words: Mary Walsh
photos: Mike Yoshida

Mt. Baker is the kind of place that no matter where you grew up snowboarding, be it long, winding, tree-lined trails, towrope lap park, or open bowls stocked with snow–regardless of the terrain on which you started making turns, you are well aware of, and likely at least a little bit in awe of the topography of this rugged, Washington peak. The breadth of inbounds options of this northwestern mountain is eclipsed only by its own megalith mythology, a reputation built on its expansive terrain, the accomplished locals who have called and continue to call its trails home, and the video, stills, and stories that make up Baker’s influential snowboarding canon. Mt. Baker is the stuff of legends. It is a resort that beckons pilgrimages and each year, for a long weekend in March, a dedicated roster from all over the world turns out to load the lifts and head to the top of chair 5 for one of snowboarding’s longest running and most celebrated events, the Legendary Mt. Baker Banked Slalom.

Like the mountain itself, the banked slalom is an event that is steeped in awe and admiration. Hundreds sign up for the annual lottery to earn a spot in the line up and the dates are blocked off on calendars across the strata of the snowboarding community. The 30th anniversary celebration of the Baker Banked of course continued tradition. Bryan Fox, Jake Blauvelt, Austin Smith, Alex Yoder, Hans Mindnich, Max Warbington, and Austen Sweetin shut the cameras down and took a few days off from filming video parts to head to Glacier, the small town just below the base of Baker. Northwest turning champions Josh Dirksen, Temple Cummins, Barrett Christy, Lucas Debari, Maria Debari, and Harry Kearney were in line at the shack. Snowboarding legends Terje Haakonsen, Scotty Wittlake, Tom Burt, Mike Basich, We Makepeace, Jamie Lynn, Rob Kingwell, and many more occupied the hallowed spots of the Pro Masters division. Maelle Ricker, Elena Hight, Spencer O’Brien, Desiree Melancon, Dominique Vallee, Hana Beaman, Laura Hadar and more ripping women were competing. The industry side was well-represented as well, crossing into nearly every category as Bobby Meeks, Kevin Sansalone, Scotty Conerly, Tanner McCarty, Colleen Quigley, Corey MacDonald, Pat McCarthy and many, many more cut ties with email for just a little while in order to stake their claim in the berms. Up and comers, and past grom winners, Gus Warbington and Jacob Krugmire were on hand. And this list of bib-and-duct-tape adorned snowboarders is far from comprehensive; it’s easier just to say that mostly everyone was there.

For those who were experiencing Mt. Baker for the first time, we couldn’t have timed things better. Not only was 2016 the thirtieth anniversary of the Legendary Banked Slalom, but an archetypal Washington weather pattern rolled through beginning Wednesday night, dumping wet snow all day on Thursday and Friday, yielding cement-heavy and still fully surfable powder turns, as well as that quintessential Northwestern damp, cold-to-your-bones experience. The former was amazing, and the latter, well it feels really good when you take off your boots back home and warm up–like you’ve really earned that Caesar at Chair 9.

To say that the weekend was a bucket list item doesn’t even do the Baker Banked justice. It’s a gathering of friends, a meeting of the edges, and the cohesive love of going sideways down snowy trails hangs thick in the air, further bolstered with each smiling hug and high five as friends reunite at the top of the lift. Baker holds some of the most magnificent in bounds runs in all of snowboarding, yet these secrets are shared among friends, as the mountain’s locals become welcoming guides immediately as the chairs start running the first day of the contest. In this way, LBS is a harkening back to the heart of snowboarding, the purity of not only the turns that we take, but the bonds that we solidify while doing so. It doesn’t hurt that Glacier is a way back machine in itself, lacking cell phone service and high speed wifi, thus making every meet up with the homies feel like a miracle in and of itself, despite the fact that there’s really only one bar in town and you can count on seeing everyone there every night.

