Item: Retro Fools Day 2014
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A method is arguably the most iconic and timeless trick in snowboarding. From Tom Sims to Terje Haakonsen to Nicolas Mueller to Travis Rice, it is the tweaked-out link that runs through the sport’s greats—North American or Euro style, it’s a move that generates steeze and smiles whatever the location…or generation.
One-pieces are also timeless (although slightly less iconic), and as contestants lined up at the start gate for the 2014 Retro Fools Day at Washington’s Stevens Pass slalom race, the latter were in high supply. From glowing pink to shimmering green to gas-station attendant blue, the jumpsuit beauties clashed wonderfully with neon windbreakers, DayGlo tights and fanny packs, and snowboards spanning from the early ‘80s to Y2K—any models later than 2000 earned a 10-second penalty.
Now in its fifth year, Retro Fools Day is an event that’s hard to define. A slalom race combined with a “half-pipe” competition…except your slalom time is greatly influenced by your gear, and the half-pipe is actually a hand-dug ditch. The previous year was a pow day, not the best for racing…or denim and Lycra; this year the sun was shining and temps were reaching 50-plus degrees, perfect for slushy gate bashing. Winding its way down Showcase, contestants lined up at the start of the slalom, a riot of color and hair (including a neon-green Mohawk) as they dropped in one by one. The turns were tight and steep, leading to some impressive glory runs—and equally impressive crashes—that earned cheers and heckling from Kehr’s Chair.
With everyone having made their two runs, the focus slid down to the “trick ditch,” the hand-dug half-pipe-ish feature just outside the Granite Peaks Lodge. Channeling the energy of the late ‘80s, the trick line-up looked like something from an early Mack Dawg flick. Layback slashes, cripplers, rodeos, hand plants…retro in the best of ways. Equally era-specific tunes kept the vibe high, and thanks to Ninkasi and the lovely folks running the bar at the Outer Limits Grill, the micro-brews flowed freely (and there may have been some bootlegged whiskey in the mix as well). Contestants, both racing against the clock and simply eager to take another run, jogged up the side of the course, some working to dial in their perfect run, some going for something new every time—mayhem, but of the best kind.
As the official trick-ditch session finished (a few determined souls continued to hike after the timer went off) competitors and observers gathered around as winners were announced. The slalom times are always an adventure—while the quickest down the course may seem the obvious victor, an upset is only a particularly epic Burton Air away—and even some of the organizers seemed surprised by the results: Ryan McLaughlin, a.k.a. Nate Escalona, finished third, with a six-second deduction and a final time of 28.9; Mt. Baker local legend “Scary” Gary Milton earned a tight second place, with a seven-second deduction and a final time of 28.34; and at the top was Ryan Davis, a.k.a. Johnny Wavis, whose eight-second deduction and blazing speed earned him a final time of 26.07. Unfortunately, there was no recognition for best wreck—there were plenty of those to choose from.
The “Best Method” Award was a much more difficult to decide. Literally hundreds had been thrown, of all styles and degrees, and choosing just three was like choosing the best three songs from a Metallica collection. Still, a few were stand-out epic, and Milo Malkoski, Steven Goodell and Ryan Paul climbed the podium for third, second and first places, respectively. On the babe side, the “Snow Bunny” Award went to cat-driver-turned-pipe-shredder Kryn Allen, who, despite having been awake for over 24 hours, threw some of the event’s most impressive methods herself. In a shimmering one-piece and hucking backflips on 210cm skinny skis, Wenzel Peikert, a.k.a. Harkin, took the skier best-trick award…no method, but still pretty badass.
However, the most prestigious honor at Retro Fools is the Rudolph Award, a title given in memory of Chris Rudolph to someone who truly embodies the authentic, fun-loving spirit of both Chris and the event—and which this year was awarded to Neil Brusseau, a Seattle local and long-time Stevens rider.
As the ‘80s hair metal and ‘90s grunge wound down, folks headed to the RV parking lot for an after party and some final Saturday rays. And while the one-pieces, directional boards, neon shades and denim jean jackets may have looked out of place in the shred scene of today, among the laughter and new-found friends of Retro Fools, it all looked as timeless as the most styled of methods.
A special thanks goes out to Dave Billinghurst, Maxx Von Marbod, Nate Escalona, Jules Tracy and the entire Stevens Pass crew for another radical year.