Well folks, once again a slight feeling of nostalgia has officially taken over as we wrap up another wild edition of the most anticipated snowboard contest series in our beautiful, snow-buried province of Quebec. By the grace of mother nature, both stops of the 2019 Empire Games, presented by Monster Energy and Burton snowboards & in collaboration with Oakley, Volcom and Todays Parks, were again blessed with picture-perfect weather – all of the elements coming together to provide an experience that will be forever engraved into participants’ minds and a tireless Super Demo for more than 30 industry reps showing next year’s product.
1st Stop – Stoneham, Saturday February 23
Working with all of the snow they could possibly ask for, the tenacious crew from Today’s Parks delivered one of the most impressive builds in Empire Games history. In order to escape elimination, a whopping 176 participants were tasked with going as fast as possible down asymmetrical obstacle course with hopes of making it down to the finish line first.
In true head to head format, riders started things off on the Monster Double-Dip, where they were tested for their suspension & edge control on a bmx jump / nacho-dip inspired feature.
Next up, our monster energy-fueled speed demons criss-crossed eachother on the Oakley DNA feature, one racing through a tight doorway while the other aired over on a high-speed road gap before heading into the Volcom Gates of maiden.
Riders who made it out of this first section in one piece were met with a double-drop into a tight tunnel before passing onto the final sprint, while fans cheered and heckled from the Empire Belvedere lookout.
Inspired by the air-time one can commonly find in Stoneham’s crispy snowpark, this course’s last feature, the Burton Boomshakalaka, was a true architectural masterpiece – 7 different takeoffs for riders to choose from, each shaped with diamond-cutting precision. While strategic riders did their best to absorb the jump in order to avoid losing speed, others just couldn’t resist tweaking one out for the boys watching at the bottom of the course.
As has become tradition, the Expression Sessions took place on the Volcom Gates & Burton Boomshakala features before final eliminations. Riders hiked up each feature and expressed their creativity as best they could for care packages from each sponsor.
When all was said and done, it was Mickael Belley that came out winning the Volcom Gates session and Xavier Boudreau who took top spot on the Burton jump feature.
Riders that earned their place on the race podium split a cash prize of a well-deserved $1000. Out of 128 riders in the Open category, including local legends like Jason Dubois and Frank Jobin, it was Alex Miller that took home first place, closely followed by the fearless Chris Collard & Burton’s own Charles Pratte. On the ladies’ side, Audrey McManiman had her eyes set on the prize all day long and brought it home – closely followed by Laurie Blouin & Marguerite Sweeney.
2nd Stop – Bromont Montagne D’expérience, Saturday March 9
Much of the same was true for the second and final stop in Bromont – clear skies, abundant snow and a course that once again challenged all 174 participants in new ways. Slightly steeper than Stoneham, this race was a fast and tight and lacked no consequences. Riders dropped into Burton’s Double Rainbow feature, inspired from one of our favorite viral youtube videos. From there, they entered the Volcom Drop Turns – banked turns with multiple drops – which tested riders’ stability but also mostly knee quality.
Then came the most extreme section – the Art Wall, in honour of Dillon Ojo – where riders had to squeeze through hobbit-sized doorways at full speed. In case racers needed more speed, next were the Monster Energy Booster Pads – 16 foot long boxes made of pure ice— reminiscent of our Mario Kart days.
A few quick banks later, riders found themselves racing through a field of Oakley Volcanoes to the finish line.
This time it was Saguenay native / Whistler Wildcat Mark Tremblay that took a celebratory champagne shower, closely followed by his perhaps distant cousin, Lucas Tremblay and South Shore Kingpin Alex Lopes.
On the ladies’ side it was Maxeen Thibeault who took it home, with Amelia Haman in second place and Clara Chapman in third.
48 groms showed up in full force, once again breaking the ice on this course, and it was Alexis Cyr Bousquet that would take first in the Juniors category followed by Nicolas Arsenault in second and Lorenzo Bonneli in third.