As students at Lees-McRae College start gearing up for the end of the school year, they were recently able to showcase their college’s outdoor access in a unique way. This month Lees-McRae’s Bobcat Blast, an end-of-semester event for the students, featured the world premiere of Red Bull’s “Back to School Urban Snowboarding” Rail Report with Luke Winkelmann, which was filmed on the college’s campus, located in the North Carolina High Country town of Banner Elk.
Shot back in February, the video features Winkelmann, a pro snowboarder originally from nearby Blowing Rock, and fellow riders Judd Henkes and Alex Caccamo, boarding down stair rails of Lees-McRae and landing jumps into big piles of snow. Appalachian Ski Mountain and the Lees-McRae ski and snowboard team worked with the athletes to bring in snow and build the ultimate playground for some of the best snowboarders in the country.
“App Ski brought in three dump trucks of snow,” said Graham Browning, a friend of Winkelmann’s and employee of Appalachian Ski Mountain, in a press release. “I didn’t realize how much work it would be to build everything. Sometimes the snow would freeze overnight and the next day it would be too hard to move.”
Unlike many professionals who first honed their skills on western powder, Winkelmann, now a member of the U.S. Snowboard Pro Slopestyle Team, grew up snowboarding at Appalachian, thanks to his parents who are long-time skiers. When he was eight years old, Burton was impressed by his riding and sponsored him. In 2019 he was named Rookie of the Year at the Burton U.S. Open and MVP at the first Red Bull Recharged event. He is known for his skills on the slope and on the rail, making him perfect for this project at Lees-McRae.
“Watching (Winkelmann) snowboard on the mountain is different from watching him hitting the rails in the street,” said Browning, who was asked by Winkelmann to serve as the crew. “He’s like the best.”
The Bobcat Blast was a huge success as the location of the premiere, featuring food, games, and a beer garden from a local brewery. Representatives from Appalachian Ski Mountain, the event’s cosponsors, Red Bull, and of course Winkelmann’s family were all there to join the fun. The school plans on making it a recurring event to celebrate the end of each academic year.