Banked Slalom

Twenty Years Of Mt. Baker’s Legendary Banked Salmon, Banked Salmon, Baked SlalomBaked Slalom, Banked Slalom.

Snowboarding goes through phases—the cool places, people, fashion, and tricks change. It seems only one place and one event is immune to the ephemeral world of mainstream snowboarding—or maybe it’s just above it all. This year marks the twentieth year of duct-taped bibs, buried gates, and riders flying in flocking from all over the world to Mt. Baker, Washington for The Legendary Baker Banked Slalom, a contest, a freeriding opportunity, and most importantly, a gathering of snowboarders.

How It All Started

In 1985, the year of the first Mt. Baker Banked Slalom, it was called the Sims Open—the challenge, to beat Tom Sims. Snowboards still had rudders on the base, highbacks were eyed skeptically, Sorel boots were standard footwear, and only a handful of resorts even allowed snowboarding.

Sims chose the 2,000-foot-long natural halfpipe on the White Salmon run as the venue: “That spot had it written all over it for the first-ever banked slalom. I pleaded with {mountain owner} Duncan Howat who was worried about us getting in skiers’ way. We decided to have it in that location, but only if we had it on Super Bowl Sunday—the slowest day of the year,” recalls Sims.

The Banked Slalom pits riders against the clock. The rider who makes it around all the gates with the fastest time wins. The course was and still is a complete leg burner, up and down through giant banked turns—and if it’s been snowing, it’s a fine line between staying on the narrow path and wallowing in the deep snow. Any rider who has ever stood in the start, looking down at the first three gates in the course knows a whole new world of anxiety, adrenaline, and nausea.

Twenty-eight contenders rode in the first year—seventeen finished the race. Most riders had traveled from Tahoe and the East Coast to compete, and in ’85, the main point of contests was to meet other people who snowboarded. Local competitor (and the guy Craig Kelly credited with turning him on to snowboarding) Jeff Fulton said, “It was great to have riders like Tom Sims and Terry Kidwell come to Baker and be able to show them around. Sims was the legend—we were like, ‘Wow, he’s the guy who makes our boards.'”

The first Banked Slalom was like a primordial swamp from which modern snowboarding would emerge. The winners’ roster started with Tom Sims in first place, in second was Terry Kidwell, (who Craig Kelly dubbed “the father of freestyle”), Ken Achenbach, the inventor of the baseless binding and co-owner and founder of The Camp Of Champions in Whistler, took third. A nineteen-year-old Craig Kelly finished in fourth. Bob Klein represented the Right Coast as the only Burton teamrider—he took fifth. Other finishers were Jon Caulkins—who went on to cofound High Cascade Snowboard Camp, Mike Olson—who along with Pete Saari founded Mervin Manufacturing, and Jeff Fulton—an original Mt. Baker Hard Core. According to race coordinator Bob Barci, the legendary Mt. Baker Hard Core (M.B.H.C.) formed on this day with Fulton, Kelly, Carter Turk, and Eric Swanson.

Over the next few years, pro riders, and snowboard-industry soldiers and veterans from all over kept coming—and their names became synonymous with Baker. Ingredients were added to the recipe for the weekend, including the bonfire on Saturday night—complete with a baked salmon dinner, and a Mt. Shuksan sunset. Waxing reunions at the Mt. Baker Snowboard Shop, live bands, and late nights at The Chandelier in the nearest town of Glacier all became another part of the continually evolving package.

Over the course of the last twenty years, the race has been run so efficiently by Gwyn and Amy Howat, a sparse mountain staff, and a giant group of volunteers, that the nearly 300 competitors can break away for powder runs off e Shuksan Arm, through Hemispheres, or in-bounds through the made-for-snowboarding terrain. This is a major reason riders come out “for the race.” In fact, Terje claims that the salmon and Chair Seven are why he comes back every year.

Everyone is at the Banked Slalom to win, but it’s not so much that Victoria has it out for Barrett, or Temple wants to crush Jamie Lynn (with the exception of Billy Anderson genuinely wanting to beat Dave Sypnewski). Since the race is run one at a time—just the rider and the clock, it’s like trying to beat yourself. As Gwyn sees it, “The motivation for winning is another difference, it’s a personal accomplishment more than a monetary accomplishment.” In 1988, Mt. Baker did offer one of the biggest cash prizes of the time, 8,200 dollars, which went to Craig Kelly, and the event was changed to a made-for-TV format. Gwyn now refers to those years as a “painful phase.”

