PHOTOS: The history of Revelstoke rail jams and all that came before

Speeders Pub entry in the ‘80s Outhouse Races. (Revelstoke Museum & Archives)Speeders Pub entry in the ‘80s Outhouse Races. (Revelstoke Museum & Archives)
(Free Spirit Sports)
(Free Spirit Sports)
(Free Spirit Sports)

The Revelstoke Mountain Resort will host the second rail jam of its evening rail jam series on Saturday, Jan. 28.

The event is actually a remnant of a long history of community events that used to happen in Revelstoke.

Before RMR’s rail jam, there was a city rail jam, and before that rail jam there was another city rail jam — before that, the winter carnival.

Revelstoke’s history is decorated with community events that brought the community together.

Over the past decade, the events have faded into the background and then out of existence.

Some of the volunteers that organized and participated in the events described what it was like, and say it’s time for them to return.

Joey Norsworthy, owner and operator of Revelstoke Trading Post, moved to town in 2010.

Before moving, he had visited Revelstoke the year before while a rail jam was happening.

“It was such a cool winter vibe about it,” said Norsworthy.

He thought the event was so cool that he entered the event.

The following season, when Norsworthy was living in town, he wanted to get involved with the jam, so he tried getting in touch with the city.

“The city informed me that they were cancelling them – that they weren’t happening anymore,” said Norsworthy, noting his disappointment the jam wasn’t happening.

Elmer Rorstad, owner and operator of Free Spirit Sports, started the first Revy Rail Jam more than 10 years ago.

The jam that Norsworthy had stumbled upon while visiting had actually been organized by Rorstad.

With big help from the city, the rail jam happened in the middle of Mackenzie Avenue.

The city trucked in a small mountain of snow to create a drop-in, and contestants would do their best tricks on rails and boxes, some of which were provided by RMR.

“It was cool and the city really jumped on board,” said Rorstad.

The streets swelled with people who flocked downtown to watch the event.

Rorstad said a highlight of the event for him was seeing “some of the younger kids participating in it, and the amount of fun that they had performing in front of their home crowd and right downtown.”

With gear and “schwag” provided by Free Spirit Sports and the brands it sells, Rorstad said “almost everyone got something,” which was incentive enough for a lot of people to get involved.

Both skiers and snowboarders were welcomed at the rail jam, as riders young and old took part.

Photos from the event show some young riders hitting rainbow boxes, while the older riders take their shot at a car buried in the snow.

Between the demanding schedule of starting a family for Rorstad and a lack of a municipal budget for the event, the Revy Rail Jam dried up in 2010.

After the disapointment of arriving in town, only to find the jam not happening, Norsworthy decided to try bringing it back.

Having hosted his own rail jams in Ontario, Norsworthy was familiar was the demand and logisitics of organizing one.

“We got to make this work here, because it was such a rad community event,” said Norsworthy of what his thoughts were at the time.

The following year, Norsworthy set the bar high, putting on three rail jams in one season.

The “Valentine’s Rail Massacre,” the “Shamrock and Rail Jam,” and the “Hip Hop and Rail Jam,” all happened between January and April of 2011.

Partnering with the Village Idiot, as a beer garden, and with local builders for the scaffolding and rails, the jams came together and were well-received.

“It was nuts. But it was – I mean – it was so much fun,” said Norsworthy.

Karl Jost, owner and operator of Society Skate and Snow, recalled his experience with the jams.

He said the crowds were big and loud, which made the riding all the better.

Jost helped with the rail jams as a host, which he said is a different atmosphere from other skiing or snowboarding events.

“They’re right there. Boom. People are hitting it. Everybody’s cheering having a good time,” said Jost.

The rail jam experience is unique because it’s more accessible for the crowd.

Without having to trek up into the mountain, everyone can come to the street, pick a spot and cheer on the riders.

For the riders, the experience is different, too.

“It’s a good environment too because it also pushes a lot riders to kind of try new things,” said Jost.

Jost remembered riders commenting to him that they decided to try a trick because a fellow competitor tried it before them and the crowd hyped them up.

Although he didn’t take part in organizing them, Rorstad was happy to see the torch carried in the second wave of rail jams.

He wanted to have an event that didn’t take place on the resort, so that people staying in town, or living in town, had something to do and something to see.

Families could walk downtown, without having to get in their car and drive up to the resort.

His inspiration for the rail jam was the Revelstoke Winter Carnival. “Oh, we had we had so much fun,” said Rorstad of the carnival.

Jost and Norsworthy also commented on the carnival.

“That whole winter festival thing with the outhouse races and all that was awesome. It’s really a shame. It doesn’t go on anymore,” said Jost.

“Well, I think I mean, even the town used to do outhouse races down Mackenzie. Like how – I mean, rail jams aside, how fun would those be,” added Norsworthy.

If you’ve been in Revelstoke for long enough, you may either remember the carnival, or you’ve heard stories about it.

With hockey games, dart competitions, dances, and outhouse races, the winter carnival had something for everyone, and it united the community in the height of the cold winter months.

The downfall of the carnival was similar to that of the rail jams.

When key organizing figures stepped down, no one else stepped up, but Rorstad cautioned that without volunteers, fun community events like the jams or the carnival don’t just happen.

“I’ve been here long enough that I’m a real community person and I’ve done a lot of volunteering and whatever, and I think that is one aspect where anyone considering to be Revelstokian has to realize,” said Rorstad.

“These things only occur if we have the volunteers, so it’s not a case of critiquing it all the time. But get in there. Roll up your sleeves and get dirty.

“Get in there and start helping out.”

Whether it’s a rail jam or a winter carnival, Rorstad, Jost and Norsworthy all said it’s time for more community events to return to the town. “I would support it,” said Rorstad.