There are very few things that really matter in a person’s life. To me, the Banked Slalom is one of those few things. I’ve never felt more a part of an event in my life. Gwyn and Amy Howat, Martha Bengen, the Cummins, the cave, the race volunteers, Milano’s, and the bets are special–in my life and my memories. All the competitors are extraordinary as well. These people don’t come for money, they come for a painted roll of duct tape, and some don’t even come for that.

It’s fitting that the race is held every year on Super Bowl Sunday, because I feel it is of equal comparison. It’s of the same significance to me as the NBA Championships, the World Series, the Final Four, and the Stanley Cup. To make the cut alone is a heavy thing, but to win–well, one can only dream. And a person who wins, such as Terje, should be compared to an athlete like Michael Jordan.

I could never completely explain the Legendary Baker Banked Slalom, just as I could never explain what it is to be loved or to feel the heartache of not living up to one’s own expectations. As in years past, my sole ambition was to do well in the race, which absorbs all my attention. According to some, this makes me an unprofessional journalist–all I can offer are some brief journal-like notes I wrote down each night of the race. But, as a participant I can offer this–if you can ever make it to this race, it will change your life.

Thursday

I got to the White Salmon Lodge around ten in the morning. The fog and clouds were lifting; it was the start of a beautiful day. Temple Cummins, Barrett Christy, Andy Hetzel, and I immediately headed up to the course. After a couple of runs, the lady in charge, Gwyn Howat shut the course down for maintenance. Along with many others, Billy Andersen and I grabbed shovels and went to work on some of the berms, then headed back to the lodge with Temp and Andy for some liquid stretching. A couple of mellow ones and it was back to the course.

After riding the course today, I think this year’s is the best it’s been in recent races.

With the anticipation of a boy going to his first day of school, I prepared for tomorrow’s race. Matt Cummins and Brian Rushforth of One Ball Jay, helped me get my stick ready.

As I finish typing, I hear there’re rumors that Billy Anderson is still up partying despite the fact we’ve got 100 dollars on tomorrow’s qualifier, and there’s also a rumor Terje’s here.

Friday

The General, a.k.a. Joe Cummins, woke us before dawn, much to Andy’s displeasure. Waxing is probably the second most important part of a fast run, the first being a competent rider. I, being the genius that I am, decided to scrape before we left for the hill. Matt instantly reprimanded me. (Note to self: you scrape and buff only prior to your run.) Registration was from 8:00 to 8:30 a.m., course inspection was from 9:00 to 9:30 a.m.–slipping only, of course. The sky was clearer and more blue than at any Banked Slalom I’d ever been to; you could see all of the surrounding Cascades for miles.

At the starting gate, Gwyn and Martha Bengen had been yelling who was to run next and giving out hugs like crazy. They started with the Next Generations first, and Men’s Pro ran last. Each racer was given one run, the top 25-percent advancing, and the rest of the field had the next day to try again. The anxiety of your first run is enough to make a grown man cry. Everyone wants to do their best–period.

Terje showed up, but that didn’t stop Temple from having the fastest time of the day with a 1:19:60. I wonder if Matt’s wax job contributed to his time. Billy Anderson fell in his run, making me 100-dollars richer. The favorites for Sunday seemed to be Temple, Terje, Rob Morrow, Josh Dirksen, Peter Bauer, and Matt Goodwill.

We helped Cheryl Cummins prepare our steak and potato dinners. eryl is in my top five of all-time greatest cooks. The Cummins, Northwest Snowboards, and One Ball Jay have been involved with the Banked Slalom for over fourteen years, and they truly help to make the experience so much more.

Matt and Temp teched out our boards while Andy and I ran some errands. It was my turn for the infamous card game, one, two, three, drop–I lost 25 bucks, but gained a hell of a buzz.

Saturday

Again, the General woke us before dawn. My personal tradition continued: After waking I opened a nice cold Weinhards–it was to be one of many–and it felt good to my pounding head. My tradition also includes sitting in the lodge as long as I can before my run. (Lots of people funnel through, always ready to buy you a mellow one.)

I had qualified the day before and was up a hundred, so I had nothing to lose. Yet when I entered the start shack, I was shaking violently. I’d followed Matt’s waxing instructions, and boy did it work great, because I made three huge mistakes on the course, but was only eight-tenths of a second slower. Billy, however, fell in this run again. He would not make the cut, and that is a hundred times worse than losing another 100 bucks to me. I immediately headed back to the start shack to tell Gwyn that Billy could have one of my runs tomorrow. She said she’d see what she could do.

Terje had the fastest time, closely followed by Temp, and then Rob Morrow. The race is getting heated.

