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Saturday, February 24, 2001 - Sunday, February 25, 2001 -- Canaan Valley, WV
Wild Thing Weekend
Story and photos by Don Parks

[Details] [Coverage] [Overall Results] [Pic Set 1] [Pic Set 2] [Pic Set 3] [Pic Set 4]

Wild Things
You better believe they were gettin' wild!
The annual Wild Thing Weekend began innocently enough with a little entertainment at the Cannaan Valley Resort Lodge ( on Friday night. Then came Saturday morning, and you could feel the excitement as gray clouds zipped accross the sky and the sun periodically appeared to sneak a peek. Then again, with all the wild things taking place, at times it may have been better not to look.

Robbi Hickman, Tour Director for Ski World ( of Virginia Beach, was out early to begin signing up folks for everything from costume contests to boardercross racing. With the help of The Point 94.9 FM (, and DJ David Vance (, the slopes literally started rocking. As for Hickman's five bus loads of revelers, "They always have so much fun at the Wild Thing Weekend, it is now a destination for us every year."

The first order of business was going down at the resort's snow tubing park. With the endless energy of Ski Area Manager Jeff Hutchinson (a.k.a. Director of Tubing) and the coordination skills of Courtesy Patrolman John Gainer, it was time for the Snow Tubing Tournament of Champions.

The all important running start in the tube races
The rules are simple, in a race against the clock you jump on a big innertube and get yourself to the bottom of the hill as quickly as possible. Sounds simple, but we learned a few tips from the local snow tubing professionals. Smaller tubes generally go faster than big tubes, don't drag your feet, and contrary to what Galileo or Newton might have told us, bigger people go faster.

As one after another, old and young, male and female, launched down chute number three, it was pure speed. In the end, it was Warrenton, Virginia's Danny Thompson clocking the quickest run at 19.53 seconds in winning the Adult (18 and Over) division. What's the secret to his success, "A good start is key... but being heavy helps!"

The winner in the Under-9 division was 7-year-old Ben Harris. His unique hands-and-knees technique got him down the track in 23.22 seconds. The 10 to 17 division had the closest battle at the top of the ranks with 14-year-old Jessica Miller's 20.87 stealing the win.

Big Air
The boardercross course is ready for action
As quickly as the tubes raced down the hill, it was time for an escort from Mountain Manager Bob Bennett as he wisked us off by snowmobile to the boardercross arena. Not long after reaching the top of the designated boardercross slope, Bennett was off to jump in the Snow CAT to add a nice jump in the middle of the course.

With some of the area's snowboard instructors doing everything they could to get a course ready, Ty Poindexter, Sam Michaels and Kevin Zirbs were thrilled to get help from Bennett and the Snow CAT. "Quite a jump for someone who dosen't know how to jump!" is how competitor Scott Combs appraised the work. With a wide range of snowboarders ready for this everyone-for-themselves event, from those looking to get huge air to those looking to just survive the hit, it was good to see Chief Ski Medic Bryant Hall on hand.

LtCpl Jeremy Buckley, a 19-year-old Marine from Camp Legune, North Carolina, may have looked like a pre-race favorite. But, while Canaan Valley isn't exactly crawling with Marines, they do have "Redman" (a.k.a. Greg Redelman), a frequent visitor from Burke, Virginia.

Ross and Saffel
Heather Saffel battles Ryan Ross in boardercross
At a very young 41, the competition was no Match for Redelman as he launched huge and always found the bottom of the mountain first. "I had to put the kids in their place," quipped Redman, who spends a lot of his time with the younger snowboarding crowd. He works as a bit of an ambassador for them, and when asked about how the resort works with this sometimes misunderstood bunch, he replied "They've been letting us do a lot, but a serious terrain park sure would add some fun."

Two folks that had no touble finding plenty of boardercross fun were cousins Ryan Gainer, 15, and Heather Saffel, 13. The Elkins, West Virginia, natives made it to the final round where Ryan finished second overall and Heather finished third overall, and as the first woman. When Ryan was asked about having finished just ahead of his female cousin, "She wasn't even close," he joked a little nervously.

By the time the snowboarder battles were over, they had already judged the costume contest back down at base of the mountain. While the winner snuck away without our cameras catching a picture of them, Alex Zurbuch, from Elkins, certainly didn't seem to mind. His winning costume was that of a ballerina. So, why would a 10-year-old boy dress in a pink tutu? Dumb question, "My mom picked it out... we wanted to win!" smiled Alex.

Just clownin' around on the slopes
With out delay it was now time for the Frozen T-shirt contest. Now, we must admit that our camerman was excited about the prospects for this event, but he had the wrong idea. This event is a challenge to put ON clothes. With the clothes being a soaked and knotted T-shirt that had been frozen overnight.

Managing to untagle the frozen knot and tug the freezing shirt on over her shoulders first, was Debbie Balsiger from Virginia Beach. When asked what the secret was to her success, Don Bolger, her friend, admirer, and fellow competitor, quickly answered, "It's because she's so hot!" Who are we to agrue?

While the crowd was still hot from watching the Frozen T-shirt show, they got to participate by cheering for who they thought should earn Wild Thing Weekend King and Queen honors. After several rounds of applause it was clear that the crowd demanded Keith George take the thrown with Tanna George being the crowd favorite for Queen. As they turned out to be a father and daughter from Parkersburg, West Virginia, the Georges could now be called a royal family. When asked about his new found royalty, "I guess coming up here every weekend to have fun finally paid off," said the King.

Joyce pies Keith
Who said "It's good to be king"?
The first order of business for the new King and Queen was to witness the pie auction. A very knoble gesture as the proceeds went to benefit Special Olympics. But, this turned out to be a bit of a humbling experience for the new King. It seems his wife, Joyce George, was awarded a nice big pie for a generous donation. It didn't take long for her to let him know (i.e. pie in the face!) who still wore the pants in his kingdom.

With everyone given just enough time to clean up pie, from many places where pie was never meant to be, it was time for the grand finale, the infamous Pond Jump. Bob Bennett was at it again as he was both Pond Builder and De-Icer, the later being a job that no one should have. Seeing as how the chilly air was forming ice on the surface of the pond, Bennett ventured right in to manually clear the ice.

Now it was ready for a brave few who would send themselves on skis, snowboards, or tubes toward this small body of water. Waiting at the edge of the pond was a good sized ramp that sent you airborne on a direct course with truly fidgid water. The object was to splash down with as much fanfare as possible in and attempt to impress the judges. While staying dry may have been desired, it turned out to be an almost impossible goal.

Pond Jump
Nothing quite like a mountain swim in February
As the huge crowd roared with apporval, one after another brave (hey, we didn't say smart) participant headed into the pond. Luckily there were plenty of safety folks ready to assist everyone out of the water, to provide dry towels, and to hand out warm blankets.

Brian Burtko was awarded Pond Jump top honors in the ski division. We, of course, asked him the obvious question, to which we got the simple answer, "Oh yea, it was VERY cold!" Kelly Bennett, Snowboard Pond Jump champion, and Ryan Greef, Pond Jump Tubing champion, certainly couldn't argue. We next asked Burtko if this is the sort of thing he does regularly. "I've never done anything like that before," he replied through purple lips. So they say hindsight is 20/20, how about the prospects of doing it again, "Sure I'd do it again," he continued.

Whether or not you decide to go swimming in a snowy pond is entirely up to you. But, if you like to have wild fun, the sidelines are a great place to be at Canaan Valley's Wild Thing Weekend. If you missed it this year, don't worry, you can join the folks next year as they are already lining up to "do it again".