The 22nd Legendary Baker Banked Slalom

We’re all snowboarders passing through some stage of our snowboard lifecycle: beginner, an addict, an aspiring pro-maybe even pro, master, legend. There’s no set time limit for any of these phases-there’re 30 year old “man ams” living the dream, 40 year old pros on top of their game, and 50 year old beginners. We’ll all transition through years riding hundred plus days with our crew, to some other version mixed with the variables of work, family, distance, expenses. But the thing I realized this weekend at the 22nd Legendary Baker Banked Slalom is that you can always go back and find that original stoke-it’s still there. And for a lot of us, the Banked Slalom is the perfect setting to tap into it.

These are the kind of longwinded reflections you’ll catch yourself having after a long weekend in the backwoods at the Legendary Baker Banked Slalom. This weekend was no less legendary than every other LBS. The weather is always a story, over the three-day event racers experienced icy hardpack, sunny with fresh pow, and for the finals, a little bit of everything including rain, snow, fog, and slush. The course was in all time condition with 22 banked turns and a new addition, I’m not sure if there’s an official name for it, I’ve heard “Tighty Whitey,” “Toiletbowl,” and “corkscrew.” Anyway, thanks to hefty snowfalls, the Baker staff added a bridge with a turn wrapping around under it. Try to picture it.

The LBS is famous for attracting the best snowboarders in the world. A roll call of those in attendance this year included the entire Burton women’s team, four Olympic medalists (Kelly Clark, Gretchen Bleiler, Seth Wescott, and Elena Height), DCP, Bryan Iguchi, Terje Haakonsen, Victoria Jealouse, Travis Rice, Josh Dirksen, Temple Cummins, Jamie Lynn, Barrett Christy, Wolle and Wille-you’ll have to check the www.mtbaker.us web site to see the full list. Over 800 riders put their names into the lottery hat and 300 lucky riders got to compete in categories from Next Generation to Super Masters.

The biggest stories for our purposes are the pro men’s and women’s category. Whistler’s Maelle Ricker charged to the front of the pack on the first day of qualifiers posting a time of 135.40 that would’ve qualified her in the men’s pro division. She took that momentum right through the finals placing just ahead of repeat winner Victoria Jealouse and first time Banked Slalomer Gretchen Bleiler.

As event organizer Gwyn Howatt said during the awards ceremony, this event is a celebration of Mt Baker, the locals, and the history of Northwest snowboarding. That history is rooted in the small towns around Baker, especially the small town of Glacier. Glacier hosts the Banked Slalom-specifically riders tune their boards at the Mt. Baker Snowboard Shop and fill their stomachs at Milano’s Italian restaurant run by Jeannie and Tom DeBari. Jeannie DeBari is in her 22nd year riding Baker. Jeannie’s son Lukas started racing in the Pro Men division three years ago when he turned fifteen. This was his year. And yes, the announcement of second place finisher Seth Wescott brought the crowd to its feet. Lukas DeBari won, racing past a field of pros and legends! Congratulations go out to the whole DeBari family really-Lukas in first place Pro Men, his sister Maria DeBari in sixth place Pro Women’s, and in seventh place Women’s Master his mom Jeannie DeBari! I can only imagine the celebration that went down at Milano’s Sunday night.

The weekend was complete with the legendary Baked Salmon and bonfires, but this 22nd Banked Slalom was set off by two movies that had open-air premiers. Lines a movie by Axel Pauporté is about the history of Big Mountain riding. It was remarkable both in the storytelling and the old footage. The TWS staff relived scenes from the movie over PBRs for hours that night-you have to see it. Be on the lookout for the Billabong movie tour this winter and a fall release: www.linesthemovie.com.

As some of you may have heard, a movie about Craig Kelly’s life, Let It Ride, premiered during the Sundance film festival this year. The movie has won both X Dance festival and Whistler Film Festival awards. But for his hometown crowd, the real premiere came this weekend in the backyard of Ju Juana in Maple Falls. The crowd was held captive for the entire movie, under the stars with micro brews in hand as the temperature dipped into freezing. It couldn’t have been a more fitting premiere. www.letitridethemovie.com

Everyone took off in a hundred different directions today. Josh Dirksen hit the road with six boards and a snowmobile to head back to the Mack Dawg crew in Canada. Terje Haakonsen took off early to see his third child being born. Victoria’s heading for powder in Whistler. The Burton girls are off to Japan for the Nippon Open and to score some powder in Hokkaido. I’m on a plane headed back to the TransWorld offices in Southern California with a little souvenir from the weekend-a gold duct tape trophy from the Women’s Masters divison. Thanks to Duncan, Gwyn, and Amy Howatt, and the entire Baker staff for another amazing Banked Slalom.

Pro Men Results
1. Lukas DeBari, Glacier, Washington, 1.28.90
2. Seth Wescott, Carrabasset Valley, Maine, 1.28.93
3. Nate Holland, Squaw Valley, 1.28.98
4. Josh Dirksen, Creswell, Oregon, 1.29.76
5. Ludovic Strohl, Meribel, France, 1.30.09
6. Temple Cummins, Gig Harbor, Washington, 1.30.16
7. Terje Haakonsen, Oslo, Norway, 130.27
8. Dustin Anderson, Portland, Oregon, 131.62
9. Rob Kingwill, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, 131.74
10. Tom Velisek, Squamish, B.C., 1.32.00

Pro Women Results
1. Maelle Ricker, Whistler, B.C., 1.36.45
2. Victoria Jealouse, Whistler, B.C., 1.37.77
3. Gretchen Bleiler, Aspen, Colorado, 1.38.14
4. Stacy Thomas, Seattle, Washington, 1.38.22
5. Spencer O’Brien, Courtenay, B.C., 1.38.63

Complete results are available online at www.mtbaker.us