4 took first during the 20th Faction Challenge at Andes Tower Hills

The competition was put on by Faction Boardshop in Alexandria and hosted by Andes Tower Hills.

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Kaiden Bunde backside board slides across a box rail at Andes Tower Hills' terrain park on Saturday, March 11, during the 20th Faction Challenge.
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

KENSINGTON — Faction Board Shop in Alexandria hosted its 20th Faction Challenge at Andes Tower Hills' terrain park on Saturday, March 11.

A total of 33 snowboarders competed in the jam-style competition.

Participants were separated into divisions by age group and gender — 12 and under, 13 to 15, and 16 and older.

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The top three finishers in Faction Challenge's 16 and older group with their trophies. From left, Connor Laurent, George Cavers and Cole Sorensen
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

The ripping riders went head to head — starting with the 12 and under division — in a jumps and rails jam competition. The first event was the rail jam where each rider in the age group competes at once to perform as many tricks as possible in a 20-minute time frame. Judges watched and scored the riders as they hit jumps to perform in air spin and grab tricks and grinds over boxes, barrels and rails. Points were awarded for trick execution and landing.

Following the rail jam was the big jump competition. This event was only for the 16 and older group as the younger ones could not gain enough speed to effectively execute tricks over the large jump. During the jump jam, riders were allowed three runs to perform their best air tricks.


One by one the riders pushed from the top, bombed to the bottom and attempted lift-off as they inclined the jump. They made impressive grabs and spins and flips and some did a combination of the two. Some landed and others ended up eating snow in a cloud of powder.

Some of the biggest challenges came from the weather. Blowing wind made for low visibility. And the fresh fallen snow made for slower speeds.

"It started off a little shaky with the weather," said Ben Olson, manager of Faction and emcee for the event. "Usually, it's 40 to 45 degrees and sunny, but you never know with Minnesota."

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George Cavers catches big air before landing into a grind on the rail as the judges of the 20th Faction Challenge capture the moment on camera. Cavers took second in the 16 and older division.
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

"Trying to fight through 16 inches of powder... it feels like you're walking through mud," said Cole Sorenson, 20, of Alexandria, who took first in the 16 and older group.

Sorenson said he competed in the Challenge to ride with his friends and support Faction. His strategy going into the competition was to put his headphones in and have as much fun as he could.

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Cole Sorensen flies through the air after hitting a jump during the 20th Faction Challenge. He took first in the 16 and older division.
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

"I think it's good to have Faction in town. Giving kids an outlet for snowboarding and gear. Keeping the scene alive," Sorenson said.

One of the youngest competitors of the event was Jakoby Ziesmer, 12, of Glenwood. He took first in the 12 and under group. Ziesmer said he has been snowboarding since he was around 3 years old. His strategy for the event was to "commit to new tricks." He attributes his skill level and variety of tricks to his earning first.

Lexi Barsness, 16, of Glenwood took home first in the 16 and older girls division. Barsness has been snowboarding for five years. She said she went into the competition with a plan not to overthink her runs and to keep an open mind. She said the biggest challenge on the hill was the lack of visibility due to falling snow.


The top three finishers in the 12 and under and 13 to 15 age groups earned medals while the 16 and older group were awarded trophies. All participants received Faction merchandise bags and other products like shoes and snowboard boots. At the end of the challenge, participating snowboarders raced to the top of the terrain park where a brand new snowboard waited to be claimed by the first to the top.

Olson said the turnout of 33 participants is on par with previous years.

"It's pretty cool to be able to do something like this every year," said Olson. "With the evolution of online shopping, it makes it harder, obviously, but there is a solid crew of people who support their local shop and that's very important in the snowboard industry."

To those who came out to the 20th annual Faction Challenge, Olson says, "Thanks for braving it out and I hope that everybody had a blast."

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Fellow riders watch as Jake Ziesmer performs a lien grab.
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

The event started back in 2003 by Faction owner Jason Lybeck. He said he grew up competing in snowboarding.

"When I was in my teens we traveled around parts of Minnesota to compete in regional snowboard contests—trying to earn enough points to make it to the national championships," Lybeck said in an email. "In doing so, I created a lot of lifelong friendships and got to really enjoy the brotherhood of the sport."

As he got older, regional competitions dwindled and which made for even fewer opportunities for locals. He decided there needed to be a local competition to "not only allow local kids to compete in a contest but to also enjoy the camaraderie of the sport." Thus, the Faction Challenge was born.

In its inception, there were three events — half-pipe, jumps, and rail jams. Andes eventually eliminated its half-pipe which is why there is just the remaining two elements today. Lybeck said the multiple events are to find the "best rounded-riders."


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Jackson Ziesmer flies high after hitting the big jump during the latter part of the 20th Faction Challenge.
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

"To see it go to 20 years is something that I am very proud of... I am proud of all of the snowboarders who have seen it as a valuable contribution to the local community of snowboarders," Lybeck said. "I have watched a couple of decades of snowboard kids grow up in front of my eyes. It is really cool to see some of these people now coming in with their own kids and getting them involved. To know that we were able to recreate and provide an opportunity for 20 years for local kids is a huge milestone."

Foundation 725 was created in 2003 to teach snowboarding fundamentals and spread the word of Christ .

Lybeck said the name Faction comes from board sports being populated by "a tightknit group of fringe individuals opposed to the norm."

"Twenty-five years ago, riders had little to no local organized events like you might see in other sports," he said. "To be honest, that's not even really what we are trying to do with the Faction Challenge. Yes, we give them the opportunity to compete but more than that we want to invoke a sense of community, of belonging, and create memories for these kids. That is what a snowboard scene is all about."

Winners by division

12 and under

  1. Jakoby Ziesmer
  2. Rowan Finley
  3. Cullan Finley

13 to 15

  1. Brysen Hasapopoulos of Alexandria
  2. Kage Muscha
  3. Charlie Runge

16 and older

  1. Cole Sorenson
  2. George Cavers
  3. Connor Laurent

Girls 16 and older

  1. Lexi Barsness

"I'm not sure what the future will hold for the Faction Challenge. The small retail industry has become quite challenging with numerous brands going direct to consumer. This eliminates our relationships with the snowboarders when they aren’t coming into our shop to buy boards or boots or clothing," Lybeck said. "It’s been a lot of hard work from my key employees throughout the years. Their dedication to snowboarding has allowed us to keep the tradition alive for the local kids. Ben Olson, Matt and Andrew Armour, Gary Anderson, and numerous others have been instrumental in keeping this competition alive throughout the years."


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Jackson Vig 50/50 grinds down a rail. Vig competed in the 12 and under division.
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

Thalen Zimmerman of Alexandria joined the Echo Press team as a full-time reporter in Aug. 2021, after graduating from Bemidji State University with a bachelor of science degree in mass communication in May of 2021.
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