The 31st Annual Mt Baker Legendary Banked Slalom
By Adam Levitt
It’s human nature to nostalgically look to the past. Whether it’s fond memories of childhood or just daydreams of a simpler time, these times usually trigger pleasant thoughts. The Mt Baker Legendary Banked Slalom (LBS) manages to capture those feelings in this present day. In this age of modern day mega resorts with every amenity, the mountain itself is seemingly stuck in a time warp: a winding, somewhat dangerous mountain road to get there, fixed grip lifts with no safety bars, no WIFI (gasp!), reasonable lift tickets and food at the lodge (double gasp!). Even for riders visiting for the first time, the vibe is oddly familiar and comforting. The contest itself harkens back to simpler times as well; no corporate sponsors, no prime time live TV spots, no annoying announcers, no judges trying to determine who’s the best quadruple flipper, quadruple spinner. The LBS is all about the very first skill we all learned as snowboarders; the art of the turn. And that’s what makes it the best snowboard event/non-event year after year. In fact, riding at Mt Baker and either racing in or just attending the Mt Baker LBS, should be on every snowboarders bucket list.
If there’s one thing Mt Baker is known for it’s the snowfall and the week leading up to this year’s LBS was no exception. Several intense storms had buried the mountain but had also knocked down trees along the highway closing highway. Mt Baker Operations Manager, Gwyn Howat, and her team were stranded on the mountain while preparing the race course for the weekend. In anticipation the hill might open any day, she and her team shoveled snow off thousands of chairs just to keep the lifts turning. A final rain storm on Thursday knocked out the power in the nearby town of Glacier and left all those that had showed up early stranded. The road final opened late in the afternoon on Thursday allowing everyone to get up the highway.
Racers were greeted with a dusting of fresh snow on top of a tricky rain crust on Friday morning for the first round of qualifying. Visibility was also an issue as the snowfall got heavier throughout the day. While it was difficult to see, the new snow helped to soften the course considerably throughout the day and those who raced in the afternoon were saying the course was now classic LBS conditions; soft powder berms from start to finish.
An additional 20 cms of snow fell overnight on Friday and many racers got up early to snag a few pow laps to warm up the legs for their race runs. With only light snowfall, the visibility increased on Saturday and race times began to get faster. Saturday was the last chance to qualify for Sunday’s finals and racers were laying it all on the line.
Sunday brought bluebird skies and the adjacent, iconic Mt Shuskan, which overlooks the race course, made its first appearance of the weekend. With 400 racers having taken 2 qualifying runs already, the course was now running lightning fast and times were the lowest of the entire weekend. Up and comer Stephanie Haines, from Kelowna BC posted the fastest time with a 1:18.50 to take her first Gold Duct tape while Spencer O’Brien and Torah Bright finished 2nd and 3rd respectively. The fastest Canadian in the Pro Men’s was Felix Dallaire, from Mont Sainte Anne, QC, who posted a 1:14.852 good enough for 7th place. With a who’s who group of pro men’s shredders battling for the gold duct tape, it was Stowe, Vermont’s Nils Mindnich posting a 1:13.22, which turned out to be almost a full second faster than 2nd place finisher Josh Dirksen. Mindnich also on the unofficial switch race with a mind boggling time of 1:19.
Full results from every age division can be found here: http://lbs.mtbaker.us/index.php/results/2017-results