From the outside looking in, Winter Park, Colorado is just like any other ski town in 2018 America. It’s a tourist-driven community, with the local economy focused firmly around Winter Park Resort’s 3,000-plus acres of skiing and snowboarding terrain. Like its counterparts, there’s an increasing amount of development as the resort strives to compete in Colorado and beyond. Even as you drive down Highway 40, just past the ski area, you can see and hear the construction in any given direction. More retail spaces. More vacation homes. And with Winter Park Resort’s recent inclusion on the Ikon Pass for the upcoming winter, there’s a sense of change looming around the town. Just last week, the resort began construction on a ten-person gondola, quickly prompting comparisons to those Vail Resort communities just down I-70.
But spend some time in Grand County, Colorado, and you’ll soon realize that, despite the aforementioned similarities, Winter Park is not your typical ski town. And although change and growth are both imminent, the throwback, blue-collar persona of the area will continue to hold strong thanks in part to its quirky and unpretentious locals. You see, the thing that makes Winter Park different from any other ski town comes down to its people. They aren’t influenced or fazed by the latest trends, and for better or worse, they aren’t really influenced by anything outside of the county lines. They tend to do things their own way, and the result is a completely authentic and organic experience.
Take locals Ben Lynch and Ryan Arrington for instance – the masterminds behind Winter Park’s High Noon Duel. Clad in Carhartt, hunting camo and speed shades, you’d think that these two were just falling in line with snowboarding’s latest fashion trends. The truth is, they’ve been rocking this sort-of-cowboy style for years. Not because they want to exude any sort of image, but because they honestly don’t give a shit about anything other than snowboarding and its most core values – going fast, keeping things loose, and having one hell of a good time with their buddies. It’s a true embodiment of Winter Park’s spirit and culture.
And it’s their unique blend of borderline-reckless, I-don’t-give-a-fuck style that Ben and Ryan have brought to the snowboarding community through the High Noon Duel. Sure, it may borrow elements from traditional slopestyle contests and the ever-growing trend of banked slaloms, but much like the town that hosts the event, the High Noon Duel is anything but typical.
Advertised as “synchronized snowboard madness,” this year’s event once again featured teams of two and four battling it out on a course filled with banked turns, handrails, horse statues and the Duel’s signature hula hoop. (If it all sounds a bit ridiculous, that’s because, well, it is). While synchronization was the goal, 2018’s High Noon Duel definitely weighed heavily on the side of madness. As is typical for April in Colorado, the weather proved to be a finicky little S.O.B., and after a few inches of thick snow had fallen on top of a rock-solid base – the result of a huge swing in temperature from the sunny, spring day prior – the outcome was a course that was firm, unforgiving and ready to show little mercy on the boarders brave – or crazy – enough to tackle it.
But that certainly wasn’t going to prevent anyone from having a rowdy time in true Grand County fashion. After Ben and Ryan laid out the rules for the riders, which was quick and painless seeing as the event doesn’t really have any, everyone made their way to the top of the burly, sure-to-be-interesting course. For the second year in a row, the High Noon Duel took place near Winter Park Resort’s base area, offering quite the spectacle for any unsuspecting skiers and boarders passing by. The course began with two separate banked slalom style tracks that wove over and under one another, and eventually led into a gauntlet of features highlighted by the crown jewel of the course – the hula hoop.
With a diverse crowd of competitors that included men, women, and even a handful of sub-10-year-old groms, the 2018 High Noon Duel proved to be the biggest and rowdiest turnout yet. With the variable conditions in place, the amount of carnage was also at an all-time high, fueled even more so by the steady stream of Hamm’s being consumed by the over-21 crowd. Still, the vibes were even higher, and despite the amount of sacrifice competitors were placing on their bodies and pride, there was still an impressive number of jaw-dropping runs put down, and most surprisingly, not a single injury.
But perhaps the highlight of the afternoon was witnessing mono-skier Trevor Kennison shut things down by successfully threading his sit-ski through the hoop. After a 2014 snowboarding accident altered Trevor’s life forever, he decided not to sit around and feel sorry for himself, but instead, to keep his passion for the mountains alive by transferring his snowboarding skills into mono-skiing skills. While a number of snowboarders were hesitant to go through the hoop at all, Trevor did it with precision and ease (and a bit of that Grand County reckless attitude), garnering a roar of cheers from the crowd and his fellow riders. It proved to be the ideal finishing touch on an event that takes pride in being anything but ideal.
While there were plenty of prizes given away at the end of the day, there were still no judges and no cash awards. Rather, the competitors themselves took responsibility for the judging, and even if it meant the team with the wittiest name had a better chance of coming out on top, it really didn’t matter all that much. After all, the High Noon Duel isn’t so much a contest as it is an excuse to get a little loose with your friends in a community that doesn’t care where you’re from, where you’re going, what you wear, or how you choose to do things. As much as the times may be changing around the resort and the snowboard industry as a whole, it’s good to know that there’s a refuge to be found in Winter Park, Colorado, and both Ben and Ryan are sure to keep it that way.
1.) Trailer Park Boys – Max Williams, Paul Weston, Mike Branson, Mikey Lucido
2.) Gimp Squad – Josh Bowles, Sam Brumenschenkel, Trevor Kennison, Brian Bullock
3.) Taco Pistols – Delia Maher, Hannah Nelson, Chelsea Decker, Chris Lafauci
1.) Wookies – Noah Close, Max Williams
2.) Kooks on the Loose – Mike Branson, Paul Weston
3.) Gromination – Indi Hale, Will Solomon