British Columbia

Urban athletes get 1-day pass to ride enticing handrail on Kamloops, B.C. campus

"I had to find a way to ride that handrail without getting kicked out by the security," said Justin Tarasoff, who has been thinking about turning the rail into the site of a freestyle snowboarding event ever since joining TRU back in 2020.

Student says the stair rail is a tempting attraction for skateboarders and snowboarders

Two students in hoodie walking down a flight of stairs.
Students from Thompson Rivers University are transforming a campus handrail into an urban ski and board obstacle for a one-day rail jam event. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

Every time skateboarder and snowboarder Justin Tarasoff even thinks about riding a certain waist-high handrail on his university's campus, he anticipates being stopped by security staff. 

But when no one is looking, the continuous handrail with the tempting curve outside the old library at Thompson River University in Kamloops, B.C., is a popular site among urban skiers and snowboarders, says Tarasoff, a tourism management student at the university. 

"A lot of professional skiers actually come here to hit this rail," he said.

What makes the handrail special is its "down-flat-down" nature, which in skiing and snowboarding lingo is a surface that slopes down, then abruptly goes flat before going down again.

"The rail switches from down to flat, which we call a kink and this one has got two of those, which makes it a tricky obstacle," said Tarasoff.

A seasoned skier and snowboarder, Tarasoff has been thinking about turning the rail into the scene of a freestyle snowboarding event ever since joining TRU back in 2020. His vision is now becoming a reality. 

A boy in a hoodie and a beanie hat holding a skateboard and smiling for the camera
Justin Tarasoff, one of the organizers of Rail Riot, said the old handrail at TRU is popular among urban skiers and snowboarders. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

Tarasoff is turning the run-of-the-mill handrail into an urban ski and board obstacle for a first-of-its-kind rail jam event at TRU called Rail Riot, which is happening Friday, starting at 5 p.m. at the campus commons.

"I had to find a way to ride that handrail without getting kicked out by the security," he said.

Tarasoff said he managed to get his vision off the ground by submitting a "rail jam" proposal for his event management class — a move he says will help him avoid getting in trouble with security while also earning some credit for school. 

Rail jams consists of riders performing tricks on rails, boxes, and pipes — combining urban infrastructure with the adrenaline of snowboarding. Many campuses and ski resorts across the province frequently hold rail jam events, says Tarasoff.

Billy Collins, an associate teaching professor in the tourism management department, said he was impressed by Tarasoff's proposal.

WATCH | See the rail that tempted this rider into action:

Urban skiers turn stair rail into tourist attraction

6 months ago
Duration 1:53
Students at Thompson River University in Kamloops, B.C., are organizing an invitation-only event for urban athletes to try to ride a stair rail on campus that has already become a destination for skateboarders and skiers.

"I just thought it was a perfect opportunity to combine his passion with a project for the class," he said. "The entire class is in on the fun and are working to make it a memorable event." 

Rail Riot is organized by tourism students and is an invitation-only event that will see professional riders from across the region show off their skills on the rail, added Collins.

The students are also taking precautions to ensure the safety of the participating snowboarders, he said.

"We're going to make it as safe as possible, we are putting paddings in place and will have snow on the stairs," added Tarasoff.

While it's unlikely Kamloops will receive any snow on Friday, organizers say they have help coming in from local ice rinks.

People in the distance going up a staircase at a University campus.
Snow isn't in the forecast for Kamloops on Friday but organizers have made alternative arrangements. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

The Sandman Centre and McArthur Island arena have agreed to set aside snow and ice shavings for the event. 

"We'll be picking them up from the venues on a dump truck and we'll be hand bombing the snow under the rail," said Tarasoff. 

Seventeen-year-old local skier Olson Advocaat, one of the participants in the event, said he is "stoked" to finally be going down the rail. 

"I am a little nervous but the team here have got it all sorted and it should be a good time," he said.

Tarasoff says he can't wait to finally hit the long-coveted rail on Friday. 

"[Riding the rail] is the payout. It's the treat I've earned for all the hard work I've put into organizing this event," he said. 

With files from Jenifer Norwell