I’m not quite sure when this race really got started. It sure wasn’t when the first of the Masters division exited the start shack for an official time on Thursday afternoon. Maybe it was months ago when all the berms start forming in the halfpipe. Or it could have been when they started shoveling the constantly falling snow out of those berms a few days ago.
Was it yesterday when the competitors were treated to 28 inches of light new snow to “train” in? I like to think it was when that first run is taken with the friends you only seem to see at this event. Whenever this race really got started, it is truly the start of something special.
At around 9:00 am on Thursday morning Gwyn Howat gave the announcement that for the first time in fourteen years the race had to be postponed. The howling wind coupled with an extremely high avalanche danger closed the whole ski area, something Gwyn said she had never seen in her thirty-five years of living here.
Being the champs that they (every employee, ski patrollers, race volunteer, etc. . .) are at Mt. Baker, they figured out part of a solution. At noon they started chair four so the masters, women’s pro, and men’s pro could have their first qualifier. From the bottom of the chair you could see a fracture about four feet deep, running fifty yards or so across a mellow three hundred-foot trail. Needless to say all racers were told to stay on the groomed run next to the course.
With the typical wet Mt. Baker snow falling we raced. The times weren’t posted when we finally left the White Salmon lodge, but common knowledge was that Peter Bauer had the fastest time in Men’s Pro with Josh Dirksen a hundredth of a second behind. Temple Cummins, Thomas Ligonnet, Rob Morrow, and Brandon Ruff put up some notable times.
In betting news, Javis Lehn and Billy Anderson took me for $25 and $75 respectively. Karleen Jeffery once again dominated the women’s pro with a time that embarrasses a lot of the men. Once again I must comment that the times weren’t officially posted and I didn’t hear all the times. Sorry if someone ripped and I missed it.
On Saturday morning it was still snowing. About 22 inches had accumulated overnight. All the divisions had their qualifiers, but because of time restraints not all were run twice. To keep it fair in the divisions that only ran the course once, everybody advanced to the finals. In the Pros, Mark Friesen and Aurelie Sayers were the fastest.
I rode with Temple Cummins and Billy Anderson for most of the day, and like everyone else we were kinda pushing it (more them than me.) With all the snow, people were able to start doing lines that are only imagined in the early fall. We’re talking some heavy stuff. The gnarliest thing on Saturday had to be Wes Makepeace’s experience over by Willows. As Wes was peaking over a pillow to check a landing, he happened to see a pair of gloves wiggling in his landing. In order for Wes not to land on them, he had to hang on a branch and swing out to a different pillow. Then after almost slipping, he jumped safely next to the gloves. After thirty minutes of digging Woes got the kid out ALIVE. The kid had rode down blindly got stuck, took off his board and jumped down in a panic. What if Wes hadn’t found him? What if he had just jumped into the chute with out looking? Has anyone learned anything from this story? Don’t be STUPID.
Saturday night was party, party, party, but smart kids sleep before a race. I don’t really know what happened to the crazy hicks that showed up at the party where POP was playing. I don’t know about them trying to pick on little kids or one of their bloody cowboy hats being passed around as a trophy. Maybe it’s “Baker Justice.”
Race day. Another 20 inches of snow. Stress. I don’t know what was going on. I was too stressed on my $250 dollar bet with Billy Anderson.
Racers run the course twice, the second run’s time is kept a secret. You don’t learn who has won until the awards a couple of hours later. Riding with Peter Strom, Johan Oloffson, and Ari Marcopoulus in waist deep powder through the trees took some of the anxiety away, but not all of it.
All the winners got the coolest jackets on earth. The am winners got tons of prizes, and boots from Vans. The pros got paddles and drums that were made and painted by a local artist Shaun Peterson. Amazing Native American art that is worth more than any money any race could ever offer.
A little secret about the Banked Slalom is if you show up at all you won. Matt Goodwill is the man. He broke his ribs at the Winter X Games and still beat everyone. The results didn’t lie and excuses like I had only ridden fourteen days this year didn’t help.
By the way, .1 of a second cost me that $250.
Wait, the race isn’t over!
Guess what, on Monday it snowed another 23 inches and most everyone (even some who have “real” jobs) stayed. The race isn’t about whom is the fastest; it’s about friends and experiencing special times with them. I ain’t getting sappy, that’s just what the Baker Banked Slalom is about.
I experienced (mostly watching) some hairball lines and big drops with Shin Campos, Eric Leines, Tyler Lepore, Temple Cummins, Jamie Lynn, Dave Lee, Wes Makepeace, Johan Oloffson, Peter Strom, Thomas Ligonnet, and a host of other people you’ve never heard of.
Tuesday was another 17 inches. Maybe the race was over today. People were bailing, responsibilities called. If today was a contest, from what I saw, Temple Cummins and Peter Butsh won. Scott Stamnes and Patrick Butsh were second by a hair. The four of them were doing some of the steepest, most exposed shit I’ve seen since Carter Turk.