Ober Gatlinburg kicks off winter season with rail jam

Nov. 26, 2013 @ 11:35 PM

Ober Gatlinburg kicked off the 51st annual winter season on the mountain Friday with the Back in Blue Rail Jam, an evening of music and winter games.

Despite rainy conditions, more than 70 competitors, along with a couple hundred spectators, enjoyed the Snow Magic artificial snow and terrain park set up on the snow-tubing slopes. 

"We’re just kicking off the winter season, and this event just helps us connect with the local kids," said Ober Director of Operations Rick Claude. "These kids will jump at any opportunity to be out on the snow."

Even when faced with a persistent, if not heavy, downpour of rain.

"In spite of the weather, this event has grown," said Claude. "The turnout is 50 percent higher this year than last."

The competitors battled with their snowboarding and skiing skills for cash prizes and a variety of winter sports swag provided by event sponsors. The competition was free to enter, requiring a helmet and a signed waiver to enter.

Although the ski slopes are still bare, the Snow Magic system has the tubing area covered in the white stuff.

Ober opened the snow-tubing attraction on Saturday, and the resort expects to blow some artificial snow on the ski slopes during the cold night hours expected this weekend.

After last year’s warm winter and short ski season, Ober hopes Jack Frost plans to visit Gatlinburg early and often this year.

"There are so many weather models to look at, and right now we’re looking at the best ones (for snow-making conditions)," said Claude. "In this business, you have to be an optimist ... kind of like a farmer."