Many people associate Wisconsin with beer, cheese, and brats, but should we begin associating it with summer skiing and riding? A couple of days ago, Red Bull Snow & Benny Milam dropped a fantastic edit where Benny rips through Trollhaugen's forest in June, but flashback twenty-eight years before that, and you'll see Wisconsin has a history of snowboarding in June.
A History of Making Great Pipes:
Tyrol Basin is a ski resort located in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. Most people identify Tyrol as having an excellent park scene, but it wasn't always that way. In the late 1980s, Tyrol Basin fell on some hard times and was forced to close for four consecutive seasons. The ski area needed a change, and they got it in the form of Don McKay.
Don McKay would take over the hill and reopen it for the 1989 season, but the real change would come in 1990 when he and his Mountain Manager, Dave Rogers, would build one of the best pipes in the world. They created a perfectly shaped pipe at four hundred feet long, making it one of the world's few World Cup Regulation pipes. Snowboarders around the country couldn't believe that such a small hill could produce a half-pipe of that caliber, but an event in 1993 would cement Tyrol in snowboarding history.
The Summer Snow Frolic:
Instead of waiting for the snow to melt in the spring of 1993, McKay and his team got to work piling snow as high as they could and covered these piles with insolated tarps, courtesy of the Milwaukee Brewers. The snow would sit for a couple of months until a summer June weekend arrived. Crews would uncover the snow a couple of days before the weekend and went to work moving and shaping a half-pipe out of the preserved snow.
The event was called the "Summer Snow Frolic," and snowboarders from around the country came to compete at the only half-pipe operating in the summer. The event was a huge success and drew global attention to a small hillside in Wisconsin. The Frolic would become an annual event that stretched (skipped 1994, however) through the early 2000s.
Picture the Scene:
The Summer Snow Frolic was an event unlike any in snowboarding history. The pipe would vary in size depending on how much snow was preserved but would often be three hundred feet long with pipe walls ranging from ten to twelve feet. Boarders were surrounded by green spring/summer foliage as they threw the best tricks they could in a slushy and forgiving pipe. The 1996 event drew over 500 snowboarders and many more spectaculars. On top of the half-pipe, attendees could enjoy live music, scenic chairlift rides, volleyball, and of course, summer snowball fights.
The Frolic would often go late into the evening, and the pipe would need to be re-groomed between 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM. As a result, many boarders would sleep in their cars or not even sleep during the event. The Wisconsin State Journal quoted one border as stating, "I've been waiting over two months to get back on my board at Tyrol; I'm not about to let some summer or sleep get in the way. As long as there is snow, we will be snowboarding."
Top magazines covered the Summer Snow Frolic over the years, and if you talk to anyone there, they will tell you stories of how epic of an event it was. It was an event known throughout the industry, and I must say it was pretty cool flipping through Transworld and seeing Tyrol Basin with a full feature. Also, having top professionals such as Chad Otterstrom, Danny Kass, Dave Lee, and Micah McGinnity show up to your local hill to compete was something out of a twelve-year-old's dream. And although the annual event had to end due to the inability to get the tarps, costs, and weather, the event's legacy lives on from those that remember it.
Tyrol Basin still holds annual late and early season hike parks for skiers and riders. This season's event was on April 17th,2021.
If you want to learn more about Tyrol Basin, be sure to check out their website at www.tyrolbasin.com or scroll down to take a look at some of our videos highlighting the resort.