words and photos: Mary Walsh and Brendan Hart
Walsh: Every regional community within snowboarding boasts its own pudding-thick bloodlines that have been nurtured and well-worn via rounds of hotlaps on prolific powder days (out West) and/or the kind of icy groomer runs that simultaneously strike fear and pride into one's heart (anywhere that's not out West). Each location has its own ways of marking time, celebrating its locals and in general its locale, but amidst the fray of reunioning and commemoration of the trails that we all call home, there are few days of the winter season like Loon Mountain's infamous gathering of dirtbags, aptly named, ReLoonion.
In 2007, champions of the snowboarding industry, Jay Scambio and Brian Norton started what is now one of the most enduring traditions in the Northeast when they gathered with college friends at Loon the day after Christmas to take fast laps on the gondola and drink slow beers in the Bunyan Room. Nine years later, ReLoonion has grown into the most official unofficial holiday for the Eastern Seaboard set as dozens of denizens of the the East Coast descend on Lincoln, New Hampshire to crew up and head downhill, taking Flying Fox for all it's worth from open to close.
This winter, while record-breaking storm systems have been rolling through the Rockies, Wasatch, and Tetons, states east of the Mississippi have been experiencing temps averaging with readings usually seen in April and while resorts have been battling back with heavy snowmaking artillery, above freezing temperatures are above freezing temperatures. Thermometers are set to drop before the new year, but when ReLoonion rolled around on December 26th, jackets were tossed aside and edges were sharpened. Weather was unseasonable, but New Englanders are nothing if not resourceful; laps would be made from opening to close, no matter what.
Hart: It's pretty despicable that I've never attended ReLoonion, one of the most New England events of the year, where East Coast mainstays come together with all of the splattering vibrancy of shit hitting the fan. I've also never shot a deer, driven a tractor, or felled a tree. The most New England thing about me is that my grandfather founded a turkey farm. And if you don't think that's a very New England thing, well pal, you wanna fight about it? (For the sake of my glasses, I hope not).
So this was my first experience at this revered congregation of East Coasters at Loon Mountain. I arrived at the crack of dawn. Actually it was 9:30, which I guess is more like dawn's cleavage. The sun hung in the sky, a floating bullet of egg yoke. There was little snow girding the trails and spines of dirt erupted through the swards of ice. Conditions looked exceedingly perilous, but the coffee was strong within me and there was something stimulating in the air (it was the Beastie Boys, who were raining down from the loudspeakers, a deluge of white boyishness). No sign of Mary Walsh, my ReLoonion guide. What to do? I was unsure of the customary itinerary, but I intuited that things might start where I knew they would end: The Bunyan Room, Loon's famous rathskeller. I ambled in and immediately started making an ass of myself, playing that ever-abominable game of "What was your name, again?"
I emerged from the Bunyan Room after having caught up with Bill Enos, the former U.S. Team slopestyle coach, now a current marketing firebrand at Waterville Valley Academy. I assured him that I'm still blowing it just as hard ever, and he seemed not surprised.
Walsh: Over the years, I have built up a reputation. It's akin to that old fable about the boy who kept yelling about wild canines in the woods. Whenever I tell friends I will meet them at Loon at a certain time, they laugh and add two hours to my estimated arrival. I'm late to the hill. Always. It's not really my fault, exactly, though. I have traded in my New Hampshire mailing address for a three-hour commute to the White Mountains from my childhood home in coastal Maine, worsened in length by country backroads and the winding Kancamagus highway I must traverse to get to the Loon parking lot. Inevitably, my snooze alarm is hit a few times and suddenly I'm arriving at the hill after lunch. I've never been much of an early bird. But this year, as if in preparation for a powder day, I was determined to arrive when everyone else did. I set my alarm for 7am. Only hit snooze twice. I was out the door by 8. Things were looking good.
Hart: Then the gondola laps began. My brother Colin, Merrick Joyce, Ben Bishop, Tyler L'Heureux, Joe Irvine, Cole St. Martin and myself started as a loose platoon but soon unraveled into an even looser legion, riding or rubbing elbows in the lift line with individuals such as Parker Szumowski, Jed Sky, River Richer, Zach Normandin, Noah Schwadron, Avert Guldemond, Big Mike, Graham Hoffman, Dylan Dragotta, Tanner McCarty, Nick Doucette, and this fellow named Maui Jim. As we grew in number we suffered in physical cohesion—but that seems to be the point of ReLoonion, those moments of social ebb and flow where you clear the cobwebs off old rapport, say what's up, and collectively flood down the trails like a community-sized amoeba of recklessness. Beneath the thin crust of jagged snow sat an ass-kicking foundation of that famous New Hampsha ice. Let's just say it was a very difficult day for ski patrol, and we weren't making it any easier, airing knolls and blasting past slow signs in a beautiful continuum of near collision. When you say that you ran into an old friend, at ReLoonion this is most often meant literally. Oh, and at some point, Mary showed up—fashionably late?
