They’re sprouting like weeds all over the Cascades.

The diverse, big-mountain terrain of the volcanic Northwest is producing a pool of hardcore, all-around riding talent faster than OHSU (Oregon Health Sciences University) can clone monkeys.

One needn’t go any further than Vegetate 2000¿Mt. Hood Meadows’ annual spring snowboarding fest¿to see the most ripping riders from Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Mammoth Lakes, California compete in a full-on, multi-event, local pride shoot-out.

What began as a simple benefit for the off-season re-vegetation of Mt. Hood has blossomed into a spring break X-travaganza. The short steeps of Yellow Chair housed full sun, spectator-friendly access to the slopestyle and big air courses as well as the Boardercross finish. And everywhere the amenities of sponsors like MLY/M3, Toyota, Red Bull, Inca Snowboards, The Marines, Stagg Chili and Exit Real World abounded. “Who wants to be a Shwagonaire?” was their battle cry¿free massages, food and video game access was dished up, ESPN and local news were on-hand to mediate and a steady stream of spectators filled the bleachers all four days; soaking up the sunny conditions and setting Full Sail on Hood River micro brew and Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum.

Such ski area contest mega-happenings have become almost ubiquitous, but Vegetate remains loyal to their original mission¿said this year to have raised over 15,000 dollars to cultivate native Mt. Hood plants and grasses in greenhouses to be planted on the slopes in the off-season. In another revitalizing move, skiers were invited to go head-to-head in every event, boosting in the halfpipe, off the big air and on the slopestyle and Boardercross courses. Chris Jordan’s fakie entry to backflip off the big air¿reminiscent of the mind-blowing title shot in TB8¿landed the highest score served up, an 87.80. Seeing two-plankers (even a telemark entrant) attack and excel on snowboarding courses graphically illustrated how we crave thrills and love mountains for the same reasons.

While this season’s event-packed schedule left Vegetate unable to draw many marquee names, riders who charge just as hard found their showcase. Competition surpassed mere local territorial pissings into true, technical one-upsmanship, with most winners needing to surpass his/her best game to come out on top. And healthy cash awards of 3,000-500 dollars didn’t hurt any motivations.

In Boardercross, the berm and roller-heavy course was lead all the way by Mark Schulz, who qualified first in the time trials as he did last year, then won all his heats but two to take the commanding lead. Second-place-finisher Forest DeVore of Eugene had been chasing Schulz all day and finally caught him in the annual Japan vs. USA race after the finals. Kevin Eichner of White Salmon, Washington qualified with the fastest time of the day then bested all comers in the skiercross. Jacqui Berg of Issaquah, Washington squeaked by Corrie Rudishauser to take the women’s first but Rudishauser would continue to be heard from. Riders liked the course, even if it wasn’t without the usual carnage¿one rider checked into ski patrol coughing blood after his slam, but was back at the festival by day’s end.

After a couple false starts on Thursday, the special Pipe Dragon cut a worthy U-jump for Friday’s contest. It was, “One of the better pipes I’ve ridden this year,” According to local hp specialist and former U.S. Team member Lael Gregory. “It was a little under-vert on the right side but it’s not going to be perfect. I had a great time, this was probably the funnest event I did all year.” It didn’t hurt Gregory’s spirits that he reasserted his air superiority over the rest of the pack by defending his halfpipe title and taking home 3,000 dollars. Marni Yamada of Seattle beat out the talent-laden lineup of women ahead of Corrie Rudishauser and Jacqui Berg, with Kellie Wright and Kim Bohnsack landing fourth and fifth. FFirst-place skier Griffin Cummings lobbed impressive spins and some of the biggest airs, proving they don’t wreck the trannys when they ski it right.

Saturday’s Slopestyle had an immaculately groomed array of eight giant hits, two Heine mailboxes and a massive quarterpipe at the end, but high winds and the late hour postponed the finish until Sunday morning. It was just as well¿bluebird skies and warm temperatures made for a far better showing, and Aaron Bishop from Mammoth Lakes walked away with his first pro win. Having taken third at the Cuervo Quarterpipe and third at the Vans Triple Crown in Breckenridge two years ago, Bishop nabbed first by utilizing the entire playing field, “Slopestyle is kinda my thing,” he said, “I heard hitting the rails didn’t count as much but using the whole course is what I stuck with.” Kim Bohnsack and Corrie Rudishauser battled it out, but Bohnsack bested her by going big and sticking her solid spins. Skier Griffin Cummings matched his pipe win on slope.

The event the fans turn out for is always the big air, and Vegetate’s legions didn’t disappoint. A pair of cautious qualifiers sifted the field, then finalists turned the proverbial volume to eleven. After long droughts of riders not landing anything, three or four would stick massive fakie 720s and rodeo flips in streaks, much to the delight of heavily lubed crowds baking in the sun. It only got more technical as the day went on, with big air vet Jason Borgstede leading his crew of Alaskan superhuckers to highest heights. Skiers only added to it, throwing rodeos every bit as committed and often bigger than the riders. Photographer Cory Grove handled the MC play-by-play with help from pro Jesse Burtner, which seriously helped sort the technical variations, and in the end it was won with the last jump¿Doug Burlingame’s fakie 900.

Tim Windell’s crew of judges rightly picked Burlingame’s hard and hungry routine as the long day’s finest. Though the women had trouble landing anything, Kim Bohnsack stuck her backside 540 and rode off winning. After that, what was left was the best of the rest. Mountain All Stars are Vegetate’s version of all-around ripper in Boardercross, slopestyle and halfpipe. For that, Corrie Rudishauser won 500 dollars with her string of second-place finishes and Lael Gregory successfully defended his other title from last year, winning the halfpipe and taking fourth in slopestyle. Said he, of another excellent adventure and Vegetate’s thriving reputation, “It’s so nice to be home, everybody’s super-pumped on Mt. Hood. That’s why everybody comes here¿this place is super low-key and fun to ride.”

Final Results, Vegetate 2000complete listings at Mt. Hood Meadows: www.skihood.comMen’s Boardercross
1.) Mark Schultz
2.) Forest DeVore
3.) Peter Butsch

Women’s Boardercross
1.) Jacqui Berg
2.) Corrie Rudishauser
3.) Marni Yamada

Men’s Halfpipe
1.) Lael Gregory
2.) N/A
3.) N/A

Women’s Halfpipe
1.) Marni Yamada
2.) Corrie Rudishauser
3.) Jacqui Berg

Men’s Slopestyle
1.) Aaron Bishop
2.) David Scaffidi
3.) Ben Buchanan

Women’s Slopestyle
1.) Kim Bohnsack
2.) Corrie Rudishauser
3.) Marni Yamada

Men’s Big Air
1.) Dave Burlingame
2.) Nick Franke
3.) Chris Shepherd

Women’s Big Air
1.) Kim Bohnsack
2.) Jacqui Berg
3.) Juanita Platz

Mountain All Stars top finishers in Boardercross, halfpipe and slopestyleMen¿Lael Gregory. Women¿Corrie Rudishauser