The night before Last Call, Truant's Tavern, a dark dive a few miles from the center of Lincoln, New Hampshire was filled with beanie and flannel-clad patrons. The frigid outside air clung to their sweatshirts and their relative inebriation spanned the scale like colors of a rainbow. People had arrived from all over–Vermont, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, California–and anticipation for Monday hung heavy in the air. Beers were passed around, high fives were slapped as friends reunited and chatter began. A handful of photos had been leaked of the the set up of Eastern Boarder's 14th Annual Last Call, and the collective opinion was that the ninety riders that were on the list for tomorrow 's event were in for some burly snowboarding.
For over a decade, Last Call has been the unofficial sayonara to the season on the East Coast. While yes, there's a few more weeks left of winter, the mid-March temperatures provide prime building conditions for EB and the Loon Mountain park crew to team up to create the unique features that will be sessioned during the day-long contest. The builds are the stuff of legends—the agro crag, enormous hips, rhythm rail sections and massive jumps–and each season, Brian Norton and his staff destroy existing expectations with what they dream up and make happen. And this year, the 14th iteration of Eastern Boarder's hallowed event, was no different.
Last Call runs in three sections, each a jam section that lasts about an hour with a break sometime in the middle for an on hill BBQ, because there’s something about a stomach full of chili dogs that increases the level of riding that much more. At the end of the day, the overall top three winners are crowned for both men and women, a winner is chosen from each section, and there are awards from sponsors Crab Grab and ASS Industries. In addition, because Last Call is an East Coast institution, there are plenty of bragging rights at stake. This is partly because so many riders who have cut their teeth on the slopes of the Northeast return every year for this event, making it as much a reunion as a competition and undoubtedly a proving ground for up-and-comers. Before the contest begins, the morning is spent reuniting with friends, clogging the gondola line and ripping laps down the main arteries of the resort.
To say that it has been a cold winter in New Hampshire would be an understatement. Temperatures hovering in the barely believable realm of negative 20 to negative 40 have kept residents indoors at night and covered up during the day with only slightly higher thermometer readings. While it's been nearly impossible to recognize your friends on hill at times, due to the copious amounts of layers needed to take laps, the snow has been plentiful and the weather has keep it that way. The conditions were prime for the 2014 event.
At 11am, as almost one hundred snowboarders crowded at the top of the drop in, the bright orange LMP fencing was dropped and the first section began. Two forty-foot jumps with offset channel landings to the right and left stood stoic in the bottom of Loon's main park. The crowd held its collective breath, but as the first rider dropped, the session was on. After yet another freezing spell over the weekend, the Last Call jumps were brick hard, but perfectly shaped. Luckily, East Coasters have no fear of hard jumps and started throwing down immediately. Last Call typifies the organized chaos that exists at a quality contest and the set up was alight with riders pointing it, hiking back up, and chucking their meat in simultaneous mayhem. Graham Hoffman was sending backflip to frontflip on the double line. Young rider Chris DePaula was impressing the judges. Brendan Gerard was in New England for the first time since 2007 and was throwing clean back three seatbelts. The women's contigent was one of the largest ever at the event and sixteen-year-old Norah Healy was chucking threes off the second jump. Ryan Herkowitz was landing frontside doubles and eventually was crowned the winner of the jump section. Travis Neuenhaus, Zack Normandin, and countless others were charging.
The second section was a souped up version of Loon's hubba, with plenty of gaps, a double bench jib, some up stairs into the rails, and a new addition to the New Hampshire resorts' rail fleet, an up xylophone jib that stuck out of the snow on the rider's right side of the set up. The riding was fast and heavy with plenty of skatey, technical maneuvers as well as balls-out gaps from riders dropping from the bottom of the jump zone. Mike Ravelson avoided the Snark for the day and firecracker laybacked the stairs. Zach Normandin and Kevin "Grave Digger" Court were sending huge gaps to lipslides. Max Warbington 5-0'd to frontboard on the up xylophone to snowbank. Travis Neuenhaus was another rider that stepped to that particular feature and even though a slam in the jump section had left him with a scraped-up face, he was still charging. Luke Haddock was exuding sleepy style. Other standouts included Rob Hallowell, Dakota Whittaker, Ralph Kucharek, Shaun Murphy, and many more.
The much-anticipated final section moved to the very bottom of the park to the halfpipe, where the Loon crew had cut two hips into the drop ins. Judges were watching the first two hits and competitors were sending it. Worth noting once again, this was no spring pipe. This was a session on a hard, icy, albeit perfectly groomed, New England halfpipe, and each rider held nothing back boosting off the hips into the transition. Tyler Davis was getting higher than most and tweaking textbook methods. Seth Learned was killing it, as well. Mike Rav proved his pipe prowess with cripplers. Ryan Kittredge retired his Burton Air for the contest, donned a leprechaun hat and sent it of the rider's left side hip. Zach Normandin was Michalchuking into the pipe–the kid was on fire. Travis Neuenhaus, who had been killing it the entire day, crashed toward the end of the competition and broke his arm. From all of us at SNOWBOARDER, get better, buddy, you're an animal.
As the event came to a close and awards were given out, it was Zach Normandin who earned his first Last Call win, well deserved. The of-age members of the crowd made their way to the Bunyan Room, one of the most celebrated après spots in all of snowboarding, to warm up and hang out. The celebration lasted well into the night; another Last Call down and already everyone is looking forward to the next year’s contest.
First – Zack Normandin
Second – Travis Neuenhaus
Third – Shaun Murphy
First – Norah Healy
Second – Elin Tortorice
Third – Katie Kennedy
Jump Winner: Ryan Herkowitz
Rails Winner: Luke Haddock
Halfpipe Winner: Merrick Joyce
Crab Grab Seafood Dinner Award: Brendan Gerard and Chris DePaula
Crab Grab Dead Last Award: Rob Hallowell
ASS Industries Award: Tyler Davis and Seth Learned