This weekend we found ourselves around a bonfire on the border of Montana and Idaho. In the frozen-over parking lot at Lost Trail, a ski area that, as its name suggests is off the beaten path, a group of snowboarding's most dedicated celebrated the life of someone whose influence continues to be felt in our culture, through a bermed event that took place earlier that day. This is the second time this Montana gem has served as a venue for the Smash Life Banked Slalom and the sixth year that Aaron Robinson's legacy has been honored through the event, which benefits the Plant A Seed Project.
Smash Life's current format employs a two-stop model, the first taking place at Alpental in Washington, where Aaron was residing at the time of his passing, and the second here in Montana, the state he grew up in. The inherent inclusivity of a banked slalom makes the event format a fitting way to honor someone whose mantra was anything but exclusive. As Aaron's friend Dillon Candelaria, explains:
"The Smash Life Banked Slalom is in its sixth year this year, and our second stop is at Lost Trail, in its second season at Lost Trail. It's a two-event series in memory of our good friend Aaron Robinson who died seven years ago in Chile, doing what he loved to do. We commemorate him and his love for snowboarding together at these mountains doing these banked slaloms, which is something everybody can share together, young and old, the way Aaron enjoyed doing it himself.
We honor a dear friend, with these events, who touched many lives throughout the snowboarding community. It was quite a tragic loss to the entire snowboard community when he died in Chile.
We'll continue to do this, year after year. It brings out people from everywhere across the western half of the United States--California, Washington, Orgeon, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, everywhere. People come out four days in advance and volunteer dig the course out. They do it for the love of snowboarding and for the love of our friend that we lost. It's something that's special to many people, and it's nice to new faces and old friends. I hope people enjoy the fun that we put together."
That part--the fun part--was abundant. In fact, it's the only banked slalom I know of that bakes into its schedule a day of freeriding with friends. Though the event dates are listed as the 20th and 21st of January, the race is finished Saturday, leaving Sunday for contestants to deal only with hangovers, not pre-race jitters.
As Aaron's brother Jason puts it:
"The Smash Life Banked Slalom creates such a sick atmosphere, such a cool crew, so many people pitching in to make this event happen, which no one has to do. They've just taken it upon themselves to do this event in honor of Aaron. Every year it seems to gather more momentum; more people want to come check it out and even help out. It's pretty incredible."
On a K2 commemorative of Aaron Robinson, which some have referred to as the winningest board in banked slalom history, Kyle Miller put down the fastest time of the day. In fact, the podium was comprised of Montana boys: Kyle Miller, who plays an instrumental role in making the event happen, Jason Robinson, who took no practice runs on his untuned board that found a field of rocks the day prior, and Mitch Kirby, who drove the ten hours from Seattle--if you count Kirby's extended MT stint as garnering him loc' dawg status.
Perhaps the biggest winners, however, were Kit Hendrickson and Galen Bridgewater, who earned themselves a spot at the Legendary Mount Baker Banked Slalom for putting down the fastest combined time at both the Lost Trail and Alpental events, in the men’s and women’s open categories, respectivelyi.
As fireworks rained from overheard and sparks flew upward from the fire, a group of snowboarders glanced up between conversations that ranged from snow conditions to life's existential questions to watch Manifest, a film honoring Aaron's life and mantra, projected on a sheet on the side of a snowed-in schoolbus. The only thing we had to wake up for was another day of snowboarding. Existence is fragile. We ought to spend as much time around bonfires and ripping pow as possible.
1 -- Kyle Miller
2 -- Jason Robinson
3 -- Mitch Kirby
1 -- Zoe Vernon
2 -- Sarris McComb
3 -- Galen Bridgewater
Grumpy Old Men:
1 -- Jay Neal
2 -- Joe Pope
3 -- Brian Bakken
1 -- Tipton Power
2 -- Karl Crittenden
3 -- Mike Brodie
1 -- Chad Dalman
2 -- Erik Gronvold
3 -- Robin Foster
1 -- Zeia Rose
2 -- Lucy Schultz
3 -- Sophie Smith
1 -- Mac Johnson
2 -- Elias Benton
3 -- Jack Bandow