LBS 35

Tipping Point: A Generational Connection at the 35th Mt Baker Legendary Banked Slalom

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Every now and then, there’s a tipping point. That moment when things change, for better or worse. It can manifest economically, politically, or culturally—and we’re here to talk about the latter. Because this year, at the 35th Mt. Baker Legendary Banked Slalom, there was a generational shift. 

Case in point: the fastest time of the weekend was posted by 15-year-old Anthony Shelly out of Whistler, BC, who edged out Pro Men’s winner Harry Kearney by .02 of a second. Sure, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison—the racecourse can change throughout the day and lead to quicker times in some categories than others, and Harry certainly deserves the accolades that go with his third LBS victory. But I can’t say I expected to see a faster time than his on finals day. Did you? 

Then there’s fellow 15-year-old Amalia Pelchat, also out of Whistler, who put down the fastest Pro Women’s time in Friday qualifiers, edging out 27-year-old Tess Critchlow, who would go onto win, by a second on that day. And 18-year-old Cannon Cummins, who landed in 10th place for Pro Men and finally bested his dad, four-time Pro Men’s champ Temple.

Perhaps it was the three-year COVID-induced gap between this rendition of the longest-running snowboard event in history and the last race in 2020, but the generation gap seemed more pronounced this year than ever. The kids are coming up fast. Maybe Josh Dirksen put it best: “Our time is past,” he said, at the bottom of the course after his final run on Sunday. He was standing amongst a group of 40-somethings who have been holding down the top spot for the last several slaloms. “The next generation is here,” he continued nodding towards a group including Harry, Austen Sweetin, Ben Ferguson, and Mikkel Bang. He didn’t know Anthony was going to go that fast, but he hit the nail on the head: the younger folks are ripping. 

Harry himself knows the feeling: he won the Pro Men’s division at the LBS when he was 17, a dozen years ago. The youngest ever to do it. Watching him fly down a 2023 course that Mt. Baker Ski Area CEO Gwyn Howat called “the second-most-difficult ever” in LBS history with a smile on his face was a thing of beauty. I wonder if Anthony will step up to Pro next year and try to give Harry a run for his money—I wonder if he’ll do it with a smile on his face?

Regardless, seeing the next generation ripping with pride as snow fell from the sky reminded me that snowboarding is now a generational thing, more than ever. Amalia’s dad, JF, took second in the Pro Legends division, reserved for age 50-plus shredders, and her sister, Juliette, won the Amateur Women category. There were six Cummins on-course that weekend (Barrett took 3rd in Pro Legends Women), three Dirksens (Alana, age 9, earned 2nd place in Next Gen Girls), three Malkoskis (with Milo in first for Amateur men), two Simmons (both Weeg and her daughter Avery scored silver duct tape in their respective categories), and on and on and on. 

Come to think of it, maybe it’s more of a generational connection than a generational shift. Because what other sporting event sees folks aged nine through 68 competing on the same venue and the same day for the same prize? And doesn’t look too different than it did at its inception, nearly 40 years ago? Sure, there are more people there now, but the venue is the same, and everyone’s still there for communal connections more than anything else, as far as I can tell.  

The youth are alright, and so are their parents. The simplicity of snowboarding brings us together at Mt. Baker year after year, and the times matter, but what matters more, maybe, is the gathering. Because there we all were, riding on and off course as a community, connecting over a shared passion. And that’s worth celebrating, regardless of one’s age.


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