Park City skier McRae Williams, 21, won the second annual War of Rails contest Sunday in Big Bear, Calif. Michigan native Spencer Milbocker took second and Quebec rail specialist Phil Casabon rounded out the podium in third place.
"It was the best rail jam I have ever seen," said Matt Walker, who was a favorite coming into the contest but was sidelined by a shoulder injury sustained during training. "McRae definitely deserved the win. Everything he did was technical, smooth and stomped."
Williams dominated the finals, taking first or second place on each of the five judged features. A rodeo 450 disaster, a lipslide to inward 450, and a nose butter 450 to pretzel 270 highlighted Williams' winning rail combinations.
Usually a word reserved for pipe contests, amplitude played a significant factor in the War of Rails. "Everything I did, I took to the bottom of the landings," said Milbocker. "I think that helped." Tricks like a misty 450 japan off of the up rail, a 270 off of the top of the wall ride and a misty 540 handplant over the tree bonk kept Milbocker neck and neck with Williams throughout the contest.
According to Williams, it wasn't the rails, but the air that decided that contest. "Craig [Coker, the event organizer] was saying that he wanted to see people step up and gap the channel," said Williams. Perennial crowd pleaser Mike Wilson drew gasps from the crowd when he attempted a double cork 10 over that channel earlier in the day.
Williams' attempt was less ambitious, but more effective. "I did a rodeo 5 over it, and I think that scored well. It definitely felt amazing to win there," said Williams. "The level was insane, the features were huge -- I would say that it's the biggest win of my career."
The contest was postponed from Saturday to Sunday due to heavy snow and uncharacteristically cold temperatures for the southern California ski area. "I went to SoCal for hot, sunny weather like we had on Sunday," said Under Armour team manager Scott Hibbert, "not for my best powder day of the season."