Step into the shack and say your prayers. Note the disco ball. Smile at Britt and Gwyn and the rest of the folks gathered round those plywood walls, shake off the nerves, breathe deep. Drop in, exhale, hang on to the finish line, where new friends and old await.
Why so nervous? What’s on the line? A roll of painted duct tape mounted to a thunderbird embossed base, maybe, but it’s also a meditative moment in the inner sanctum of snowboarding. For at the Mt. Baker Legendary Banked Slalom, culture over cash remains the motto, as it has for 30-plus years. And the heartbeat of our tribe manifests in objects of belonging over this February long weekend.
The pursuit of that winner’s circle blanket and embroidered jacket draws riders from all over the world to the end of Highway 542. But it’s the pursuit of so much more. A powder run on Shuksan Arm: enter the portal above Chair 8 and walk small towards Mt. Shuksan’s blue ice. The smell of a waxing iron, set to slow cure, as rain in Glacier means snow up high, a powder frenzy before dropping in. Brushing, waiting, a dip into the paella tent, an escape on Pan Dome. Heavy metal Sunday at Graham’s.
All these memories encapsulated by these objects, which hold little cash value, but are priceless to those who know. Put on that racer hoodie and it all comes flooding back. If you’re quick enough for duct tape, find it with a glance and start thinking about next year. For few places occupy the soul of snowboarding like Mt. Baker, and few events amplify our awareness of just how deep our collective creativity runs than the gathering of turns that is the Legendary Banked Slalom.
These artifacts of our tribe stand as proof.