The cult following of snowboarders convening on Mt. Baker, Washington for the Legendary Banked Slalom reached an all-time frenzy this year–the contest’s twentieth anniversary. So instead of posting up on the side of another icy halfpipe competition, TransWorld sent a team to the great NW to represent, be witness to, and be a part of the what many have called the only real contest in snowboarding today.
What makes this event so special is a combination of the people and the place. A strangely wonderful cross section of snowboarders creeps into Baker over the course of the weekend: contest and kicker kids, misty crustaceans from around the region, and snowboarding legends whom your odds of getting struck by lightening are usually better than catching a glimpse of in person. Everywhere I turned I saw up-and-coming groms awestruck in the presence of heroes like Jamie Lynn, Mike Ranquet, Shawn Farmer, and the Banked Slalom’s reigning champ, Terje Haakonsen. And likewise, the old dawgs used young energy to get nasty on and off the hill. The running theme of the weekend for our crew was missing Shawn Farmer rapping (if you’ve seen Critical Condition, you know what I’m talking about) every single night. Morning after morning we’d show up to the hill after late evenings of northwest beer swilling, only to be greeted by, “Farm got on the mic and rapped right after you left last night!” It was a repeating coincidence that gave the weekend a special flavor for us.
Anyhow, the people are special, but so is the place. Mt. Baker is a powder refuge of steep, scary, slashable terrain. Natural gullies are everywhere, and one of the most famous of these is where the actual race is held. The Banked Slalom is legendary for being timed perfectly with midwinter dumps, and the contest itself is so hard to get into that there’s a tradition of just showing up that weekend to ride–no worries if you don’t actually get to race. Everyone stays in a little town down the road from the resort called Glacier where there is literally no cellular service and only two restaurants. Social gatherings are held over beers and wax irons at the Mt. Baker Snowboard Shop or in front of sweaty boots and fireplaces at condos throughout glacier. No velvet ropes, no bars, no VIP passes.
So like I said, this year’s roster of competitors and observers was stacked to the hilt. Mervin and Quiksilver had their entire pro teams there to race, including Scotty Wittlake, Danny Kass, Todd Richards–too many damn people to list. In fact, just go to the Mt. Baker web site and check out the competitor roster–it’s heavy. But even with the huge influx of talent, the Haakon factor was a force to be reckoned with. Although Terje did get beat in qualifiers by a local ripper named Nate Holland, he ended up on top once again in the finals–winning it despite blowing up and disqualifying on one of his runs. The mystery of Terje’s incredible skill lives on, but I think I heard someone say, “It’s all in the arms.” (Check out his rear-hand rutter steez in the above photo.) In the pro women’s division, a local named Stacy Thomas smoked the finals and beat out Baker Banked mainstays like Karleen Jeffery and Victoria Jealouse. Salomon shredder Fabienne Reuteler was fast, too, quiet and fast.
In addition to the official race, there were all sorts of other rivalries transpiring over the course of the weekend. A “retro race” went down at noon on Saturday on vintage equipment. Tom Burt, Bob Klein, Ken Achenbach, and a crew of others dusted off their Burton Cruisers and Sims Pocket Knifes for a race that had most people asking, “How in the hell did we ever shred on that crappy equipment?” I’m not sure who won that one, but it was wicked to watch. The ongoing “Anderniewski” rivalry between Billy Anderson and Dave Sypniewski was won by Dave for the first year in many. Although I’m not sure who won the nightly game of quarters presided over by Anderson and Syp”brew”ski, it was confirmed thaat both of them puked up their insides at least once throughout the event. The newly officiated “Taggartowski” rivalry between me and Michele Taggart (a much less publicized or cared about event) was won by Taggart with a miniscule lead of a couple tenths of a second. You’re going down next year, Michele, you hear?
The awards carried on into the early evening of Sunday in a very packed base lodge. Watching the many generations of snowboarders, from Jason Ford and Tom Burt on down to the little golden-headed children of Mervin’s Mike Olsen, the true meaning of the contest suddenly became clear: snowboarding community. Hana Beaman was sitting next to me and said something to the effect of, “This is the coolest thing ever–it reminds me of when contests actually mattered.” That pretty much sums it up. Oh, and I didn’t see Farmer get up on stage and rap, but I’m sure he did after we left.
1. Terje Haakonsen
2. Seth Wescott
3. Nate Holland
4. Josh Dirksen
5. Peter Bauer
1. Stacy Thomas
2. Karleen Jeffery
3. Fabienne Reuteler
4. Tanja Frieden
5. Victoria Jealouse
Pro Masters: Tom Burt
Super Masters: Robert Rodger
Mid Masters: Randy Haugen
Masters: Jeff Hambelton
Women Masters: Dawn Lambert
Women Amateurs: Spencer O’Brien
Older Amateur Men: Ryan Kelly
Younger Amateur Men: Aaron Robinson
Juniors: Roger Carver
For the super complete results click here.