There is lots of marketing jargon thrown around in snowboarding. “The greatest" this and “best ever” that. But one event actually lives up to its name year after year: The Mt. Baker Legendary Banked Slalom. One look at the list of past winners confirms the cultural significance of this contest and validates its “Legendary” status. Names like Tom Sims, Shaun Palmer, Craig Kelley, Terje Haakonsen and the 1998 Next Generation champion Shaun White adorn the custom Lib Tech winners’ snowboard that is now completely full of plaques. For 28 years the LBS has drawn snowboarding’s best to Mt. Baker for this one of a kind race down the most famous ditch in the world.
Trying for the fastest time down a winding natural halfpipe of twists and turns is only goal here. No judges debating subjective concepts like amplitude, spins or style ¬– best time wins. Seems fairly simple, right? But throw in factors like board choice, wax technique, variable course conditions and weather, and anything can happen. Everyone has a chance… if you can get it that is. But figure that out, and you have a chance to put your skills to the test against modern day rulers like Travis Rice, DCP, Nicolas Müller and legends like Terje and Jamie Lynn.
Of course, the best part about the LBS is what goes on outside the course. It’s a snowboard family gathering, with a big part of the industry’s community in attendance. Nearly half of the Vans Team was there, including Hana Beaman, Mark Landvik, Zac Marben, Jamie Lynn and Wolle Nyvelt, who came all the way from Switzerland with Vans Europe Team Manager Thomas “Beckna” Eberharter to compete. The salmon BBQ and beer garden on Saturday is a tradition, along with Northwest delicacies like smoked salmon, paella, and seafood chowder served all weekend long. But the real draw is Mt. Baker itself, with endless lines to hike, bottomless powder to slash and this year, unusually blue skies and sunshine. On Friday and Sunday, the clouds cleared and the majestic beauty of Mt. Baker was revealed to all. Everyone took laps in the powder in between or after their runs and enjoyed some of the finest lines that The Great Northwest has to offer.
At the end of the weekend, it doesn’t really matter who wins or not (or even finished as in Zac Marben's case). What’s important is just being there. Being there to soak in the history of snowboarding, which is rewritten with every banked slalom. Being there to smile and high five with your friends after a long hike up and an unbelievable ride down Hemispheres or the Shuksen Arm. Being there to just be a snowboarder. After 28 years, it continues to be the greatest snowboarding event in the world, and I feel very lucky to have attended a few of them. Now if I can just get in the race!
Thanks to Gwen, Amy and everyone at Mt. Baker for another amazing weekend. See you next year!
For full results, go to lbs.mtbaker.us and see lots more photos from Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 on the tumblr blog.