So it went during the first three days of the 30th annual race. Powder turns in the morning, deep breaths taken in the start shack with #sayyourprayers photos popping up on Instagram when errant 3G bars were found. Chair 5 not only moved everyone to the top of the course in the natural halfpipe but also was the best damn showcase of free spirited cliff launching, as powdery landings beckoned all to send ‘er below the high speed quad, regardless of possibility of powder scorps. And it got even better on the bonus day of the event when the mountain was blanketed in multiple feet of fresh snow and good visibility. Saturday, in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Legendary Baker Banked Slalom, a special legends qualification day went down under clear skies. Past winners and industry pros set their times on the best snow of the weekend–after logging multiple pow lines in the am before the course opened. After a late night at Chair 9 for some of the constituency, finals were welcomed bright and early Sunday morning. There was a bit of wind, it was a little cold, but the groomers were good and there was an electricity in the air. The next generation of grommets took to the course, many the offsprings of past winners, and the day began. Just after noon, as women’s and men’s pros and pro masters lined up behind the start shack, the LBS crew shifted the course. The bottom few turns were closed off and the course was shifted to rider’s right, moving things into the toilet bowl, ie a hard right into a quick lefthand drop that was challenging in clear skies, but disastrous in the current conditions. Of course, right on schedule as the final divisions of the day, the weather once again upped the ante, sending giant flakes through the sky, once again limiting visibility and coating the course with a layer of fresh snow.The peanut gallery moved to the bottom of the lane to simultaneously congratulate friends as they made it through two-minutes of leg-burning turns as well as to be prepared for any last-second carnage that came through the gnarly track.

Any rider that makes it to finals is well deserving of an award. 43 turns is a hell of a race to tackle and in celebration of the finest turners in snowboarding, our hats are off to everyone that raced throughout the weekend, and especially on Sunday. As the best of the best came through the course on the final day, the assembled crowd was as loud as a posse three times their size, cheering on friends and going wide-eyed when some of the world’s best riders narrowly held it together through the elbow of the second-to-last gate. It was nearly there that Bryan Fox practically executed a heelside turn along the fence, holding strong; Austen Sweetin would power through on his heels, looking fast as hell; Lindsey Jacobellis, Rob Kingwill, and Spencer O’Brien would suck up the chatter and finish smoothly; and Temple Cummins would exhibit timeless style. All under the nuking snow.

By the time awards began in the White Salmon Lodge, the beer line weaved down the stairs to the first floor and both the upstairs and downstairs was packed with soggy snowboarders. Gwyn Howat, the head of the LBS took to the microphone and handed out the hallowed rolls of duct tape, a trophy that arguably means more than any other award in snowboarding. As pint-sized groms and legends who have been going toe to heel for decades were called to the stage to receive awards, the happily exhausted crowd was monstrously loud. I found myself sitting next to a young Malkoski who had raced earlier in the day and was joined by an even younger homie of his. Their eyes were glued to the awards show, waiting patiently for Pro Men winners to be announced. With every name that was called, their eyes lit up with an awe that is usually reserved for the way a child feels about their older brother or sister’s friends. It’s an acknowledgment of the ultimate respect, yet in an unknowing, innocent way. As the top ten of the final category was announced, Nils Mindnich, Jake Blauvelt, Austen Sweetin, Terje Haakonsen, Tom Velisek, Seth Wescott, Josh Dirksen, Temple Cummins, Nate Holland, and Mathieu Crepel, the lodge was engulfed in a deafening chorus of whoops and hollers. I looked over at the groms, they never even blinked, staring at the line up of legends and soon-to-be legends in front of them. Likely, no one else did, either. The Legendary Mt. Baker Banked has had that effect on people for more than the past thirty years, and looking forward to the next thirty, it’s one hundred percent likely it will remain that way. Cheers to snowboarding’s finest gathering and thank you to everyone that made the trek to Washington once again this winter to make it what it was.

