“The energy you feel during the weekend is a hard thing to describe and it's a really hard thing to capture. But for people who experience it, you know exactly what it means. There's no other way to really get a sense of it unless you're here.”
This is what Gwyn Howat told me Monday morning, about 14 hours after she’d announced the results of the 2018 Mount Baker Legendary Baked Slalom to a buzzing—some, maybe a little buzzed—crowd that filled Baker’s White Salmon Lodge to its capacity.
Gwyn is Mt. Baker Ski Area’s operations manager and part of a small crew that makes this event which hosts thousands, now in its 32nd iteration, go off without a noticeable flaw.
“It's cool how it changes from the start shack area, to the bottom of the course, then it culminates with the awards ceremony in the lodge. That room is just supercharged. And for me I knew that Dirksen won when I walked in the lodge, so I couldn't wait until we announced the pro men's division. I kept looking out in the crowd, and it's really hard for me not to look at the people wI know have won. But it’s amazing for me because I get to look out and see all the faces. It's a who's who of the snowboarding world when I'm standing in front looking at the crowd.”
She’s right. The start list reads like a roster of snowboarding’s most talented and is diverse as it is long. The event’s venue has a gravitational pull that’s existed since the inception of snowboarding, and each year it draws this eclectic class of riders to its steep pitches that are both rolling and jagged for a weekend unlike anything that exists outside this Northwest microcosm.
“There are these other places that are so expensive and you can see how they have a negative impact on the sport,” Gwyn mentions.
We all know the locales she’s referring to, and its grounded attitude contributes to Baker’s unmistakable pull. Baker has always been an alternative to corporate resorts, while LBS as an event counters other forms of competitive snowboarding.
“It's cool because it's helping progress this younger generation of riders,” says Gwyn.
It validates the importance of snowboarding’s most fundamental skill, and it helps progress those younger riders beyond the televised stunts.
Gwyn sums it up well. “It's the element of the turn, and it's cool to see all the riders that have done well. Everyone from Nate Holland to Jeremy Jones. The halfpipe riders, the backcountry riders, everybody on the same course. You know you've tapped into the essence of snowboarding because all disciplines can compete.”
The Legendary Banked Slalom isn’t something that can be explained in a web post. We’ll see ya next February. Head east on 542.