The Baker Banked Slalom is no stranger to adversity—wind and snow regularly wreak havoc on the event and this year was no different. Snowstorms swept through the mountain range last week culminating in all out pow days on Thursday and Friday. Thursday’s epic powder morning started off with a slide off Chair 5 started by a rider airing a cliff and knocking off a pillow. The pillow caused a slough of snow to move down the steep slopes overcoming three riders and burying them up to their neck. All this went down just to the left of the chairlift. A probe line formed and a rider was found buried. Everyone survived, but it was a surreal scene.
Despite the hairball conditions, everyone showing up early for the race got sick powder runs … it was just business as usual for Baker locs in the midst of an epic winter. The LBS race crew set the gates down the gully in record time on a powdery course complete with high-speed banks and high-speed blowout opportunities at the bottom turns. Josh Dirksen had said his race strategy was to, “either get first or last.” It seems lots of riders went into the qualifiers with this full blast mentality and blew out of the course.
As the day went on, the snow never stopped coming down and things got hectic. After Friday’s qualifiers, with the lodge packed to the rafters with racers, an announcement was made that the highway to Baker would be closed Saturday. With snow levels rising and rain on its heels, the Washington Highway people decided that avalanche work needed to be done on the road. The top 50-percent of riders would qualify for finals. The announcement triggered a heavy night of partying. What else are you going to do in Glacier with a big blank day to look forward to? I’ll go light on the details, but there were dance parties, deejays, and cases consumed.
Despite all the fresh snow, the LBS staff put together one of the fastest courses in recent memory for Sunday’s finals. Whistler’s Maelle Ricker posted a 1.30 qualifying score that had her not just at the top of the women’s field, but in the Pro Men’s top ten. Dang! She easily held onto her lead through the finals. Temple Cummins qualified fourth on Friday, and sealed the deal on Sunday floating through the course with steady arms, smoothing through the turns, and posting a 1.26 score well ahead of the pack.
Towards the end of the awards ceremony, Joe Cummins presented The Craig Kelly Legend Award to the Howatt family. Gywn, Amy, their younger sister, and their father Duncan have been welcoming snowboarders with open arms for 23 years of racing and even more of raw riding. The audience got a chance to acknowledge the Howatt’s lasting impact on snowboarding in the Northwest. It was, as always, a magical weekend full of friendly faces, great food (Yum, Milanos!), great music (Scott Sullivan, Wes Makepeace, Valient Thor), and faceshots down the steeps of Baker.
1. Maelle Ricker
2. Spencer O’Brian
3. Stacy Thomas
1. Temple Cummins
2. Robert Fagan
3. Josh Dirksen
Complete results are available at mtbaker.us
The 23 Year Honor Roll
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
2004 Terje Haakonsen, Stacy Thomas
2006 Temple Cummins, Victoria Jealouse
2007 Lucas DeBari, Maelle Ricker
2008 Temple Cummins, Maelle Ricker