words: T. Bird

Progression is something that is both imminent and necessary in order to keep snowboarding alive. In the past half-decade, thanks to the likes of JP Walker, David Benedek, and Travis Rice, double and triple cork variations have swept across our sport like a wind-fueled wildfire, and rightly so. Said maneuvers are incredible athletic feats and to see one in real time is astounding. However, with this rapid evolution came with it a halt in the headway, meaning that yes, these tricks are incredible, but now that they're done so often and with such consistency, the element of style has seemingly taken a back burner (think double corks with mute grabs exclusively). With The Launch, the ultimate objective is to assemble the world's best riders under the age of 21 not only in order to introduce themselves to their peers and get a chance to lap with those they might never have the chance to, but also to provide a unique and inviting setup to allow these kids to think outside the box and expand their vision of what snowboarding is and can be.

Clayton Shoemaker and the Bear Mountain park staff are arguably the best in the business at accomplishing the aforementioned goals and the setup located directly above the main lodge was exactly what we were looking for. Yes, there were double corks aplenty on the piste, and yes, they were incredible, but throughout the week up here at Bear the SNOWBOARDER staff noticed a recurring theme in that the participants were looking at the features differently. Reason being is that within the first two days, our photo and video staff pretty much shot every feature from every possible angle, and so imminently and out of necessity, the kids took a new approach. For example, riders like Jordan Smalls, Hans Mindnich, Zach Normandin, Hunter Wood, Ben Bilodeau, Sam Taxwood, Nils Mindnich, and far too many other kids to name began tweaking just a little bit harder, grabbing their board in more unorthodox manners, or finding gaps and tranny that had yet to be seen. And ultimately, that's what The Launch is all about and the paramount reason we incepted the event in 2007.

Day four started off slow but turned heavy real fast. The jump session in the morning saw Zach Normandin, Emil Ulsletten, Kyle Mack, Hans Mindnich, Hunter Wood, Jud Henke, Brock Crouch, Reid Smith, Phil Hansen, Brandon Davis, Jacob Aaronson, and many more hucking over the knuckle and sending it deep into the landing. But it was Kyle Mack who threw gas on the fire when he unwinded a massive backside 1440 triple cork only to put the landing gear down but he couldn't quite stand it up and ride away clean. Aaronson and Davis were tossing backside double cork tens as well while The Green Mountain Boys Hans and Hunter opted to do them simultaneously off the jump before mellowing out their doubles runs to 180s and backside rodeos. Emil Ulsletten attempted a Cab triple cork on Day One and there was rumor that he would give 'er a go this morning but the hot sun beating down on the snow slowed things up just enough to take away Emil's confidence. However, he still slaughtered the kicker with double corks, front sevens off the toes, and myriad other spinning and flipping acrobatics.

In the afternoon, what may be the most varied session of the event went down. With some of the riders lagging from three long days on hill, the stragglers were intermingled on a hip session and they included Jordan Smalls, Red Gerard, Toby Miller, Milo Malkoski, Zach Normandin, Ezra Racine, Matt Penny, Jacob Krugmire, Chris Bradshaw, Lucas Magoon, Ryan Tarbell, Jacob Aaronson, and a few other kids leftover helping finish off the event. Let me tell you one thing. I you've ever had the chance to watch a session with Gooner, Bradshaw, Red Gerard, and Toby Miller, then you're one lucky reader. Everyone was pushing each other in very odd ways, evidenced by Bradshaw opting to air out twenty feet over the deck while tweaking like only he can. The hip session turned a mellow day into one of the most productive of the four and at the day's end, we called the event around four to let everyone rest up and heal.

The Launch is something that SNOWBOARDER Magazine takes a great deal of pride in. While other snowboard publications do a great job of showcasing today's top talent, what they fail to do is give the future elite of our sport a platform to show the world that they are the future of snowboarding. That is an ideology that SNOWBOARDER Magazine will never embrace. These are the kids that are tomorrow's opinion leaders, trend setters, video part ender producers, contest juggernauts, and product pushers. These are the kids that will save snowboarding, and as the mainstream media continues to claim that snowboarding is simply a fad and it will soon go away, I personally know about eighty kids that couldn't disagree more, and they're dead set on proving the naysayers wrong. In other words, The Launch 2013 Presented by Volcom may be done, but this is just the beginning of something very, very big.

SNOWBOARDER Magazine would like to thank Volcom, Bear Mountain, Red Bull, Giro, and everyone else involved in making The Launch a reality.

For more, check out #TheLaunch2013 on Instagram and SNOWBOARDER Magazine's Facebook page.

Day 1 photos and recap
Day 1 video
Day 2 photos and recap
Day 2 video
Day 3 photos and recap