“As snowboarding started to grow, the cash prizes started to get out-of-our-league huge,” she says. “We couldn’t offer a 100,000-dollar purse, and we realized that’s not even why people were coming here from the beginning, so we moved to a culture-versus-cash philosophy and tried to have more unique awards.” Mt. Baker began commissioning local artists like Jamie Lynn, Nick Russian, and other Northwest Native American artists. Winners also receive duct tape trophies and embroidered Carhart jackets. Most competitors preserve their jackets—or not. Rob Morrow’s 1997 win is now a battery-acid stained mess from years of wear and tear.

Twenty Years Later

Craig Kelly, Scott Stamnes, and Teal Copeland—fixtures at the Banked Slalom, have passed on. The Banked Slalom isn’t held on Super Bowl Sunday, and the Chandelier burned down. Instead of being the slowest day at Baker, it’s the busiest. Entry into the contest has become an issue. Baker tried a first-come, first-serve approach and ended up with Fed-Ex packages shoved under the front door and a jammed fax machine. Then they went to a lottery system, which pissed off the locals, so they added a local’s lottery. Baker still has to turn away more riders vying to get in every year. Despite all the changes, the Banked Slalom is still one of the best ways to spend a weekend—even if you’re just being an avid spectator like Mike Ranquet.

This year’s 20th Legendary Banked Slalom will be coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Mt. Baker Resort. Faxes and entry forms were piling up at the Baker office as early as October. What will happen at the 2004 Banked Slalom? Will Shaun Palmer be back to reclaim his title? Will Temple win it? Will Jamie Lynn ride in public? Will Terje take his sixth title? Will the European boardercrossers be back? Will Karleen Jeffery (the Banked Slalom’s winningest rider) make a comeback? Will Dave or Billy prevail? Will it be snowing sideways in whiteout conditions through overhead banks? Will you be there to witness it all?

Only one thing’s for sure—it’s going to be legendary.

{Legendary sidebars}

Legendary Moments: In 1985, Tom Sims won doing surf-style sliding turns on a Sims 1500 FE Pro Swallowtail. Tom’s board had metal edges, and he had disengaged the fins on his board with spacers. He said he wanted to just take them off, but it was considered kooky not to have them.

Legendary Moments: In 1986, the race was held on Upper Pan Chute, which funnels steeply down into a chute, making for a sketchy situation across the finish line. It was snowing so hard, riders couldn’t even see the course. According to Jeff Fulton, during the finals a sixteen-year-old Shaun Palmer left the gate and experienced a moment of divine intervention, the clouds parted and it got totally sunny and clear just for Shaun’s run. He won.

Legendary Moments: In 1987, Shaun Palmer defended his repeat title over challengers including Craig Kelly. (So, it wasn’t just luck.)

Legendary Moments: 1993, Mt. Baker began rewarding duct tape trophies to commemorate the days when it held feet into Sorels, and Sorels into bindings.

Legendary Moments: In 1996, Terje prequalified switch. He qualified in his first run, and then took his second qualifying run switch, which was fast enough to qualify, too. The details of this event got passed around, and when it came out the other end, the urban legend was that he had won the whole event riding backwards.

Legendary Bets: In 1997ish, The Andernewski Gamble started with Dave Sypnewski trying to bet other riders at the Banked Slalom. Billy Anderson was having none of it: “There’s no way you’re winning.” And that’s how the Andernewski was born. The winner each day takes the pot, which has been steadily increasing from 100 dollars a day. The wager also continues in a less athletic, liquid form off-hill on Saturday nights. This year, all the proceeds from the wager will go to the Olivia {Craig Kelly’s daughter} Trust Fund. They are also encouraging outside bets to increase the pot. Dave says, “It’s a chance to do good with our evil, and this way Billy doesn’t have to feel bad about drinking away my daughter’s college fund anymore.”

Legendary Moments: In 1999, the year of the world record snowfall, the resort was closed for the first time ever due to weather, extremely high-avalanche conditions, and 60- to 80-mile-per-hour winds. For the first day of qualifiers, the pros and masters hiked from the White Salmon Day Lodge to the bottom of Chair 5, while the avalanche-control team blasted the area around the race course. Chair 5 opened for the racers to take one qualifying run down. Those were the only people on the mountain that day.

Legendary Moments: In 1999, while out freeriding during the event, Wes Makepeace saved a kid in a tree well. Wes said, “I uncovered his face and saw it wasn’t Matt {Cummins, his riding partner}. But I dug him out anyway.” Wes received a standing ovation at the awards ceremony that night.

Legendary Moments: In 2001, Mt. Baker locals shed a tear and let out a collective sigh when the power couple of Barrett and Temple both won their pro divisions.

