Photos: Darcy Bacha
The hallmark characteristic of any banked slalom is its capacity for an eclectic field, and the 2016 Rat Race roster had names who’ve stood on X-Games and Olympic podiums, like Danny Davis and Sage Kotsenburg, dropping into the same course as Mount Hood locals, and of course water-drinkers Curtis Ciszek, Austin Smith and Bryan Fox.
An eclectic start list was mirrored by a diverse set of locations from which Rat Race riders trekked. The community aspect of this event and those like it is as much or more a draw for participants as the few minutes spent on-course. Leanne Pelosi, who drove from Vancouver in the midst of editing the Full Moon movie says, "I wouldn't miss the Rat Race for anything. I've been here all five years, and it's one of those contests that's not even a contest. It's just a gathering of our snowboard family."
Alex Yoder flew from Japan to Los Angeles to pick up his truck and made the 16-hour drive north to Mount Hood. He echoes Leanne, "It's an annual pilgrimage. The Rat Race has been going on for five years, and I've been here every time. Now it's just part of my year. The best thing about banked slaloms is it's a reunion of people. There are a few major ones a year, and we all get to catch up. I love it. I love being around Austin, Bryan and Curtis, and all the people that show up and help build and put this thing together."
There is a rule of thumb for Mount Hood: summer doesn't officially show its sunny face until July 4th. Contrary to this, dense clouds loomed above the Palmer Glacier during the days leading up to July 11th’s Rat Race. With lifts closed, the crew crafting the course relied on snow cats to access the event site perched lookers' right from the top of Timberline's Palmer lift. A dedicated dig crew—sans several typical shovelers—sculpted a typically hairball course, with a noteworthy motocross-style woops section that gobbled and swallowed riders and egos before the finish line.
Despite the work put in by those willing to brave freezing rain, frozen slush and dense fog while much of the competition field sat comfortably on a Charlie's bar stool, no one was allowed to navigate the course in its entirety before race-day practice. This is in contrast to previous years in which most who have spent time building have lapped the course repeatedly, further substantiating digger Curtis Ciszek’s 2016 victory.
But the Rat Race, which took place on a sunny Monday, while many were stuck in the daily grind, is more than a contest of speed or a venue to bro-down. It's a legitimate charity event that raised an estimated $29,000 for Water.org, a charity that works to bring clean water to those that don't have access to it. As Drink Water partner Stephen Fox puts it, "It's easy for us to take for granted that out of a faucet comes drinkable water. In lots of places that's not the case. [Water.org] saves lives."
If you couldn’t make it up to Mount Hood, you too can still support Drink Water’s mission, as well as Water.org, and be entered to win a custom Nitro snowboard by donating here.
Congratulations to the 2016 Rat Race winners which are as follows:
Men's Sponsored Division:
1. Curtis Ciszek
2. Ben Ferguson
3. Chase Josey
Men's Un-sponsored Division:
1. JD Dennis
2. Logan Beaulieu
3. Tanner McCarty
1. Hailey Langland
2. Spencer O'Brien
3. Zoe Bergermann
2016 Rat Trap Winners:
Lady Boss: Juliette Pelchat
Hot Dogger: Darcy Sharpe
No Respect: Tonino Copene
Biggest Name, Biggest Time: Mikey Rencz
Java Award: Hannah Eddy
The Skier: Chris Shalbot
Eat Shit or Die: Ashley Barker
Best Hair Best Air: Spencer Schubert
Ralph Kucharek is the mellowest person at any banked slalom, and pretty damn fast, too. He enlightened us with some of his secrets for success.
Ralph's Rat Race Recommendations:
1. Start off by waxing your board early on the day before so you can have the rest of the day to chill. Usually I don't scrape until my first run though.
2. What I like to do is have several beverages, but I alternate them with water.
3. Next, I like to get a little inspired, usually with the homies and maybe around a fire—anything to keep the nerves at ease. If you have fun the night before the race, you're gonna do better because you're in a fun mindset.
4. Stay up an hour past your bedtime, maybe two hours.
5. Wake up early. Last night I stayed up 'til two and got up at seven, but I felt ready when I woke up.
6. Make it to the race course on time to take a practice run.
7. Drop in, tune out and go fast.