Walsh: In my estimation, I'm pretty sure I arrived with perfect timing. I walked through the gondola barn and immediately ran into Brad Gorges, Tanner McCarty, Tanner's sister Devon, Cole St. Martin, Mikey Gallant, up and coming grommet Morris Gifford and more rounding the corner of the line. In order to meet them in a lap, I hung out with Loon's Kevin Bell and Gus Noffke for a few and then bee-lined to the Bunyan Room deck, where at 11am, everyone was already outside in the bright late morning sun. Jay Vadeboncouer, Kevin Formalarie, Cole Martin, Matt Cunha, Ian Feliney, Kima and Katie Bacevicius, Avert Guldemond, Big Mike, Ben Newton and his girlfriend Courtney Parkinson, Ian Boll, Joe Irvine, Mike Azevedo, Tyler L'Heureux, Graham Hoffman, Joe Dulac, Nick Richard, Shane "Shanesaw" Nassar, Aaron Diamond, Ian Hart, Scott McCurdy, Emily LaPlume, Dylan Dragotta, Bennett Evans, Seth Learned, Trent Gelo, Danny Garrity, and more were weaving in and out, grabbing drinks for a mid-run breather or grabbing decks to head back out on hill. This is by no means a comprehensive list—the clique was incredibly thick this year, and there's surely many infamous mugs I missed. I met up with Brian Norton, the man behind the LMP, and got in the line up. By this point I had been at Loon for at least an hour, taken no laps, hadn't actually set foot in the interior of the Bunyan Room and had yet to find Brendan Hart, my diligent comrade in the war on the web. Things were progressing steadily.
The sun was shining, weather was warm (for most of the day) and the snow conditions were the kind that East Coasters truly appreciate. The LMP crew had grappled with Mother Nature to build a park on Flying Fox and the rails, tube and mini hip were the defacto meeting spot for the entire day. Mid-afternoon, the Tyler L'Heureux Mini Hip Invitational was going off with a band of hearty Loon-bred locals who were sending the twenty-foot sucker with inexplicable behemoth airs.
Hart: It appears that everyone received an invitation to test their mettle on the monstrously mild structure. The tranny was dwarfish, but if you took just the right line, jettisoned all speed checks, and closed your eyes, lofty amplitude was to be had. Zach Normandin, Parker Szumowski, Merrick Joyce, and Jed Sky were all maxing the little guy out to the flats. Cole St. Martin deserves a shoutout for a handsome alley-oop front three stalefish. Morris Gifford, NH grom extraordinaire hiked his adolescent heart out.
Walsh: Avert, Tanner, KForm, Scambio, CSM, Eugene Stancato, and Jay Minassian and the LMP boys came through for cameos every few minutes. It's worth repeating that Merrick and Zach continue to take an unreasonable amount of flight from transition that initially does not appear to provide as much airtime.
Hart: After no one was declared the official winner of the jam, and no prizes were dispersed to the contestants, everyone stormed to the Bunyan Room, somehow victorious. Loon’s infamous watering hole was awash in cheerful turbulence. For me, seeing my former mentors Aaron Diamond and Danny Garrity hanging out was a surreal privilege and emphasized the refreshment of solidarity, no matter how rusted it may become, that ReLoonion annually engenders.
Walsh: The best part about ReLoonion is that it defies any sort of organization. There's no Facebook event, no promotion, no group-text needed. It is assumed that every one who is able to make it to Loon for the day will be there and anyone who isn't in town will be missed and celebrated with a few extra swigs of PBR. Loon has always been a place that you can easily go to by yourself and immediately meet up with a crew on your first lap, and ReLoonion is just a heightened version of that. Regardless of your zip code for the 2016 season, if you've called Loon home before, it's more than likely it still holds that accolade and probably always will. Loon's constituency is mob thick and no matter the weather on 12/26, the celebration is always the same. The laps are plentiful, the smiles are huge; the band, ever growing, is back together. To those too far away to attend this year, we missed you and will save a spot in the gondola line next year.