and seeing the 5000 people who are gonna show up here in downtown Wenatchee tonight, and just realizing how this event brings the community together to really celebrate skiing and snowboarding,” Hickok said.
When the night's over, the woman snowboarders we talk to all podium: Nikki Roemer takes first place and 500 dollars, Kim Ewing wins second and 250 dollars, and Natasha Roskach gets third, and 100 bucks.
And the biggest winner?
The eastern Washington town crazy enough to turn its streets into a snowy park for a night.
“It's a really fun event, I'm really glad that they put this on here for us,” Ewing said.
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