words: Christine Savage
photos: Peter Cirilli
At 11 am this past Saturday, fifty-plus riders gathered at the top of the Tahoe Zephyr Express Lift at Northstar California Resort to join in the Ride for Craig, a commemorative run to honor and pay homage to snowboard legend Craig Kelly, who passed away thirteen years ago this month. As somber as that is, the mood was anything but, as all those involved were clearly choosing to celebrate the amazing life he led rather than mourn his passing. Led by snowboard icons Dave Downing (who introduced Kelly to splitboarding) and Alex Andrews, the mass of riders flooded the Upper Pioneer trail and painted the run with carves, ollies, and slashes while making their way to the Craig Kelly cabin at Northstar’s Stash, the site for the Bash at the Stash. This would be the third stop of the Burton Qualifiers as well as the celebration of the Stash’s tenth year.
Under the leadership of Mike Schipani, Northstar’s Park Crew had put together an incredible course full of options including a pole jam, a rainbow tree jib, and the Craig Kelly cabin, which had a wooden down rail and flat down rail outside it, with exposed stairs between them, and could also be ridden itself. After an hour-long open practice to allow the riders to get a feel for the features, the contest got underway with the 15 and under division.
Some may have expected a mellow start from the younger crew, but after only a few drops it was apparent to anyone watching that these groms were not to be discredited. The 15 and under division came out of the gates swinging, and made sure that anyone who was thinking of taking a lap while the younger kids competed stopped dead in their tracks and took note. With style surpassing their years, these riders were absolutely ripping, finding innovative lines and stomping tricks that were anything but cookie cutter.
Dusty Henricksen sent a huge one-footer off the Craig Kelly cabin, seemingly aiming for the moon. Judd Henkes transferred from the cabin roof to the down rail multiple times, proving that he had no fear of huge gaps, along with enviable accuracy. Dylan Okurowski was successfully utilizing every feature on the course and checking trick after trick off his list as he went through, such as a back one on cab 360 off on the wooden down rail and a fast plant on the top of the cabin. Consistency, a huge bag of tricks, and incredible style landed Dylan in first place when all was said and done, with Judd following in second, and Dusty in third, each going home with some cash and an invitation to finals in Seven Springs, PA. Joining them at finals will be Kolman Lecroy, Caleb Bonneville, and Jake Kangston, who came in fourth, fifth, and sixth respectively.
After a short break for course maintenance, it was time for the open division to have their turn on the Stash’s features. Within the first thirty seconds of the contest it was blatantly obvious that these riders meant business. Transferring, gapping, and approaching features from every direction, it was clear from the get go that stock tricks were not going to be enough to get noticed here at the Bash at the Stash. The top six finishers from the open division would be invited to finals at Seven Springs, PA in March to compete against the top finishers from the six other Burton Qualifier stops. The top finisher at finals will earn a spot to compete in Burton Rail Days in Japan. This insane opportunity had the riders in the open division fired up.
Local ripper Matt Schafer was firing up the crowd with massive transfers, including one all the way from the very beginning of the cabin’s roof to the down rail. Sliding sideways on wood is usually impressive as it is, but fellow local Josh Naasz added all four 270s in as well. Kael Hill had the crowd wondering if they were possibly watching a skate contest with his smooth style and skate-influenced trick choices. Highlights of his long list of tricks included a coffin slide, frontside 360 on, and switch hardway back three onto the wooden down rail. Hill also found any and all transition within the course and sometimes opted for huge drops to flat instead, which was always a crowd pleaser. The judges awarded Kael Hill first place ($350), followed by Naasz in second ($150) and Schafer in third ($100). These three will be heading to finals in Pennsylvania, along with Kix Kamp, Jared Elston, and Keagen Hosefros who rounded out the podium in 4th, 5th, and 6th.
Stay tuned for the next stop of Burton Qualifiers which hits Powder Mountain, Utah on January 23rd and watch the video from Burton Qualifers The Bash at the Stash at Northstar.