Words & Photos: Sean Kerrick Sullivan
"Start at the top, end at the bottom. Flow all the way through with energy and excitement without a lot of traversing or stalling. You want people to go "Wow, someone just rode that mountain really well." – Tom Burt
The North Face Masters of Snowboarding presented by Primaloft Finals went down on North Baldy at Snowbird on a perfect bluebird Sunday. Snowbird's Ski Patrol was generous again in closing the venue before the event, so Saturday dropped in as a weather day with high winds and 10-12" of snow pummeling Utah's premier big mountain venue. North Baldy filled in quite nicely but a near solid ice layer lurked beneath the snow from the previous weeks rain, and winds that blessed protected and leeward areas with either straight pow or windblown pow stripped snow from exposed areas, leaving a polished layer of ice.
Finals went down with 36 men and 13 women, and Super Finals followed, with the top third finishers getting a second go at besting their first run scores, as the best score of the two wins the contest. With 15K on the line, it was no joke, yet the atmosphere held a springtime like vibe that reflected the sunny, perfect weather.
With the bar set high immediately (literally on the first run) in the Finals by Aaron Robinson with a 94.33, the Super Finals got super heated as Snowbird loc Robert Hurley, young Ross Baker, Squaw Dogs Ryland bell, & Ralph Backstrom, and "Young Gun" award winner Josh Warnick chased that score. An onslaught by the aforementioned riders couldn't topple the 94.33 as Robinson crushed North Baldy first thing Sunday morning, with both of his runs being the fastest of the day. Riding with evident finesse, speed, and power, controlled airs and a backside 360 were stomped with catlike style. Backstrom and Bell swooped in from Tahoe to grab second and third with a 93.00 and 92.67, respectively.
Ross Baker went into the Super finals in 4th place with a 90.67, and didn't hold back at all in the Super Finals. Blown out K2 boa boots strangled with duct tape clung to his feet as he dropped in switch in marginal snow. His cursed but valiant run showed the crowd and judges a taste of what the future of big mountain contests holds. Baker charged half of the tracked out course switch with a switch backside rodeo, a frontside 180, and a huge cab 540, but unfortunate falls left him holding onto his fourth place score of 90.67 from his first run.
In a halfpipe contest, a fall means no podium, and maybe not even enough speed to get another hit, but at the Masters "You do your run top to bottom, don't say, "Ah I drug my hand, my runs over," says head judge Tom Burt. "Falls and crashes are only part of what's held against you, because if you are doing something that's really difficult, you can still do well even though you fall."
"The level of riding makes it difficult to judge" commented judge Temple Cummings in respect to not only how close the men's scores were, but how Snowbird local girls Kaitilin Elliott and Laura Hadar tied for second not only in qualifiers, but in finals as well, coming in just behind proud winner Maria DeBari.
"I just try to ride the line, that if I was a local, that I would go straight for on a powder day." – Ryland Bell