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By Rob Lemay
May 11, 2019, the 8th Annual ECS Invitational, the Ocho, went down on Mt. Seymour, a mountain rich in snowboard culture and history that this event embodies. After 8 years, Evan Chandler-Soanes (ECS) has managed to create something that has almost taken a life of its own. He decides the date every year. Once the date is set, the word spreads quickly, and the pilgrimage begins. Boarders from the lower mainland around Vancouver and a strong showing from Whistler converge for an amazing day and for some, an overnighter.
Please enjoy our recap gallery of photos from myself, plus a few from Jarrod Au, a ten minute Mt. Mtn. video, and a personal recount from Seymour OG Lars Isaksson (LRZ). LRZ was digging halfpipes in the ’80s and ripping Mt. Seymour since ’91. He showed up with his classic Craig Kelly Burton Air and got in the session.
The ECS Invitational is a snowboard event that finds its strength in culture. It is held in the backcountry of Mt. Seymour. The word goes out with the date but for some, it begins the night before. A few enthusiasts hike up with camping gear into the chosen location and begin moving snow around. They are joined throughout the night by other snowboarders.
This year I happened to be ready in the parking lot at the same time as ECS, Nic Heringa, and Jack from Detroit had arrived. ECS was quick to prep so we hiked together, which reduced the pain of the grueling hike by bantering with him on the way up. At one
We stopped at City Booter. Which is practically there, but sits at the base of one more steep slope. The sun had dropped, and we heard a hoot or two from behind. It was Al Stathis, Keenan Filmer, and a few others. After a quick hug, they scurried up the face. We weren’t far behind.
Through a narrow gully with icy steps, we made it to the top moaning and groaning with 100lb packs. Exiting the gully, you enter the event site that locals call “Wizard Sleeve”. TJ Koskela and Ben Bilocq had already created the main body of a beautiful quarter pipe.
A small group of us went to First Peak deep into the night. There, Keenan expressed out loud that he was fed up with a tiresome joke, “Keenan Sucks”. One about him not actually sucking but never actually winning either. I promptly pointed out he’d have to stop landing on his head twice before finals. To slow it down and take steps like TJ, who works his way up into the Super Mega final every year. That’s where you need to be. He promised himself right then that he’d do just that.
Three Former ECS champs and 3 runner ups were on the mountain. ECS asked the group if maybe the winner was amongst us. There was a feeling that it could be so with the already 20 amazing snowboarders who were prepped to sleep there. As the sky began to glow with signs of
A rough guess is 20 boarders spent the night. Many arriving in the shadows under a half moon. A rock gap, a clamshell double quarter were built under the night’s sky. Incredibly thirteen or so Whistler locals made it up and were happy to help with the needed
Come morning the early risers and a constant stream of new arrivals joined forces to carve out the event. Ideas were taking shape and in-runs were looked after. A beautiful T
The first re-shaping intermission gave no rest, as most competitors picked up shovels and rakes. A rock gap session opened-up round two, where a closer eye was needed to see what each rider was bringing to the event. An unusual approach, undeniable style or fighting to get a trick will get you big points.
It should be noted, somewhere in there an original Seymour Wildcat, Dave Cashen arrived late and pushed himself to land a beauty Mctwist and left before the crowd could muster the guts to have him sign their tits.
The second re-shaping signaled the finals. This time it was a four-feature final format. The Rock gap, the Clamshell, the Tombstone transfer and the finally the quarter pipe. One run each per feature. MVP last year and again for me this year was big Luch. He brought his unique style and buttery flow to each feature until the transfer took him out with a shoulder injury. Others dropped out after landing what they needed for themselves with knowledge things were only going to get a lot hairier very soon.
Super-mega finals saw Darrah, Coco, TJ, Keenan in a lightning round. Nothing leading up counted. It was now or never, and shit escalated quick.
Darrah did a backflip to switch, a McTwist and FS Invert to get there. While a solid backfoot strapped in No-Comply over the rock gap and
The lighting round means you land it, or you’re done. Leaving TJ and Keenan head to head. The master of the steady buildup and the one who promised he would save some. Keenan let it go at the end. The sheer amplitude of his McTwist and giant Crippler shocked the crowd and judges. One run would decide it. Tj went for his switch McTwist and missed. The highest FS air poke of the day sealed it. Keenan did not suck.
The only contest where suffering is your only entry fee. One where the harder you work, the more you get out of it. Everyone together in tiny natural funnel experiences it with you. This is precisely why it is one of the most anticipated events of the year. 24 hrs of sacrifice and pain ends the season. A base to move forward from and life always feels just a little easier once it has settled in that you made it through yet another ECS. To confirm what most already knew, and in true ECS fashion, Evan presented the OCHO trophy to Keenan Filmer with some bubbly for good measure.