Legendary Moments: In 2002, Ralph Backstrom, a Western Washington University freshman, borrowed a friend’s board and qualified first place in Pro Men on the first-day qualifiers. He came in a full second ahead of 2001 winner Temple Cummins.

Legendary Moments: In 2003, The Mt. Baker staff arranged to have a 21-method salute to commemorate Craig Kelly’s passing. The salute turned into 50-plus methods being thrown off a kicker by his longtime friends and admirers, ending with Craig’s younger brother Josh. All the winnings from the event were donated to the Olivia Trust Fund for Kelly’s daughter.

 

{Sidebar}

The Honor Roll—nineteen years of winners.

1985 Tom Sims

1986 Shaun Palmer

1987 Shaun Palmer, Amy Howatt

1988 Craig Kelly, Marcella Dobis

1989 Rob Morrow, Jennifer Dolecki

1990 Don Schwartz, Amy Howatt

1991 Craig Kelly, Jean Higgins

1992 Ross Rebagliati, Karleen Jeffery

1993 Craig Kelly, Karleen Jeffery

1994 Paul Ferrel, Weegee McAuliffe

1995 Terje Haakonsen, Rachel Deryckx

1996 Terje Haakonsen, Karleen Jeffery

1997 Rob Morroed and it got totally sunny and clear just for Shaun’s run. He won.

Legendary Moments: In 1987, Shaun Palmer defended his repeat title over challengers including Craig Kelly. (So, it wasn’t just luck.)

Legendary Moments: 1993, Mt. Baker began rewarding duct tape trophies to commemorate the days when it held feet into Sorels, and Sorels into bindings.

Legendary Moments: In 1996, Terje prequalified switch. He qualified in his first run, and then took his second qualifying run switch, which was fast enough to qualify, too. The details of this event got passed around, and when it came out the other end, the urban legend was that he had won the whole event riding backwards.

Legendary Bets: In 1997ish, The Andernewski Gamble started with Dave Sypnewski trying to bet other riders at the Banked Slalom. Billy Anderson was having none of it: “There’s no way you’re winning.” And that’s how the Andernewski was born. The winner each day takes the pot, which has been steadily increasing from 100 dollars a day. The wager also continues in a less athletic, liquid form off-hill on Saturday nights. This year, all the proceeds from the wager will go to the Olivia {Craig Kelly’s daughter} Trust Fund. They are also encouraging outside bets to increase the pot. Dave says, “It’s a chance to do good with our evil, and this way Billy doesn’t have to feel bad about drinking away my daughter’s college fund anymore.”

Legendary Moments: In 1999, the year of the world record snowfall, the resort was closed for the first time ever due to weather, extremely high-avalanche conditions, and 60- to 80-mile-per-hour winds. For the first day of qualifiers, the pros and masters hiked from the White Salmon Day Lodge to the bottom of Chair 5, while the avalanche-control team blasted the area around the race course. Chair 5 opened for the racers to take one qualifying run down. Those were the only people on the mountain that day.

Legendary Moments: In 1999, while out freeriding during the event, Wes Makepeace saved a kid in a tree well. Wes said, “I uncovered his face and saw it wasn’t Matt {Cummins, his riding partner}. But I dug him out anyway.” Wes received a standing ovation at the awards ceremony that night.

Legendary Moments: In 2001, Mt. Baker locals shed a tear and let out a collective sigh when the power couple of Barrett and Temple both won their pro divisions.

Legendary Moments: In 2002, Ralph Backstrom, a Western Washington University freshman, borrowed a friend’s board and qualified first place in Pro Men on the first-day qualifiers. He came in a full second ahead of 2001 winner Temple Cummins.

Legendary Moments: In 2003, The Mt. Baker staff arranged to have a 21-method salute to commemorate Craig Kelly’s passing. The salute turned into 50-plus methods being thrown off a kicker by his longtime friends and admirers, ending with Craig’s younger brother Josh. All the winnings from the event were donated to the Olivia Trust Fund for Kelly’s daughter.

 

{Sidebar}

The Honor Roll—nineteen years of winners.

