words: T.Bird
photos: Ryan “Huggy” Hughes, E-Stone, Mary Walsh, T. Bird, Mark Clavin, Jeep Eddy

To me, The Launch is more than a photo shoot, or simply a gathering of the best young freestyle talent the world has to offer. You see, this is my ninth Launch (only skipping one year in Keystone, Colorado) due to a scheduling conflict, and I was in the old office in San Juan Capistrano, California when Pat Bridges incepted the idea. I've watched it grow. I've met some amazing friends at this event. But most importantly, I've not only utilized The Launch as a way to watch these kids grow up, but also as a way to watch snowboarding grow up. Basically, it's my favorite event of the year. Every year.

Snow Summit is an incredible host mountain for this event, mainly because the park they've pushed up is immaculate but also because the weather is beautiful every day and the kids absolutely love the springtime slush. The past three days have been no exception. Today was clear and warm, with temps hovering up near the 65º range but thanks to the diligent maintenance from the Snow Summit park crew, the features that they constructed were groomed to perfection, allowing for the kids to send it all day long.

The morning started off with a session on the bottom island and riders like Benny Milam, Spencer Vaughan, Red Gerard, Jack Wiley, Keegan Hosefros, Brock Crouch, Cody Warble, Milo Malkoski, Valentino Guseli and Dru Brownrigg transferring, tapping and airing everything in sight until around lunchtime. Peep the photos for proof of that session, as it went off and took us into the afternoon. After that, the island jump took the stage for the remainder of the day and while the likes of Jack Wiley, Gabe Ferguson, Jack Herald, Dru Brownrigg and Brock Crouch sent the island jump right to left (which is massive, by the way), the majority of the riding went down on the straight-over left side of the kicker and it was sessioned by nearly everyone in attendance. The cheese wedge was a zoo, but the kids were all animals during that afternoon shoot.

While the left to right transfer wasn't hit a ton during the day, those kids warmed it up for the sunset shoot a few hours later, as we shuttled up the lift to the Ego Trip park around 5:15 for an evening shoot of gargantuan proportions Out of all the things I've learned about these kids at The Launch it's still eye-opening to see how they react when the sun goes down, the drones launch and the flashes start popping. I truly believe they change as riders and their approach is altered once they leave this event. Tonight was no different as dozens of kids took to the transfer island to try and get some sick shots set against beautiful light. Standouts included Hailey Langland, Benny Milam, Justin Phipps, Morris Gifford, Jack Wiley (who may have won standout rider of the day today), Windham Miller, Matt Williams, and many more.

While The Launch day three is a wrap, the event certainly is not. Tomorrow is the last day and in the many Launches I've attended, the last day always holds the opportunity for some crazy NBD stuff to go down, so make sure you check back to snowboarder.com until this shindig officially closes up shop, because it's sure to get a little crazier tomorrow as snowboarding progresses one more step with every drop from The Launch.

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