Emma Crosby. p: Stephan Jende

For years, the Stomping Grounds and Stubai have foreshadowed the coming winter as big contest riders flock to Europe to get their feet back under them before the season really starts. Every fall, as soon as October hits, there’s a video deluge of off-axis spins of perfect cheese wedges–and it means winter is on the horizon.

But over the last few years, there’s been a growing rumbling in the heartland of America that hearkens the arrival of the season in the same way–except sub out multiple corks for multiple kinks. For any snowboarders that spend much of their time in the streets, Trollhaugen is the early season training ground. And in recent years, the Airbnb market in Dresser, Wisconsin and the nearby towns has seen an uptick of high-level snowboarders locking in dates.

Trollhaugen has been a steely favorite for as long as anyone can remember, but when it comes to November and early December, the combination of recent banner years with reliable early season conditions and an unrelenting park crew that assembles proper, mid-season quality set ups as soon as there’s snow on the ground has made the resort the de facto destination for riders who are looking to get their levels high before filming begins in earnest.

Sebbe Springeth. p: Stephan Jende

The influx of out-of-towners in late November has been steadily increasing the past few years to become a phenomena at this point. The crew from the Twin Cities has always known about Troll’s early season, but many from SLC started to migrate a few years ago, booking up rentals in Osceola. The floodgates really opened last season, setting the stage for this year when the dam burst. Valhalla opened YESTERDAY, and without lead-up fanfare or much indication of exactly which day weather and temps would align for opening, everyone was already in town. When the rope got up to speed, it was packed with pros from the US, Canada, Europe, and New Zealand.

Joe Sexton. p: Stephan Jende

Zeb Powell, Grace Warner, Alex Caccamo, Finn Westbury, Kennedi Deck, Emma Crosby, and Savannah Shinske. The Escape crew from Europe, including Gian Sutter, Sebbe Springeth, and Dario Burch. Zoi Sadowski-Synnott made the pilgrimage to Troll from New Zealand last year and this time, brought the rest of the NZ National Team with her. And of course, Jordan Morse, Spencer Schubert, Joe Sexton, Tommy Gesme, Brady Lem, Danimals, Craig Cameron, Mateo Soltane, J-Stone, Noah Brown, Andrew Aldridge, Max Tokunaga, Ryan Collins, Holden Barth, Laura Rogoski…the list goes on and on and on. And again, it’s only the second day Valhalla has been open.

“It’s like an unsanctioned snowboard event where there are no invites and everyone shows up,” says Marsha Hovey, Trollhaugen marketing director. “It’s like before the times of cell phones where people just appeared at Woodstock. ‘Where can I get the most possible time on board to shorten the period where I feel wobbly? Oh, on a rope where I don’t have to unstrap.’ And it’s so fun having everyone here.”

The Cheers-esque vibe of Troll has intensified with every arriving rider, which has beckoned more people to the pre-Winter Solstice good times. Yesterday, the internet was flooded with videos of the most proper frontboards (ahem, Joe Sexton) along with golden hour photos taken by Stephan Jende. Is Valhalla the North American answer to the European pre-season glacier if you’re looking to get ready for time in the streets? All signs point to yes.

On day two, the community vibes are in full effect, the weather is perfect, and the park is firing. “I didn’t call anyone or let anyone know that I was coming, and I surprised myself because so many other crews were already there,” says Holden Barth, who we trust to get a temp on just about anything snowboarding. “Going to Trollhaugen is like going to your local skatepark. Everyone that you’ve met before at Troll welcomes you and is so excited to see you. It’s old-fashioned friendliness in Dresser, Wisconsin.”

Next week, the third year of Take the Rake begins on Monday, bringing a new crop of women builders to Troll to create a set up in Valhalla for the eager masses. Stay tuned.

This photo of Holden Barth is from last spring, but illustrates what he’s saying about returning to Trollhaugen having the “Cheers effect.”