As far as I can tell, the Baker Banked Slalom is all about snowboarding. And by “snowboarding, this is what I mean: gigantically deep powder, working up a sweat, involuntary hooting and hollering, logging “vertical, hot cocoa, hiking for more powder, extreme physical exhaustion, and then just making it to the top of the course in time to do your race run for glory and for the history books. Yes, there’s something magical about this event. It’s a brotherhood of people who all came for pretty much the same reason (see above). It’s a contest that’s really and truly about the competitor—you and the course, no TV cameras or bleacher seating, no one to impress, it’s just a reckoning between you and the clock. And there’s a place for everyone, from the youngest little shred dude to aging industry contenders and fancy-pants pro riders. So it was after enduring a brutal couple days at the Las Vegas tradeshow with an agonizing cold, then coming home and facing up to too many days of Portland rain to count, as well as other such things difficult and tedious, lame and annoying, all-encompassing, life giving, and unavoidably frustrating, I shoved off north to Mt. Baker in hopes of a true snowboarding catharsis. Yes, my expectations were high, but Baker is not one to disappoint—and didn’t, of course.

The Northwest had been hunkering down under one of those big green/yellow patches on the TV weatherman’s map for, like, weeks now, and compared to last season’s piss pour showing of snow, the landscape of Mt. Baker looked like a real winter playground, complete with giant snow banks and pine trees absolutely caked with huge globs of snow. The Banked Slalom course itself was full of powder traps, so you had to be on your game or you’d founder in the loose stuff. After Friday’s qualifiers progressed for a bit, the last gate turned into a death trap and took down more riders than it left standing, including Leanne Pelosi and heavy contender Josh Dirksen. Ordinarily, this would’ve been no problem, because riders still had Saturday and a second chance at qualifying for finals to redeem themselves. However, 90-mile-per-hour winds shut Mt. Baker down completely on Saturday, meaning no second chances and absolutely no take backs.

There’re no hard feelings at the Banked Slalom, though, because not making it to the finals simply meant more time to ride the heaps of fresh snow that fell and were blown in for Sunday morning—a truly glorious day of schralpin, one for the photo albums and record books, a real “best day ever, the kind that gets you all excited about life and snowboarding again. I’m sure misty Baker local Temple Cummins found plenty of time to shred secret stashes in between his winning runs, as did Victoria Jealouse and her man Guy Deschenes. I know I saw Pro Women third placer Maria Debari gettin’ some while I was out there getting mine. And at the end of the day, as I piled myself, aching bones and all, back into the car to head back down to Portland because, as my copilot Jesse Huffman said, I have a life, not a lifestyle, well, I had a smile on my face, hopes for the future of winter, and six hours of highway time to relive it all inside my head.

Official Race Results

Pro Men:
1. Temple Cummins
2. Guy Deschenes
3. Rob Kingwill

Pro Women:
1. Victoria Jealouse
2. Stacy Thomas
3. Maria Debari

Pro Masters: Jason Troth

Older Amateur Men: Skye Allsop

Women Amateurs: Regina Lind

Younger Amateur Men: Aaron Robinson

Juniors: Logan Beaulieu

Next Generation: Aaron Muss

Women Masters: Julia Carlson

Masters: Brian Bozack

Mid Masters: Randy Haugen

Grand Masters: J.T. Taylor

Super Masters: Bob Rodger