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Words, Photos and Video by Rob Lemay
Manitoba isn’t a place that you think of for snowboarding. It’s flat and cold, not ideal. Regardless of those conditions, it has produced some of the top Canadian men and women to strap in: Andrew Geeves, Jake Kuzyk, Jody Wachniak, Derek Molinski, Kevin Griffin, Darrah Reid-Mclean to name a few. How did they overcome the odds you might ask? The harsh winters and flat land might just have played in their favour.
Last spring, Derek Molinski, Nic Heringa, and I made the trip from Whistler to Manitoba to snowboard. Both Derek’s family and mine still live there, so we got some time with them and we were able to ride Spring Hill Winterpark. Spring Hill is a sweet little mom and pop-run ski hill with the best terrain park in the province, five minutes out of the city, and boasting 130 feet of vertical. When we go the weather was surprisingly warm at first and we got to ride with a bunch of local shredders and old friends: Jesse Walker, Joseph Kelly, and Kevin Griffin were part of the strong local crew.
“Growing up riding Spring Hill was amazing. The rope tow makes it like riding a skatepark. It’s a small resort with a big heart, putting out big names.”—Derek Molinski
It’s mind-boggling how many laps you can do with a towrope and 130 vertical feet. I was doing some filming with a few boarders, and there was no downtime between shooting riders. By the time a few had gone, the first was back and ready to drop in, no break. We also filmed some really quick follow laps and got a lot of clips in a matter of minutes. That’s definitely a factor as to why so many talented boarders have grown up there. Matt Heneghan once wrote about how more of the bigger resorts out West should take a hint from the small hills out East and build parks with their own towropes. Imagine terrain parks tucked away with a couple small lifts. It’s the speed and repetition that really help to dial in a big bag of tricks and better board control. It also helps to warm up quicker and stay warm longer by not freezing on a longer chairlift in -40°C. The progression that can happen when you hit a rail line that many times is real. Plus, that vibe can create a session that everyone can feed off, because you can see everyone else boarding all the time.
Derek Molinski, Front Blunt, Springhill
There was some weird weather in Winnipeg last winter. A couple of times it warmed up more than usual and dropped to ultracold right after. That weekend was 7°C, but by Monday night, the cold front was back and it was -40°C. Spring Hill was forced to close. The city was a complete ice field. The search was on for any spot that was even a possibility to snowboard. Nic missed the warm weather and only got to strap in and board a couple of times at the end of our trip. We spent our time checking out sweet spots that were just not doable. We eventually made it out to Lake Winnipeg, about an hour from the city. There were hundreds of people out ice fishing in little huts on the lake, and here we were trying to snowboard. I bet some of the old timers fishing thought they were hallucinating when they saw us. We got a few mini laps in on the banks and sand dunes around the lake. Those were the only spots that we found soft snow. Most of it looked like we were snowboarding on an icy moon. A reminder that the weather is always tough part of planning any kind of snowboard trip ahead of time. You never know what Mother Nature will do, but you can usually rely on consistently cold Manitoba winters.
Nic Heringa, Pressure Flip -40
Growing up in Manitoba teaches you patience and persistence, the persistence to snowboard through the -40°C winters, and the patience to work with what you got; although it might just be exactly what you need. I mean, Andrew Geeves moved straight to Whistler from Winnipeg and filmed one of the best handrail snowboard video parts ever. Check out his part in Time Well Wasted to see for yourself. Manitoba might not sound ideal to most people when you think of snowboarding, but it’s a special place that produces some great snowboarders. It’s nice to see that snowboarding is alive and well in Manitoba and that they’re making the best with what they’ve got to work with. Thank you to the family that keeps Spring Hill running and producing new generations of top Canadian borders. Rumour has it they have new owners this year. I hope they keep building a fun progressive park for the local shred community.
Hunter Schur and Joseph Kelly double teaming the rainbow rail. After some debate whether Hunter’s grab is a Method, Melon, or Crossbone, it looks like the elusive Crooked Cop is the consensus and it’s backed up with a buttery Noseslide from Joseph. We like it, and there’s no debating that.
Nic Heringa, Surf’s Up
D-MO’s Dad and Kevin Griffin