Boarders find way to play on prairie

Reed Rombough

Snow-mo-board-ing (v.)- The act of towing a snowboarder behind a snowmobile, usually the consequence of extreme boredom and lack of mountains (not a real dictionary entry).

What do you do when you’re a snowboarder in Eastern South Dakota and Larson hill is about as exciting as College Algebra?  In the words of the late Steve Jobs, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”  When in doubt, make something up.  Snowmoboarding is the brainchild of fifth-year SDSU senior, Ben Ekeren from Yankton.  In the winter of 2011 (that’s last year’s winter, math majors), Ekeren stood on the balcony of his Third Ave. apartment staring out across the snow-covered fields of Sexauer Park.  Boredom had his mind reeling for a cure and consequently, snowmoboarding was born.

This past Sunday, Jan. 29, Ekeren and his roommate Levi Ringquist once again fired up their relic 1978 Polaris Cobra snowmobile.  In a huge cloud of exhaust fumes and with a loud whine of the engine, Ekeren pulled away with Ringquist in tow.  Ringquist’s smile could be seen from campus if you looked close enough.

Their set-up is rather simple.  Ekeren purchased his girl (the snowmobile) for $50 from a farmer.  They use an old, retired rock climbing rope from the SDSU Wellness Center, and a plastic gymnastic ring made for pull-ups.  With a description like that, you can imagine seeing this performed by some unfortunate soul on America’s Funniest Home Videos.  However, I’ll give credit where credit is due.  These guys whipped out some high-end snowboards, donned their expensive goggles and astounded me with their seasoned skills.

Ringquist, a native of Little Rock, Iowa, obviously had few snowboarding opportunities during his childhood and is now a fifth-year wildlife and fisheries major here at SDSU.  It has been less than two years since Ringquist plummeted down the 100-yard-long Larson Hill for his first snowboard ride. Since then he’s been to both Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort in Canada and Copper Ski Resort in Colo., where he and Ekeren spent their Christmas break enjoying real snow.  It’s safe to say that Ringquist is hooked, and has evolved into wanting something much greater than Larson Hill.  You could say, he’s had a humble beginning.

“Snowmoboarding is the only way we can get good boarding in without mountains around,” says Ekeren.

The prairie of Eastern South Dakota is not the most productive habitat for die-hard snowboarders.  On top of that, current Campanile-high gas prices put an end to any ideas of traveling to resorts.

The two of them say that while snowmoboarding is fun, nothing can substitute their connection with mountains.  As for now, Ringquist’s LTD brand snowboard is condemned to etch maze-like trails all over the blank snow of Sexauer as he weaves back and forth behind the snowmobile.

The two friends swapped roles throughout the few hours they spent gliding across little bits of snow left during these warmer days.

“It’s a lot like wakeboarding,” claims Ringquist. “Except it hurts worse when you fall.”

Ekeren and Ringquist are the small town heroes of their sport.  They don’t let the weather conditions or their region bring them down.  Even on the plains of South Dakota, where it’s so flat you can watch your dog run away for days, they have found a way to maintain their passion for snowboarding.