Lost Trail is one of the last great community-oriented ski areas in the Rocky Mountains. It’s the kind of place where stickers coat every piece of metal in sight, and management is cool with that. Where the parking lot fills with trailers on weekends, and strangers talk to strangers without reservation. Where the lifties dress in Carhartt overalls and costumes, the lifts don’t spin until 9:30am (or at all Monday-Wednesday), and laissez-faire reigns supreme on the Montana/Idaho border. And it’s the perfect place to celebrate the lives of a few true uninhibited souls, Aaron Robinson and Dillon Candelaria.
So it was that we gathered at Lost Trail for the tenth running of the Smash Life Banked Slalom. After a year missed due to COVID, the vibe was a bit quieter this year—no fireworks, no surf-punk in the lodge. But a raging bonfire every night and a DIY-mentality still brought the tribe of vagabonds together to dig, to ride, to celebrate not only those lost but also the kinship that brought us all together in the first place, the easy bond of sliding on snow.
“If you told me ten years ago that we’d be doing this ten years from now, I would have said you’re crazy,” Shane Stalling said. He’s the main organizer of the event, along with Joe Pope and Tipton Power and a handful of others. They lead the charge, but the snowboard community drives the event, with riders coming in from all over the Pacific Northwest and beyond to dig and ride. And aren’t we all a bit crazy, Shane?
I met Shane through Aaron, on a trip where we landed at Lost Trail back in the late aughties. It was a loosely planned and executed road trip, and it was perfect. All the folks in attendance pretty much met through a trip down the mountain in one way or another, and I’d take the liberty of saying we’re all a bit crazy in a good way—that snowboarding unites those looking to live on the margins at times.
Yet the conditions this year, thankfully, were far from marginal. Deep cold for dig days leading up to the event led to a dusting of fresh snow, sunny skies, and temps hovering around freezing level. It was a perfect recipe for smooth berms and laid-back laps, from timed runs to partially-tracked pillows, long, wide-open groomers to a late night in the lot.
Crazy? Yeah. Crazy energy in the lodge for awards, with Pam Robinson bringing us all near tears of joy as she reminded us why we do this—not only to remember the lost souls, but to bring the stoke of snowboarding to underserved youth in Aaron’s hometown of Whitefish through the A-Rob Plant A Seed Foundation. Why we laughed, rode and raged, and we’ll do it again next year.
We’ll continue to be told we’re crazy and we’ll answer that yes, you’re crazy too, and that’s why we love you.
Thank you to all the event organizers, diggers, riders, and most of all Lost Trail Ski Resort for their continuing support of the Smash Life Banked Slalom. You are the soul of snowboarding.