The Mt. Baker Legendary Banked Slalom Went Off Last Weekend!
evo’s LEGENDARY BANKED SLALOM WEEKEND AT MT. BAKER
By Jon Kiser, Mt. Baker, WA: Every February in a little corner of the northwest basically everybody and their mother in the industry convene at the Mt. Baker Ski Area just an hour outside of one of the greatest places in the northwest, Bellingham, WA. This is a very special occasion that is fueled by the support of many of the great brands and people that make this place one of the most deeply rooted community of snowboarding in the world.
As an event, the Legendary Banked Slalom is not the most spectator friendly to watch, there are no tricks, there are no big airs, but it is something of heritage and community that has turned this into one of the most well-known “underground” snowboard competitions. Co-organized by the one and only Tom Sims in 1985, there were originally only 14 riders and just a few spectators at the first event, since then, it has gained worldwide notoriety in the snowboard community and attracts thousands of people year after year to witness this great event.
I went to my first slalom when I was about 13 years old back in 2000. I remember riding around sort of unknowingly aware that I was in the midst of the greatest riders on earth at Mt Baker, WA. Since then I have been to back about 10 times or so and every year it seems that it is a little different from the next. This year I made a last minute decision to go, so on Wednesday I hit up my buddy Tim asking if he was going up, of course he was.
Staying at a cabin? Sure! Alright, got a place to stay now how do I get there? My friend Ryan and I have been riding together since we were probably 12 or 13 so I hit him up and we made a plan. Leave Friday night, head straight to Glacier and try and figure out how to get a hold of Tim because he never gave me his cabin phone # and there is no cell service in Glacier. Friday night came around and we packed the car with all of our stuff, splitboards, snowboards, food, camping gear (because you never know), etc. Head to Bellingham to pick up our final passenger, Paige, put more stuff in the car and find out she knows the phone #. We’re in. At this point we had 4 people in the car, seven snowboards, too much gear for a Subaru and 3 large pizzas holding it down. Make it to the cabin, festivities ensue, get to bed late and wake up early.
Wake up. Classic Mt. Baker day, cloud canopy right at about 5,000 feet where the trees start to get very scarce and everything is flat light making it pretty tricky to see. Snow is good though, dry and fast making it just the perfect consistency to get dangerously safe. We head to the top of chair 5 and spend the next hour hanging out at the top of the course watching the racers drop in while oohing and aweing at a potpourri of some of the greatest riders in the industry.
Time to ride! One of the best parts about coming back to for the slalom is seeing all my friends and indulging in the nostalgia that is Mt. Baker. With some of the most awesome terrain and very accessible backcountry, it has some great high consequence riding, so always ride with a friend. Well it is socked in so we just decide to ride Oye Valley all day, snow is fun and there are still plenty of nice chutes and pow stashes all over the place.
Riding ensues all day then we are off the salmon barbecue and hand plant competition at the new Raven Lodge. Eat lots of salmon and realize we lost all of our friends, time to head back to Glacier and figure out how to sneak in to the Rim where the cabin is get to the Rim, gate is open. Score! It seems like every year somebody decides that they are better than the gate so they drive through it, I think this year management said “screw it, I ain’t buying another gate” so they left it open all night.
Every year Grahams in Glacier, WA throws a party and they are always insane, this year they brought back Sugar, Sugar, Sugar to play us through the night. What happens when you put punk rock and a ton of snowboarders into one room? I’ll just leave it at that.
We wake up this morning to one the clearest days I have seen out here in a while. It’s the last day of the race and everyone is on their A-game thinking about the duct tape trophy and embroidered Carhartt jacket that is at stake. I got the stoke to an all-time high when I snapped this pic of just a few familiar faces.
If you ever get to Mt. Baker you have to hike to the top of Hemisphere, if the boot back is set than it takes maybe 15-20 minutes to the top. Backcountry gear required, recommended regardless, it will blow your mind on a bluebird day.
So the day comes to an end and here are the final result of the race. Mr. Olympian Seth Wescott himself takes the crown, and walks away with bragging rights and a ton of other cool stuff.
Pro Men Finals
- Seth Westcott – 1:33.221
- Graham Watanabe -1:33.801
- Jason Robinson – 1:35.045
- Maelle Ricker – 1:37.065
- Laura Hadar – 1:40.00
- Dominique Vallee – 1:43.508
- Robin Foster – 1st Place Older Ams
- Chris Bowlin – 4th Place Master
I finally made it home about 9:00 PM on Sunday, it was a long weekend but definitely one for the record books. Mt. Baker will always have a special place in my heart and I am proud to have grown up riding up at a mountain that has such long and rich history in the snowboard world. I recommend that you ride it at least once in your life and spend a night or three in Glacier…this is definitely a great weekend to experience it in its full effect and even maybe ride a chairlift with a pro.