photos & captions: T.Bird and Aaron Blatt
My boss and longtime friend Pat Bridges wrote a feature story in SNOWBOARDER Magazine a few years back in which he stated that the first trick on a snowboard was in fact a simple turn. In its infancy, snowboarding was a rebellious activity shunned by the masses and in the early years, a snowboarder was judged solely on the fluidity and ease of their turns. If you made it look easy, you were a good snowboarder. Plain as that. It was the gold standard in the measurement of one's skill. Thirty years later, snowboarding is widely accepted by a mainstream audience and the professional snowboarding ranks have been compartmentalized, with different riders exceling in specialized forms of riding by way of big air scaffolding jumps, halfpipe, big mountain and urban environments. However, if there is still one clear deciding factor as to one's skill on a snowboard, it is still the turn. In other words, after all the evolution, the progression and the advancement in things like gear and tricks, you can still judge how well someone rides a snowboard by how they turn it, and still to this day, there is no greater or more celebrated platform of that ideology than the Legendary Mt. Baker Banked Slalom.
Now in its 31st year, the LBS is the longest-running snowboard contest that has remained in one location in the history of our sub-culture, and for good reason. The LBS is less about fanfare and more about fundamentals in that the rider who goes the fastest on finals day is going to take home a roll of coveted gold duct tape. It creates an atmosphere, more than any contest in the world, in which quite literally, anyone can win, and because of that, there's an inclusive aura to the event that has catapulted the careers of many up-and-coming riders in our industry without them even having to learn a new trick.
While travel to Glacier, Washington for this LBS was a tad tricky after a huge snowfall followed by rapidly warming temps knocked down trees and power lines, the weekend held up as Saturday (qualifier day, known to many a local) was a tad gray but it was the big show on Sunday that was the spectacle for all to behold. It cracked "Baker Blue" as they call it and as soon as the iconic Shuksan Arm showed its enormous, overpowering face, the course opened up and everyone started shussing. The course ran significantly faster on finals day, as qualifying times for the Pro Men weren't even enough to get you in the top ten on Sunday, but the big story of the weekend was native Vermonter and every pro snowboarder's favorite snowboarder Nils Mindnich rocketing down the course in the Pro Men category and taking the win as the first Vermonter to ever receive the gold duct tape in that category.
It was a battle royale between Nils, Josh Dirksen and Curtis Ciszek, while other pro men who were cookin' included Seth Wescott, Harry Kearney, Taylor Gold and Terje Haakonsen while in the Pro Women category, gals like Spencer O'Brien, newcomer Stephanie Haines, Helen Schettini, Torah Bright and Desiree Melancon rifled down the course and all looked insanely fast, but it was Stephanie Haines that took the win for the women with Spencer and Torah rounding out the top three in the end. Basically, there was so much action that went down between all the categories and over 400 registered racers, it would be a veritable novel to write and read, so we urge you to go here for the full results!
While the 31st annual Legendary Mt. Baker Banked Slalom is in the books yet again, in one year's time, the heads will start talking and we'll be at it all over again, and at this point, after seeing how alive and electric the event was, it's not only time to start thinking about the 32nd annual LBS, but we may as well be projecting winners for the 40th annual. Huge thanks to Gwyn and Amy Howat and the entire Mt. Baker staff and event crew for yet again reminding us all why it is so incredible to be a snowboarder right now. See you next year!