This is Queenstown’s new rail jam – where life and limb are on the line.
One guy fractured ribs and was admitted to hospital with suspected delayed concussion. Another, who had a broken wrist, broke it again.
Others were luckier – they just broke boards or skis.
That’s no surprise to Dean Stuart, the 21-year-old organiser of the inaugural Reavers Lodge rail jam held in Queenstown last Saturday.
“The whole idea is it’s not for the fainthearted,” he says. “There will be injuries.
“I don’t know why there was not more bloodshed, to be honest, but it wasn’t the aim.”
His wants the event – attended by 600 spectators cheering from lodge balconies above – to be an annual for those brave enough to enter.
This is no custom-made rail designed for snow sports. It’s purely a street rail – thin steel running down the middle of 19 bone-crunching, concrete steps.
Safety features – if you can call them that – are a thin smattering of snow from Coronet Peak covering the bottom six steps and thinly padded wooden crates in a makeshift end zone bringing speeding entrants to a brutal halt.
Stuart admits feeling “really nervy” while watching.
“Why? If someone does get seriously injured, it’s not because I’m going to be liable, but it ruins the atmosphere for it becoming an annual event.”
All entrants signed waivers clearing him from liability for injury or damage, as well as ACC “no claims” forms, he says.
Not all wore helmets despite Stuart saying he supplied enough. “I’m surprised some didn’t. I brought them all aside at the start and said, ‘I’m not going to force you to wear helmets but I’d appreciate it if you did’.”
He plans changes, such as padding concrete edges near the top of the rail and a longer end zone so competitors aren’t crashing into wooden crates at such high speeds.
Queenstown snowboarder Josh Clark, who judged, says it should be held again.
“There’s always injuries in events like that, it’s just how it is. No one forced them to hit it, they’re doing it for the glory. They may have got laid from it, who knows?
“I think you just have to be a high-calibre rider.”
St John Wakatipu area executive officer Lynn Cain, who attended with a paramedic, ambulance officer and ambulance, says the service was paid $350 to supply medical support on the night and received $1500 from fundraising.
“Those events generally bring in some form of injury. It was actually quite light, the injuries. If they’re going to turn it into an annual event, we’re very keen to be involved.”
‘These people are nearly breaking ribs for you’
It’s carnage out there.
While plenty of the rail jam entrants successfully slide down the dangerous Reavers Lodge rail last Saturday, many don’t.
Guys land heavily on their backs, butts and even heads. Even then, they wince, get up and return to the top for another crack at what one onlooker says is “the gnarliest rail in town”.
It looks dangerous. Is it?
“It’s very dangerous,” organiser Dean Stuart says.
“There’s a kid [in the ambulance] with a broken rib. His head’s all cut up.”
Queenstown snowboarder Jono Budd, 19, admits it’s “pretty scary”.
“It’s just about confidence. Once you hit it a couple of times, you get used to it and all of a sudden it’s nothing.”
A competitor lands so heavily it looks like he could have damaged internal organs. He isn’t moving as St John staff hurry over.
The MC is merciless: “There’s blood coming out of his ears!” Thankfully, there isn’t.
“He’s just put his testicles back in with duck tape,” the MC continues.
The dazed competitor takes a breather on a couch while St John staff watch on. The MC bellows: “He’s going pale! Get him a Jagermeister! Get him a stretcher.
“This is ridiculous, guys – these people are nearly breaking ribs for you. C’mon, who’s getting laid tonight?” the MC urges.
And on they go.
There’s Queenstown skier Matt Soundy wiping out badly, landing on his back across his own ski. “Not too pleasant, but it’s all right,” he says. “Good fun.”
There’s Austrian skier Andreas Herbst, 22. “It’s fast. When you get it wrong, you get injured.”
And Aussie Aaron Smith, 28, whose head thumps so hard into packed snow at the bottom you wonder how he isn’t unconscious. “That was good, it’s pretty sick.”
Snowboard winner Cory Cissel picked up $300. Ski winner Herbst won $200.
The rest? Jagermeister gear and bragging rights.
Outside comfort zone
Christy Prior (right) has a theory why she was the sole woman competing at the Reavers Lodge rail jam.
“I think the consequences were the thing that put most off,” says the 20-year-old from Kaukapakapa, north of Auckland.
“It was good they had snow on the last couple of stairs as that saved a lot a lot of people’s lives.”
“[But] I mean you can fall off anything and kill yourself these days.”
Prior, sponsored and keen to make it internationally, says the event was “incredibly fun”.
“You are stepping outside your comfort zone. It’s good for progression.”