Turning—it's the simplest, purest part of snowboarding. Edge to edge, side to side, it's how we snowboarders get down, literally. And nowhere else in the world is this simple act more important than at the Legendary Mount Baker Banked Slalom. Now in its 27th year, the banked continues to challenge and celebrate the rudimentary act and art of steering a snowboard.
Where else will you find a grip of the world's best snowboarders and legends challenging themselves on the same course as next generation groms? Or a tent of free, handmade, gourmet food? There're a lot of parts to this three-day event not found elsewhere. Even though it's one of the longest running events in snowboarding, there're no media tents, blaring jumbotrons or VIP red tape. Nope, just a grassroots gathering with a bunch of knuckle draggers all vying for a roll of golden duct tape.
Enough hype, here's what went down:
Terje Haakonsen took home the tape this year, his seventh (yes, seventh) first place finish. Norway's best has now won over a quarter of all the LBS events. Not only did he win, he sped up and shaved a second of his first lap time. He did it with pure fluidity. Other than a couple grunts while muscling through the choppy banks, Terje sped down with that cat-like finesse. Josh Dirksen stayed right on his heels though. Had it not been for a crash on his second run, he might've bumped from a second place finish to first. (If you've never seen Josh turn before, it's one of the most unique styles in snowboarding.) As usual Temple Cummins casually slid into third place, and he probably could have been carrying a glass of wine the whole way down, not spilling a drop. A quick look at the top four, including Rob Fagan, and they're all are over thirty. Is everyone getting faster with age?
Travis Rice, who posted some of the fastest times during qualifiers, ended up blowing out on both of his finals runs. Speaking of blowing out, people were getting tossed in the top section. Some notables were Javas Lehn and Dustin Anderson getting seriously slung out of the top section and Maelle Ricker getting tangled up in the safety netting.
Even though she hung up the nets, Maelle Ricker managed to pick up her sixth roll of golden duct tape. All those trophies must look pretty damn nice next to those Olympic and X Games golds, eh Maelle? Laura Hadar rallied into that second spot and also pasted the people with Fried Rat patches, the start of her new art/shred/music/good people collective 'zine. Maria Debari ripped into the third place spot, not only beefing up the Debari family trophy case with new accolades and goods, but also adding to her two first place finishes on the Freeride World Tour this year.
Kevin Pearce was back on snow cracking people up, delivering stoke all around the event. Two years after his injury, Kevin strapped in and navigated the course, earning him not only the Andernewski (Billy Anderson + Dave Sypniewski) Award, but a lifetime entry spot into the event and a standing ovation at the awards ceremony. Yeah KP!
Another noteworthy honor, the Craig Kelly Thunderbird Award, went to Mount Baker Hard Core (M.B.H.C.) founding member Jeff Fulton. A Northwest legend of sorts who claimed, "Snowboarding is the best thing that's ever happened in my life" during his acceptance speech. Fulton can be credited for turning Craig Kelly on to snowboarding, an award in itself. The ole dog is still out there, still stoked and still on snow. Congrats, Jeff and thank you for your contributions.
Off the hill there was music to be had from the likes of Wes Makepeace, Scott Sullivan, Metalmucil, and the T-Bagging Bandits. There were wagers to be cashed in after a day at the races. Young bucks betting beers (Curtis Ciszek, you were tossing them out like poker chips), desk jockey office pools, team manager and rider duels, and long-standing rivalries settled solely by time. And there's no cheatin' that. Nor is there a way to cheat the culture-versus-cash spirit that this event delivers every year. The custom-made and local artisan gifts, volunteer effort, salmon bakes, concerts, hot laps, rowdiness and core consensus of snowboarding keep it true. This weekend gathering re-affirms our experiment of gravity, snow, mountains and people. And for a few days in mid-February, way out in a small snowy corner of Washington, everything feels right.
1. Terje Haakonsen
2. Josh Dirksen
3. Temple Cummins
1. Maelle Ricker
2. Laura Hadar
3. Maria Debari
See more results here.
The event is shrinking by 50 competitors next year. Hit up the lottery or local qualifiers for your chance in the gates.