The bonfire blazed and the line for the salmon (in memory of Teal Copeland) was long–but man, it was worth the wait. Hands down, the best salmon I’ve ever tasted. Mike Ranquet came back to the hill for the bonfire in his new ankle cast. Mike, James, and Axel Pauporté had been getting good snow and doing hairball lines all morning. Mike dropped off a cliff into a chute and hit some ice during the high-speed run-out, consequently running into a tree. The Legendary Banked Slalom isn’t always just the course in the halfpipe.

At the bonfire, Gwyn had pulled Billy and I aside to inform us that Billy could use one of my runs, but it wouldn’t count against the field, only against me. My run would count, but I’d only get one. I was happy Billy was back in, and we still had two-hundred on it.

Andy was still hungry when we got down, so Temp dropped us off at Milano’s, promising to return in an hour. We would all go see Dave Lee and Todd Schlosser’s band play. We ate, and an hour had past. No sign of Temp, so Andy and I grabbed twelve sport beers from Graham’s and walked over to see Ranquet. After some cards (I lost another 30), we headed down to Maple Falls for a party sponsored by Vans, Red Bull, and Casa Que Pasa–I think. My Friends and I, Midget Money, and Critters Buggin’ played, then Vera took the stage. Dave and Todd rocked, and Todd even stood up for Burien County and “sissy” rock to a horde of drunken “moshers.” Portrait of Poverty wrapped up the night.

I’ve been drinking since 6:00 a.m. and it’s now really late, I can’t really recall much more of what happened, but my wallet is again lighter.

Sunday

I’d made it home by 2:00 a.m.–the General informed me of this at seven this morning. It hurt. I couldn’t talk; I just wanted to sleep. We drove up to the hill–it hurt. I sat in the lodge–it hurt. I went to the top of the course–it still hurt.

At 11:00 a.m. it stopped hurting when the panic of the race replaced the pounding between my ears. You get two runs on Sunday: the first you see your time, the second is announced at the awards. Terje had the fastest of the known times. Billy and I elected to not know our times ’til the awards. I fell coming out of the second turn, and because I had given my other run to Billy, I knew it was done. The fall cost me at least six seconds, and Matt’s wax job could only do so much.

The fastest time in each category gets a Banked Slalom jacket, a gold roll of duct tape, and some bitchin’ Native American art by Shaun Peterson. Prizes are also handed out to the rest of the top times, and there’s a lottery of free stuff for all entrants. Pro men are announced last, and much to my embarrassment, Gwyn called Billy and me up before they were presented. Billy made it down with a solid 1:22:03, I failed with a 1:26:20. But, Billy and I came out even monetary-wise.

Now I have to lay down for some much-needed sleep. I’m sad it was over, but I smile a little when I realize the 2001 Banked Slalom will start in only 361 days.

 

 

Sixteenth Legendary Banked Slalom Winners

Category HometownAgeWinning Time

Pro Men

Terje HaakonsenOslo, Norway251.18.17

ProWomen

Victoria JealouseKamloops, B.C.unknown1.25.58

Older Amateur Men

Andy JohnsonCordova, Alaska261.21.54

Younger Amateur Men

Jason SpeerBellingham, Washington191.22.421

Amateur Women

Stacy ThomasSeattle, Washington151.31.08

Masters

Garry PendygrasseVancouver, B.C.311.23.86

Grand Masters

Bruce SmithSun Valley, Idaho431.31.73

Juniors

Mathieu CrepelFrance141.22.49

Next Generation

Nicky LarsonGolden, Colorado101.39.45much.

The fastest time in each category gets a Banked Slalom jacket, a gold roll of duct tape, and some bitchin’ Native American art by Shaun Peterson. Prizes are also handed out to the rest of the top times, and there’s a lottery of free stuff for all entrants. Pro men are announced last, and much to my embarrassment, Gwyn called Billy and me up before they were presented. Billy made it down with a solid 1:22:03, I failed with a 1:26:20. But, Billy and I came out even monetary-wise.

Now I have to lay down for some much-needed sleep. I’m sad it was over, but I smile a little when I realize the 2001 Banked Slalom will start in only 361 days.

 

 

Sixteenth Legendary Banked Slalom Winners

Category HometownAgeWinning Time

Pro Men

Terje HaakonsenOslo, Norway251.18.17

ProWomen

Victoria JealouseKamloops, B.C.unknown1.25.58

Older Amateur Men

Andy JohnsonCordova, Alaska261.21.54

Younger Amateur Men

Jason SpeerBellingham, Washington191.22.421

Amateur Women

Stacy ThomasSeattle, Washington151.31.08

Masters

Garry PendygrasseVancouver, B.C.311.23.86

Grand Masters

Bruce SmithSun Valley, Idaho431.31.73

Juniors

Mathieu CrepelFrance141.22.49

Next Generation

Nicky LarsonGolden, Colorado101.39.45