All the way to the bank
As the longest-running snowboard contest in the world, the Mount Baker, Wash., Legendary Banked Slalom is as much about community and camaraderie as it is about competition. It's a gathering of the tribe. If nothing else, it's an excuse to come together and really celebrate snowboarding with your friends.
There are a lot of winners at the LBS. With 13 different categories of racers, there are exactly a baker's dozen rolls of Golden Duct Tape up for grabs. This year the fastest of the fast were Seth Wescott and Maelle Ricker, who won the Pro Men's and Pro Women's races. Westcott ran the course in 1:33:221 while Ricker crossed the finish line in 1:37:065.
It was a fast course on Friday and it only got faster throughout the weekend. The conditions couldn't have been better. Much to the surprise of just about everyone, the sun came out and stayed out almost all weekend. And temps hovered comfortably just below freezing, keeping the course clean and fast. Mt. Baker owner Duncan Howat said it was the best setup he's ever seen. Local Lucas Debari agreed. This was Debari's 20th Slalom and he didn't hesitate to call it "the smoothest course I've ever seen on Sunday."
Despite its smoothness, Debari said there were still some spots to get hung up on. "We've worn down a track about 4 feet into the berms," he shared. "We were riding on ice covered in this super-fine granular snow. It was either super hard or it would eat your edges, so you really had to dial in where to use your edges."
Not everyone got it dialed, and as a result a lot of people got pitched. Sunday saw more than a few mid-run cartwheels, loop-outs, tomahawks and inadvertent pow turns. Yes, even Terje took a tumble. But that's the deal at the Banked Slalom; as Scotty Wittlake put it, "No one is here to get 18th place. It's better to blow out than take it easy. So I usually blow out."
It always helps to bring a sense of humor to the start gate. And this year bringing a good wax kit seemed to help too. While the course was fast overall, a lot of racers were claiming that the slower sections made waxing strategies more important than ever.
"In general, it's not a wax race," said Debari. "And yeah, this year there were some slow spots where waxing really helped, but still ... if you botch one corner, there's no wax in the world that'll help you make up that difference."
So it's not about the board.
Similarly, it could be said that the LBS is not about the race, either. At least not entirely.
In line with the sense of community spirit this contest is known for, they give out the Craig Kelly Thunderbird award every year at LBS.
Jeff Galbraith, founder and editor of Frequency, The Snowboarder's Journal, describes the significance: "The award was based on Craig's life and what he gave to snowboarding. You don't get this award for winning one race, running a company for couple of years or hosting a race a few times. It's an award that's given for a lifetime of commitment, a lifetime of contribution to making snowboard culture better."
This year Jamie Lynn was honored with the 2-foot wooden totem. The standing-room-only crowd erupted as he walked up to accept the award. Lynn smiled big and thanked everyone on hand.
"I want to thank the Howat family for their celebration and support of snowboarding for all these years. Without their support and this mountain, I wouldn't be here today," said Lynn. "And I want us to take a moment to remember Craig and everything he's done for snowboarding. And remember George Dobis. And I can't say those two without saying Donkkie too. And ... Bob Barci. Let's take a moment to think about those guys ... it's our job to continue the legacy that those guys have put in front of us."
It's safe to say that legacy lives on at the Legendary Mount Baker Banked Slalom. For full results, check out the LBS webpage.
Mount Baker Legendary Banked Slalom: Pro Men
Mount Baker Legendary Banked Slalom: Pro Women