By Nathan Ham
Blowing Rock native and Team USA Snowboarder Luke Winkelmann came home for the holidays last week and made sure to stop by Appalachian Ski Mtn. for the unveiling of a new terrain park feature named Wink’s Way.
“We were talking about ideas over at Red Bull and we made this come to life. I had this vision to make this street-inspired plaza and I thought it would be cool to bring it to my home mountain,” Winkelmann said. “I’ve seen them do it in California at Bear Mountain where they have another Red Bull Plaza there and I thought it would be special to bring one here.”
The new feature is designed to make you feel like you are on the streets in a downtown city with a staircase, down rails and flat rails. Winkelmann and some of his snowboarding buddies came to the mountain on Monday, December 21 for the grand opening of Wink’s Way.
Luke worked with Chris Jones, the lead terrain park builder at Appalachian Ski Mtn., as well as Rick Wilkinson and Devin McCluskey, who worked on fabricating the new terrain park feature.
“The workers at App Ski Mtn. built it and Red Bull paid for it. Chris, Rick and Devin are very experienced with terrain park building, feature building and welding. We are lucky to have them, they are really good at their job,” Luke said.
On the first day of the new feature, several skiers and snowboarders were already out there having a blast and landing some nice tricks on the new equipment.
“Luke and Red Bull wanted to do something special for him, given all the success that he is having, and Luke is the hometown hero here and comes and rides with people pretty often. We wanted to bring something new and exciting for our riders that would also honor Luke and his legacy and let people of all abilities take the same path and enjoy the same park features that he grew up on,” said Drew Stanley, the Marketing Director at Appalachian Ski Mtn. “We have had a lot of good feedback so far. It was a lot of fun to be given a project like this.”
The new design is a modular design, meaning that the features can be moved and modified to create over a dozen different features, either as standalone features or all in one place together.
Before Luke came back to Blowing Rock, he had been snowboarding in Northern California getting ready for this upcoming winter season.
“The U.S. team that I’m on, we’re headed to Europe to do a couple of competitions in January, then heading to film the rest of the winter because there are way fewer competitions this year due to the virus,” said Luke.
Filming sessions take place in and out of competition as a way to promote Luke’s skills and be able to turn this into a career. Luke and other skiers and snowboarders will travel across the country with professional videographers to showcase their runs down the mountain and new tricks they have been perfecting during hours of practice.
J.P. Pardy, the owner of Recess Ride Shop in Boone, said that Luke gets to experience the best of both worlds when it comes to competing and filming.
“He’s about at the highest level, he’s doing really good. Luke is filming a bunch, doing what everybody as a professional snowboarder wants to do. Some people get stuck just doing the contests, some others just filming, but Luke gets to do a little bit of everything. I think for him, he’s in a really fortunate spot that he deserves,” Pardy said. Luke has always been a good boarder, even when he was little. You would see tricks done properly ever since he was a little kid. He’s always had it and it has been cool to watch. We are lucky to have him around.”
As one of Luke’s many supporters, the folks at Appalachian Ski Mtn. have gotten to see Luke grow up from a young novice snowboarder to a Team USA member and Olympic hopeful.
“We’re excited that Luke still claims us as his home mountain and anytime we can work with him, it’s a good thing. We are impressed and excited to see what he is going to do next,” Stanley said.
Luke wanted to extend a special thanks to Red Bull, Burton Snowboards Appalachian Ski Mtn. and Recess Ride Shop for the many years of support. He also hopes that younger boarders and skiers will go out and enjoy Wink’s Way and always work hard to reach new heights.
“As I was growing up, my inspiration was watching the older guys and seeing how they did things and mimic what they do. Have fun and never let anybody else get in your way. If you stay committed with that drive that you have and just stay with it, things will happen for you,” Luke says.
Luke, 20, is the son of Ashley and Eric Winkelmann of Blowing Rock and has one sister, Kylie Winkelmann. Luke’s grandparents are Melanie and Wink Winkelmann of Boone, Dianne Davant Moffitt of Banner Elk and Duff Armfield of Lenoir.
To keep up with Luke’s growing snowboarding career, you can follow him on Instagram @lukewinkelmann and on Luke’s U.S. Ski and Snowboard team page.