1985 Tom Sims

1986 Shaun Palmer

1987 Shaun Palmer, Amy Howatt

1988 Craig Kelly, Marcella Dobis

1989 Rob Morrow, Jennifer Dolecki

1990 Don Schwartz, Amy Howatt

1991 Craig Kelly, Jean Higgins

1992 Ross Rebagliati, Karleen Jeffery

1993 Craig Kelly, Karleen Jeffery

1994 Paul Ferrel, Weegee McAuliffe

1995 Terje Haakonsen, Rachel Deryckx

1996 Terje Haakonsen, Karleen Jeffery

1997 Rob Morrow, Karleen Jeffery

1998 Terje Haakonsen, Karleen Jeffery

1999 Matt Goodwill, Karleen Jeffery

2000 Terje Haakonsen, Victoria Jealouse

2001 Temple Cummins, Barrett Christy

2002 Xavier Delerue, Manuela Pesko

2003 Terje Haakonsen, Tanya Frieden

{Pull quote}

“The Baker Banked Slalom has always been a gathering place from day one, and it will continue to be.”Gwyn Howat

{sidebar}

In It To Win It: Tuning Tips For Mt. Baker

Burton’s On-Snow Testing Coordinator JG (John Gerndt) is deployed from Burton World Headquarters to Mt. Baker once a year to shred powder, and tune Terje’s board for the Banked Slalom. Terje has won it five times. During the Banked Slalom weekend, all riders and competitors are invited to stop by the Mt. Baker Snowboard Shop and wax their boards for free. This information should be classified so you’d best pay attention to his method and follow it.

Terje’s board for the 2003 Banked Slalom

By: JG

  • I usually have two boards tuned slightly different for Terje to use. Since the event is a three-day deal, I can see how the boards run on the first day and make changes or adjust accordingly.
  • Before the boards leave Vermont, I iron in six coats of high-fluorinated wax, scraping and buffing between each coat, and leave a coat on for travel so the base doesn’t dry out.
  • No matter what, don’t forget about your edges, be sure to de-bur, clean up, and sharpen those edges. I sharpened and bevel the edges to the point that they’ll easily slice your finger open. No matter how sharp I get the edges, before the start of his run, Terje would ask me to make them even sharper. Usually he’s out freeriding, hitting hidden objects, and wearing down my perfect tune, but that’s okay—it’s snowboarding.
  • I put a couple more coats of wax each night over at the Mt. Baker Snowboard Shop barn. A good rule of thumb is if you can make a snowball, then a warmer, softer wax should be used. If you cannot pack the snow into a snowball, then a colder, harder wax is the way to go.
  • At the end of the day last year, Terje was three seconds faster than second-place finisher Seth Wescott. It’s rewarding for me to know that I tuned Terje’s board—the year before when he came in fourth, I was hiding from him. A properly tuned board will benefit any level rider, try it and find out for yourself.
orrow, Karleen Jeffery

1998 Terje Haakonsen, Karleen Jeffery

1999 Matt Goodwill, Karleen Jeffery

2000 Terje Haakonsen, Victoria Jealouse

2001 Temple Cummins, Barrett Christy

2002 Xavier Delerue, Manuela Pesko

2003 Terje Haakonsen, Tanya Frieden

{Pull quote}

“The Baker Banked Slalom has always been a gathering place from day one, and it will continue to be.”Gwyn Howat

{sidebar}

In It To Win It: Tuning Tips For Mt. Baker

Burton’s On-Snow Testing Coordinator JG (John Gerndt) is deployed from Burton World Headquarters to Mt. Baker once a year to shred powder, and tune Terje’s board for the Banked Slalom. Terje has won it five times. During the Banked Slalom weekend, all riders and competitors are invited to stop by the Mt. Baker Snowboard Shop and wax their boards for free. This information should be classified so you’d best pay attention to his method and follow it.

Terje’s board for the 2003 Banked Slalom

By: JG

  • I usually have two boards ttuned slightly different for Terje to use. Since the event is a three-day deal, I can see how the boards run on the first day and make changes or adjust accordingly.
  • Before the boards leave Vermont, I iron in six coats of high-fluorinated wax, scraping and buffing between each coat, and leave a coat on for travel so the base doesn’t dry out.
  • No matter what, don’t forget about your edges, be sure to de-bur, clean up, and sharpen those edges. I sharpened and bevel the edges to the point that they’ll easily slice your finger open. No matter how sharp I get the edges, before the start of his run, Terje would ask me to make them even sharper. Usually he’s out freeriding, hitting hidden objects, and wearing down my perfect tune, but that’s okay—it’s snowboarding.
  • I put a couple more coats of wax each night over at the Mt. Baker Snowboard Shop barn. A good rule of thumb is if you can make a snowball, then a warmer, softer wax should be used. If you cannot pack the snow into a snowball, then a colder, harder wax is the way to go.
  • At the end of the day last year, Terje was three seconds faster than second-place finisher Seth Wescott. It’s rewarding for me to know that I tuned Terje’s board—the year before when he came in fourth, I was hiding from him. A properly tuned board will benefit any level rider, try it and find out for yourself.