RESULTS

Men’s Pro
1st – Mathieu Crepel – 1:42.77
2nd – Nate Holland – 1:42.94
3rd – Temple Cummins – 1:43.74
4th – Joshua Dirksen – 1:44.15
5th – Seth Wescott – 1:44.52
6th – Tom Velisek – 1:44.57
7th – Terje Haakonsen – 1:45.31
8th – Austen Sweetin – 1:45.61
9th – Jake Blauvelt – 1:45.70
10th – Nils Mindnich – 1:46.26

Women’s Pro
1st – Maelle Ricker – 1:46.83
2nd – Lindsey Jacobellis – 1:48.30
3rd – Stephanie Haines – 1:51.15
4th – Spencer O’Brien – 1:51.30
5th – Maria DeBari – 1:52.20
6th – Elena Hight – 1:52.57
7th – Hana Beaman – 1:52.92
8th – Laura Hadar – 1:54.33
9th – Leanne Pelosi – 1:55.90
10th – Callan Chythlook-Sifsof – 1:56.37

Men’s Pro Masters
1st – Rob Kingwill – 1:43.77
2nd – Mark Fawcett – 1:47.25
3rd – Wes Makepeace – 1:48.07
4th – Rube Goldberg – 1:48.12
5th – Kevin Sansalone – 1:48.14

Women’s Pro Masters
1st – Marni Yamada – 1:53.96
2nd – Sarris McComb – 1:57.04
3rd – Amy Eichner – 2:00.93
4th – Megan Pischke – 2:06.19
5th – Marguerite Cossettini – 2:06.98

Masters
1st – Chris Bowlin – 2:05.96
2nd – Mathew Galina – 2:08.27
3rd – Scott Reynolds – 2:08.69
4th – John Foy – 2:09.70
5th – Nate Kewin – 2:09.73

Women’s Masters
1st – Tanya Simonson – 2:18.31
2nd – Rel Friedman – 2:19.49
3rd – Audra Bintz – 2:20.47
4th – Kelly Edmonds – 2:22.03
5th – Jen McGoldrick – 2:24.16

Mid Masters
1st – Chris Ankeny – 2:13.06
2nd – Gabe Langlois – 2:13.77
3rd – Brett Tippie – 2:14.66
4th – Benjamin Pellegrino – 2:14.92
5th – Waylon Edwards – 2:15.28

Grand Masters
1st – Pete Saari – 2:18.40
2nd – Luke Edgar – 2:19.61
3rd – Ken Achenbach – 2:19.93
4th – Douglas Gundlach – 2:21.25
5th – Randy Haugen – 2:21.35

Super Masters
1st – Kevin Boyce – 2:42.53 2:46.31
2nd – Bob Satushek – 2:54.57 2:54.57
3rd – Jeannie DeBari – 2:59.91 2:59.91
4th – Ian Galt – DQ

Women Ams
1st – Isabella Gomez – 2:16.88
2nd – Madison Blackley – 2:19.32
3rd – Myriam Foster – 2:19.68
4th – Zoe Vernon – 2:19.85
5th – Marion Gouwy – 2:21.80

Younger Ams
1st – Lucas Foster – 2:09.84
2nd – Drayden Gardner – 2:12.24
3rd – Hank Kennedy – 2:12.51
4th – Austin Buza – 2:13.87
5th – Jacob Krugmire – 2:13.94

Older Ams
1st – Spencer Cordovano – 2:06.62
2nd – Tom Honey – 2:08.18
3rd – Tanner McCarty – 2:08.53
4th – Tyler Sloan – 2:09.45
5th – Sam Trippe – 2:09.81

Next Generation Boys
1st – Tosh Krauskopf – 2:18.52
2nd – Cannon Cummins – 2:19.23
3rd – Caleb Chomlack – 2:20.34
4th – Wyatt Cline – 2:22.66
5th – Owen Cline – 2:27.81

Next Generation Girls
1st – Juliette Pelchat – 2:30.73
2nd – Maggie Crompton – 2:31.42
3rd – Madrona Raney – 2:39.45
4th – Spencer Anderson – 3:12.76

Junior Boys
1st – Milo Malkoski – 2:11.86
2nd – Peter Danner – 2:13.79
3rd – Finn Finestone – 2:16.89
4th – Keala Cole – 2:17.58
5th – Mac Malkoski – 2:22.13

Junior Girls
1st – Kaitlyn Peterson – 2:34.15
2nd – Hayley Houston – 2:40.77
3rd – Nina Burt – 2:48.48

See the full results on the Legendary Mt. Baker Banked Slalom website.