Back in December, the Red Bull Rail Yard, a jibbing competition where top snowboarders from all over the world ride rails, boxes, and pipes and perform tricks and technical riding skills, took place on American snow for the first time in the event’s history at Appalachian Ski Mountain in Blowing Rock, N.C. The event was an unofficial kick-off to the 2022-23 competitive snowboard season, and all eyes were on Boone native Luke Winkelmann, who fittingly won the men’s division.
A member of the U.S. Snowboard Pro Slopestyle Team basically since he was old enough to qualify, Winkelmann is a 22-year-old who excels in both slopestyle, big air, and street riding. At the junior level, he placed second at his first World Cup competition in 2018, and since then he’s made a name for himself by continuing to rank highly at World Cup and NorAm Cup competitions and nabbing sponsorships from big-name brands like Red Bull and Burton.
In the four years Winkelmann has been on the U.S. Team, he’s usually been a rare representative from the East Coast. Since winning his division at Rail Yard, Winkelmann has been on tour for the World Cup, and BRO recently caught up with him to hear about his current season, the excitement behind Red Bull Rail Yard, and what’s next for the young rider.
BRO: Red Bull Rail Yard looked like a total blast on and off the slopes, can you describe the energy of the event?
Winkelmann: Red Bull Rail Yard was such a blast! The photos and videos can’t even do it justice. The energy was unmatched. Tons of smiles and love, and the level of snowboarding was amazing.
BRO: How does that energy compare to other competitions and your preferred environment for competing?
Winkelmann: The energy here was better than most events I’ve been to, period. I prefer events and local rail jams like Red Bull Rail Yard rather than just another World Cup. The memories are special.
BRO: Can you describe the section where riders competed, known as Luke’s Way?
Winkelmann: Yeah, Winks Way is actually what it’s called and that is what my grandfather goes by. It’s a rail Plaza with transition, kinks, creeper ledges, and even some stairs in there that Red Bull helped me build. It’s really for the locals to actually ride some bigger rails and experience a street like plaza.
BRO: What was a major highlight of the event? Were you expecting to win?
Winkelmann: The major highlight to me was getting the community here in North Carolina together to see high levels of snowboarding and for the riders to get a bit of a culture shock coming down south to where I grew up.
BRO: You have traveled all over the world for competitions. How did it feel to compete in your home mountains?
Winkelmann: It felt just like the old days getting to compete at my home mountain. It’s been a long time since I actually participated in an event at my home mountain so that was just awesome and brought back all the feels.
BRO: You have been on the U.S. team for four years now and have been usually the only one in your category from the East Coast. How does it feel to represent our region and what do you have to say to those that may overlook it for riding?
Winkelmann: It’s amazing to be able to represent North Carolina and the Southeast. It means everything to me! That’s my home and to be able to represent it with pride around the world is awesome. Honestly, you can make anything happen wherever you’re from if you really work hard for it and stay driven.
BRO: You’ve been competing and clearly loving snowboarding since you were a kid. When did you know you wanted to make a career in the sport?
Winkelmann: Honestly, I never knew I wanted to make a career out of it. I was loving it so much and then all of a sudden started winning some money at events and from sponsors. Then I guess it got more real, but to be honest it still doesn’t feel like a career. I’m just having as much fun as possible and trying to support myself with snowboarding for as long as I can.
BRO: Tell us about your season so far.
Winkelmann: My season has been awesome. I’m on the World Cup tour right now just trying to do my best at the events. I’m also filming for a new movie with Burton set to come out in the fall.
BRO: What are some goals for yourself in your career?
Winkelmann: Honestly my biggest goal and dream is to just have fun and be happy with what I’m doing. Of course, I’d love to represent my hometown and country at the Olympics and one day make a full backcountry/street part or even help make a foundation to get more people snowboarding that don’t quite have the means. So we’ll just see what happens. In the meantime just staying present and doing my own thing.
Cover Photo: Luke Winkelmann rides down Wink’s Way at Red Bull Rail Yard at App Mountain Ski Resort in North Carolina, USA on 11 December, 2022. Photo by Mark Clavin / Red Bull Content Pool