words: Mary Walsh
It is often remarked that the best sign of snowboarding talent isn't the ability to chuck meat off jumps or hardway back 270 onto rails, it is the clandestine ability to make perfect arcs down the snow. The simplest artform of standing sideways. Over the past few seasons, snowboarding has been enjoying somewhat of a carving renaissance, whether through flatground tricks amplified by riders like Erik Leon, Dylan Gamache, Alex Lopez (among many others) or via the proliferation of banked slalom races, which test the mettle of any snowboarder worth their salt who feels they can hold an edge. While the Mt. Baker Legendary Banked Slalom remains the longest running and early winter's Dirksen Derby has now spanned nearly a decade, over the last few winters, iterations on the turning-through-banked-berms theme has popped up around the globe, often incorporating a variety of extra elements to offer up unique experiences. While each and every banked slalom provides a sheer glee in snowboarding enjoyment, the feeling of wind whipping past while racers do their best to straddle the line between mach speed and blowing out of the course to a DQ, there is one event that emerged this season, deftly combining the art of running banks with the agile talents of the slopestyle set: DC Snowboarding's Hit & Run.
In late February, Bobby Meeks and the DC Snowboarding crew headed to California where they collaborated with Mammoth Unbound park staff to set the bar for the three-stop event which would touch down post-Mammoth in Meribel, France and Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia. As the forerunners of the series, the diligent diggers of Unbound let loose a windy course that ran the length of South Park, beginning in the 18-foot halfpipe, continuing down the fall line into a rail section and then a hefty kicker before snaking through the trees and over a set of mini jumps and hips. Under sunny skies, many of snowboarding's Mammoth and Tahoe elite worked their way down the turns setting times, lapping in between clocked attempts with crews of friends.
Next up was Meribel, where the turns, jumps, and jibs of Hit & Run translated with a dignified ease into the lexicon of the French language. DC riders Jordan Morse, Justin Fronius, Anto Chamberlain and Brady Lem crossed the Atlantic to get their fill of the Trois Vallee steeps as well as Rhone vintage wine. The mid-course jump was massive, the turns were fast and the first overseas stop of DC's slopestyle-slash-slalom—banked slopeslalom?—went down as smooth as triple cream brie.
It was only a week or so later that the DC crew time-traveled back to the west coast of North America for the final stop of their whirlwind downhill tour. The iconic resort of Whistler Blackcomb was the location for the Hit & Run ender and when the crew rolled up into the Blackcomb park to check out the course upon arrival in town, jaws dropped. Whistler is definitively one of the most celebrated resorts in the world and rightly so, the in bounds steeps are plentiful, the tree riding is supreme and fresh snow comes often, blanketing the seemingly infinite terrain options served by a positive maze of lifts and gondolas. The breadth of freeriding terrain is matched though by the legacy of the parks on the Blackcomb side and the combination of natural and man-shaped terrain means that the local population has an incredibly high median skill level. In short, those who ride Whistler Blackcomb really know how to ride.
So, it was fitting that the Blackcomb park staff put together a delightfully gnarly course—a run that nearly one hundred of Whistler's finest signed up to spend two days running through, toeing the line between control at the highest speeds and utter explosion within the turns. It was also no surprise that the assemblage of competitors handled this task with impressive results. This was not a Hit & Run for the mellow hearted. It was challenging and it was sick.
On Saturday morning, the sun was shining but the temps were cold. The snow was fast and rock hard, good for low times, but slightly intimidating for launching oneself off a 40-foot jump. It's important to note that no one is bothered by solid park features in Canada. There aren't enough synonyms for "impressive" to describe the wherewithal that Whistler's riders have—they all charge, whether light powder, or brick groomers. In the Hit & Run start gate at the top of the course, riders shrugged off any apprehension and dropped in eagerly, pointing it toward the kicker and launching into easy sevens and perfect threes before landing and making their way through the turns. It was sick.
A few shoulders along and racers arrived at the rail section which offered a pole jam or flat tube option before rolling downhill into a massive whoop and more massive, windy turns. The final judged portion, the halfpipe hits, bookended the course, but before arriving at the u-shaped walls, there were plenty of hits to navigate, including a couple of boardercross-style jumps, a really sick berm-stepdown-gap, and a rider's left hip that siphoned everyone directly into the pipe. While the fastest times were rewarded as the competitors made their way from the first gate to the last, each of the three park sections, the jump, the rails, and the halfpipe, were judged on a one-to-five scale and any points earned would be used as seconds deducted from overall time. Plainly put, first, second, and third place could be decided by a perfect front seven on the jump, or a massive frontside air in the pipe, etc.
The Saturday sunshine came and went as the afternoon grew long and the lifts stopped turning. For hours the course had been tackled by the riders who clocked qualifying runs for Sunday's finals. As the sun went down the park crew set to work raking and getting everything in prime condition for Sunday.
Mother Nature can have a quirky sense of humor and after the brilliant weather for the first half of the weekend she decided to make it known that winter in Whistler was far from over by socking in the hill with millions of big, snowy flakes. This is an opportunity to once again acknowledge the hardiness of the local snowboarding population, who were undeterred by the atmospheric pressures and turned out in droves to once again send it in the DC course. For finals, DC riders Iikka Backstrom and Anto Chamberland were joined by Drink Water's Austin Smith and Bryan Fox, as well as Spencer O'Brien and Austen Sweetin, all eager to drop into the banks. Andrew Geeves, Scot Brown, Ryan Manning, Darrah Reid Mclean, Jordan Phillips, Logan Short, Brooke Voigt, Katie Vogel, and more were also racing against the clock in attempt to land on the podium when all was said and done.
As the sun peeked out from behind the clouds, illuminating the freshly fallen snow, the racetrack remained fast and times were low. Riders spun like tops on the upper jump. The pole jam and tube were hit at lightning speed as 50-50s, boardslides, and 270s out added points and removed seconds from rider's times. The low jumps were sucked up to keep speed and methods dominated the lower hip before overhead hits finished up runs in the halfpipe. It was just under two minutes of burly boarding and the Canadian crew handled it decisively. The final stop of DC's inaugural Hit & Run series was a make-or-break course that Whistler's finest stepped to and dominated. Everyone (everyone of age, that is) deserved their share in Kokanees and Caesars when all was said and done. And you know what? It was sick.
15 & Under
1st – Finn Finstone
2nd – Truth Smith
3rd – Tosh Krauskopf
1st – Kian Esmaili
2nd – Dan Barker
3rd – Beau Fisher
1st – Spencer O'Brien
2nd – Brooke Voigt
3rd – Katie Vogel
1st – Scot Brown
2nd – Liam Stevens
3rd – Ryan Manning