The 2011 Legendary Banked Slalom: The JG Report

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With another LBS come and gone, it feels a bit like Santa Claus has packed up and headed to Belize until next year. The recollections of this particular LBS will remain, however, for some time. This is, I believe, the 20th LBS I have attended in the 25 years I’ve been riding at Baker, and would put this year’s performances, course quality and snow conditions in the top five of these. By opening up the course a bit, and with a perfect snow depth, the banked course rode like a flawless 70’s concrete skate snake run and the speed of the riders was notched up a bit.

By the time Saturday’s second qualifier had rolled around, the winter storm warning and wind advisory had cranked up to Katrina levels and 90 mph winds were recorded later that evening atop Pan Dome. Of course, that didn’t stop the race. With grapple pellets hammering everyone’s faces, all dug in and surfed to the bottom with Haakon posting the best time of the weekend at that point. Cannon Cummins (yes, progeny of Temple and Barrett) of the Next Generation division was actually brought to a halt when the wind hit his little grom self as he came over the hip in the lower section of the course — he toughed through and charged to the bottom. Another notable performance was race legend and Canadian alpine coach Mark Fawcett, who in the 40+ category threw down a run that would have put him in fourth place Pro Men’s division. The LBS favors none, but experience helps.
In classic fashion, Finals Sunday brought clear skies and a bunch of fresh snow. Laps on the Arm, and dropped ropes on Gunner’s Ridge and Chicken’s got everyone on the dance floor and between the course itself and the conditions on the hill — as race Czaress Gwyn Howat said at the awards ceremony: “If you aren’t dog-tired at the end of a day like this, you aren’t a snowboarder.”

There was plenty of good drama over the day on Sunday, with the usual suspects Haakon-Temple-Debari-Dirksen-Kingwill checking each other’s lines while trying to act like not doing so. For the men’s pros, in the end, even experience favored no one with the eventual winner a 17-year old from Norwood, CO named Harry Kearney coming out to take the top honor for his first time. He was not, however, the youngest ever to win it — in 1986 Shaun Palmer took the title at a pre-Cadillac-tattoos age of 17 as well. With the top four men all within a second, the lineup was solid with Terje Haakonsen, (Vancouver Olympic boardercross silver medalist) Mike Robertson and Josh Dirksen rounding these out.

The biggest story of the day, unquestionably however, was 5X LBS winner (and some other contest she won at Cypress last year) Maelle Ricker taking the top spot in women’s pros with a 1:31.31 placing her almost three seconds above the next female racer and in 20th place for pro men’s. Most incredibly, she did it with a broken arm strapped to her body.

I’ve seen a lot of runs down the White Salmon natural halfpipe over two-and-a-half decades, and I would rate this as one of (if not the) greatest run of all time. Haakon was voluntarily impaired when he qualified fourth going fakie many years ago, and there have been blind racers and others who have come back from life-threatening conditions to make their goal of completing the course, but Maelle…. wow. Watching her drop into the upper section, blazing through the banks, young Paavo Sari asked: “Does she have only one arm?” My question was: does she have only one heart? See all the results here.

In perhaps the most apropos moment of the weekend, with Mt. Baker royalty Dano Donnelly presenting the increasingly heralded Craig Kelly award, recipient Carter Turk was nowhere to be found. For anyone who grew up riding with the guy who, in the early days of the MBHC, was the best fall line rider on the best mountain in the country, they understood the significance. Carter Turk was one of the first to ride Mt. Baker, and for the first decade was easily as highly regarded as Craig by the locals. The thing about Carter, however, was that you never saw him. You only saw the line he left. From the first leap over the cliff aside Gunsights, to summer drops off Herman in jeans and Converse in lowbacks, one could see the single swooping signature of this sasquatch-like individual. I think Carter got wind of his honorarium, and in true Carter Turk fashion, simply preferred to let his legacy speak for itself rather than open his mouth. As it is, he did make it to the hill earlier and many of us old farts (myself, Dano, Eric Janko, Kelly Jo, etc.) had a nice informal reunion with beers and stories. His wit is as dry and clear as it was in the 80’s, Carter sat down opposite Mark Fawcett, glanced down at his soft boots and, not having seen or said a word to the guy in probably 20 years commented: “So, you went soft on us.”

In the parking lot afterwards musician and noted Whistler veteran Wes Makepeace was shaking his head: “I know who the guy is and what he did, I’ve heard of him for years, and I know what true legend he is – I’ve just never seen him.” Look up on the best run on the best day of the year — the run no one else thought to seek out. See the gracefully arcing line slipping over outcroppings and between the towering Doug firs, and if you look closely enough, and if you are lucky enough, you just may see a dark-haired sasquatchian character disappearing into the woods below.

For anyone who fell victim to the absurd Gestapo state established by the Whatcom County Sheriffs Dept, the Washington State Patrol, Forest Service Enforcement, WA State Liquor Board enforcement, Homeland Security, Customs, DEA and god knows what other publicly funded spooks – I would highly recommend the services of local attorney and true esquire Aaron Lukoff at Lukoff Law. He has much experience beating back those don’t seem to understand phrases like “probable cause”, “reasonable person”, “prior restraint” and other strange concepts like the Fourth Amendment.

Until next year when Santa returns from Belize, may the spirit of the MBHC be with you.

All Photos Copyright Colin Wiseman.


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