words: Mary Walsh
There are plenty of times during the winter season that those above the age of 25, whose snowboarding is personally rewarding but relegated to the medium park and memories of well-executed grabs that become more difficult each year, are prodded by the abilities of kids practically half their age, who deftly spin doublecorks and seem to suffer no consequences when they fall into a street rail. While video parts and big contests serve as reminders of the talent of snowboarding's youth, there is one event that showcases all of the riders under 21 who absolutely shred and alerts the older generation of the newcomers laying siege to the mountains: The Launch. On Tuesday, April 2nd, eighty of the best snowboarders who aren't yet allowed to attend afterparties arrived at Bear Mountain for the start of The Launch 2013. It's been happening year after year, and it shows no signs of stopping: the benchmark of up-and-coming riders is insane.
Clayton Shoemaker and his crew at Bear never disappoint and the build for this year's Launch does plenty of justice to the unprecedented skills of young riders today. Bear provided multi-faceted components with tons of lines–serving both the level of riding and the riders' attention spans–including a pole jam closeout to wallride feature and a large butterpad with gaps on and off and an additional close-out. Unique transition hits filled any extra space. Clayton is as economical as he is creative; no area of The Launch park is unused, providing a perfect playground for snowboarding’s elite youth.
Par for the course at Bear, the sun was shining and the snow was soft. Ample salt kept run-ins and landings intact. With Chair 5 dedicated to the lapping desires of the Launch pack, small hordes of teenage dudes careened downhill en masse, choosing lines that directed them toward the hip, over the middle jib feature, or straight at the 70-foot jump at the bottom of the park. In the afternoon, crews of riders started training the jump after Scott Moline guinea pigged it and got the session started. After that, riders like Zach Normandin, Emil Ulsletten, Garrett Warnick, Kyle Mack, and Simen Neraker set the pace.
One thing about The Launch, is that the kids don’t get tired. Lap after lap, what qualifies as “warming up” on day one is print mag material. After a long day of riding, the guys readily lined up at the top of the park for a sunset shoot on the hip. At 30 feet tall and approximately 60 feet long, the perfectly crafted frontside hip is a behemoth, but riders of all ages were stoked to drop in. From the start, Nils Mindnich set the bar during the session when he sent a method clear into the Southern California sky, eliciting yells from everyone on hill. The session was heavy: Broc Waring was floating massive straight airs, Sam Taxwood was hitting frontside alley-oops, and Sage Kotsenburg was putting down backside 180 Japans.
As the light retreated and the session closed, Nils dropped in once more, stomping an alley-oop underflip front five. Ender. Until his brother, Hans sent a hefty Michalchuk with a perfect touchdown. As Hans came to a stop at the bottom of the landing, the assembled crew, which included Sage, Zak Hale, Michael Wick, and more, started chanting, “Hans-Nils! Lick the cat! Lick the cat!” And while we’re fairly confident chanting that won’t help these dudes get girls, it does sum up a really good day on hill to kick off The Launch 2013.