words: Brendan Hart
photos: Brendan Hart, Josh Campbell, Kyle Murray
For 17 years the best snowboarders in New England have been coming back medical bill after medical bill to the terror and mirth of Eastern Boarder's Last Call at Loon Mountain. The event started in 2000 as a way to celebrate the season, see friends, and go big. This year's rendition left no question about the annual affair of abandon and havoc: Last Call is still lighthearted, jolly, fun, progressive, carefree, and completely gnarly.
Since the uprooting of the Burton U.S. Open from Vermont to Colorado, Last Call is the longest running snowboard contest on the East Coast. It's also a perfect representation of what makes East Coast snowboarding so lovely: it's a collective of cheerful knuckle-draggers who eat ice and overcast for breakfast. It was probably a curve ball to many when Last Call 2017 was set for March 13-- and it wasn't a Friday. In fact, instead of doom and gloom, everything could not have been more ideal. The air was pleasant and crisp. The snow was soft. The sun was somehow softly shining down on the slopes. The course was intimidating and monstrous, but also absolutely immaculate.
Loon Mountain's Terrain Park Manager Brian Norton has been responsible for erecting the titanic setups on which Last Call takes place. Each year his employees double their coffee intake and work doggedly to produce a snowboard park of unrivaled sickness. Even though a spell of warmth and rain had recently ravaged the East, once again Loon's rake-wielders whipped up a marvel. The course is segmented into three colossal components: jumps, transition, rails. This is like the holy trinity of snowboarding. Being able to ride all three is the litmus test of a good rider.
The jumps section kicked off the event at 11:00 am. The structure comprised three take-offs arranged side by side. A roller preceded the kicker in the middle, encouraging riders to throw in a butter or slash before their trick. The sides of the jumps had been carved out with the pipe cutter, giving the option of sailing off a quarter pipe to reach the landing. Reid Smith and Zach Normandin opted for this avenue. Zach launched an enormous backside 900 from the quarter. Reid attempted sending a double backflip off it. He didn't land it, but that's beside the point. Ryan Kittredge, however, did put down a double backy over the jump. Jack Herald chucked a tasty cab 900 nose-to-tail. Cooper Whittier, Brandon Reis, Evan Ricker, and Max Lyons were all sending in an admirable fashion.
After having taken a year off of their knees, the riders stopped jumping and were corralled into the hip zone. This behemoth was a beauty. Timmy Sullivan, famed for his Last Call airtime, continued his legacy by lofting his carcass at least 15ft into the air within the first five minutes. It was so crazy that the police showed up. Ok, well, just one police officer--Seth Learned, NH's cop with pop, who let loose a massive michalchuk. Then Chris DePaula sent a cab double cork 900 off the hip--landing ironically, right on his hip. He limped back up, dropped back in, and stomped the peanuts out of it. Throughout the entire session Ryan Kittredge was going huge and doing the most unthinkable of tricks. The man did a switch backside rodeo 720. On a hip. Think about it.
Finally, came the main event: lunch. Loon doled out free chili dogs. It was with burps and indigestion that riders assailed the rail section--a burly network of metal and snow through which everyone tried their “best” not to run into other. Nate Haust, Jed Sky, River Richer, Nate Carroll, Bar Dadon, Jackson Happ, and Max Lyons were all ripping. Timmy Sullivan and Zeb Powell were slaying Loon's two-story wallride. Ryan Kittredge attempted a nose pick on it, fell, and ended up with a nose bleed. An hour later his shnoz was still dripping with blood when emcee Ryan Manning crowned him as this year's Last Call champ, a title which the 29 year old had previously won 11 years ago in 2006.
Kittredge's victory was a reminder of Last Call's longevity and its infallible ability to thrill and astonish. Every year Last Call attracts more wayward spirits to witness its glory, while also keeping the same faithful folk returning to partake in this lawless ceremony that has become dear to heart. While the East Coast mindset is stony and intrepid, its demeanor is equally endearing and cordial. In Last Call's blood is a profound love for snowboarding--the act of it, the culture of it, the people of it. If you've never been, put it in bold on your calendar. Next year promises more miracles, more thrills, more good times, and--above all--more chili dogs.
Thanks to Eastern Boarder, Loon, Oakley, Vans, GNU, Dakine, Red Bull, and Crab Grab!
Jump Winner: Zach Normandin
Hip Winner: Tucker Speer
Rails Winner: River Richer
Hardest Charger: Chris Depaula
Honorable Mention: Griffin MacFadyen
1st – Ryan Kittredge
2nd – Jed Sky
3rd – Zeb Powell
1st – Laura Tamposi
2nd – Anna Valentine
3rd – Ty Schnorrbusch