Words by David MacKinnon
Photos by David MacKinnon & Eric Poulin
The 34th Legendary Banked Slalom blew in hard. Swaying hemlocks and sideways rains met snowboard devotees as they gathered at Mount Baker on Friday, February 7th for our community’s most soulful annual event. But as the PNW squall plastered Baker with a foot of coastal pow, it set the stage for an incredible weekend of shredding, connection, and immersion in snowboard culture. By Sunday’s awards ceremony, it was clear to all that, thanks to snowboarding, they were part of something bigger than themselves.
The Legendary Banked Slalom happens over three days, with finals on the third. The first two days are qualifiers, and a window for riders to hone their strategies for the course. Those who qualify on Friday will often try a different board, or attack a tricky corner from another angle, on their Saturday runs. Rube Goldberg, for example, qualified first in the Pro Masters category on Friday and then used one of Akasha Weisgarber’s bigger, stiffer, Hightide decks on Saturday to weigh his options for the finals. For those who don't qualify on Friday, day two of qualifiers is stressful. The start shack holds a heavy air as riders chase their last chance at glory.
While the race is top of mind for most LBS attendees, the weekend is about much more. It’s a reunion, a social, and a chance to meet your heroes. You might catch a lap with Jamie Lynn, chat board design with Barrett Christy, or watch Phil Jacques handplant a wall hit. You might ride the chair with Terje, or hear tales of the Mount Baker Hardcore from the Lodge Boys. You’ll learn about snowboarding’s history and its current state, you’ll connect with riders from all over the world, and you’ll fall even deeper in love with standing sideways. And, underneath the mighty Mount Shuksan, you’ll shred some of the best terrain on the planet. The course sits among a mecca of pillows, lines, and natural hits.
This year, after Friday’s storm, weekend conditions were all time. The snow was fast and forgiving, and Saturday morning saw some incredible boarding off the chairs. There was a blemish on the day, with an avalanche incident in the backcountry near the resort. A rider triggered a storm slab, which buried another rider below them. Ski patrol responded quickly, though, rescuing the victim unscathed within five minutes. Still, it was a stern reminder to respect the mountains and to practice proper backcountry etiquette including being mindful of where other people are and not exposing them to hazards.
As the chairs stopped turning on Saturday afternoon, an incredible sunset cast long shadows over the resort and an incredible alpenglow on the surrounding peaks. Riders convened in the White Salmon parking lot, where many would be staying overnight. Cruise Canada RVs lined the banks of the lot, hosting a horde of north-of-the-border shreds. Ben Bilocq, Dave Basterrechea, Felix Dallaire, Vanessa Stark, and Kea Mowat were among the notable shredders making rounds, hopping from fire to fire and swapping stories from the day. As the day ended and a full moon rose, the snow-capped peaks of the Cascades were illuminated. Lunar energy charged a wild night, inspiring a bold few to hike into the hills with snowboards under their arms.
The next day, Canadians crushed in finals. Estelle Pensiero, Brett Tippie, Mark Fawcett, Audrey Hebert, Maelle Ricker, Mark Tremblay, and Amalia Pelchat brought home the coveted duct tape trophies awarded for podium finishes. Other notable Canadian results include Marie France-Roy’s 5th in pro women, Felix Dallaire’s 4th in pro men, and Pierce Smith’s 5th in pro men.
At the awards ceremony, Baker local Kevin Boyce sang a heartfelt tribute to Jake Burton, stirring the audience to reflect on their first riding experiences. It was an incredible moment. Patrick McCarthy was awarded the Craig Kelly award in recognition of his continued contributions to the
sport. Pat’s influence is widespread in Canada, not only through his video parts but also through his support for Canadian riders. As the team manager for 686, he’s created opportunities for many Canadian shreds, and his positivity makes him a prime candidate for the award.
Riders dissipated slowly after the awards, some bound for celebrations in Glacier, others for the border, and some for homes elsewhere. Common among the line of cars, trucks, and adventure mobiles descending the mountain was a sense of rejuvenation, of appreciation, and of snowboarding’s cosmic significance. From the race tent to the powder slashes, from chairlift conversations to parking lot beers, we were connected, and the vibes were every bit as potent as the light of Saturday’s moon. An enormous thank you to the organizers, volunteers, ski patrollers, and participants that make the LBS what it is– you keep snowboarding rooted, and we love you for it. We’ll see you at the 35th.
Estelle Pensiero 3rd Women's Ams
Brett Tippie 3rd Grand Masters
Mark Fawcett 3rd Pro Masters
Audrey Hebert 1st Pro Women
Maelle Ricker 2nd Pro Women
MFR 5th Pro Women
Mark Tremblay 2nd Pro Men
Felix Dallaire 4th Pro Men
Pierce Smith 5th Pro Men
Amalia Pelchat 2nd Junior Girls
Liam Stevens 1st Switch race