The 31st Legendary Banked Slalom Words and Photos: Natalie langmann

No contest, The Legendary Baker Banked Slalom is the best life money to be had in snowboarding. Each fall snowboarders put their names into a lottery to get the opportunity to race the same course legends such as Temple Cummins, Terje, T.Rice, Victoria Jealouse have run since the 80s. Just by signing up you are basically saying, "Yeah, I have the guts to race against some of the biggest names in snowboarding. Ever."

Wes Makepeace in the start shack

You drop in, hang on for dear life, point it, pray not to eat shit while you use your edges like never before, and powerhouse your way down the banks and berms. It’s fast. And when you get to bottom of your run, there is no rest; you grab your friends and hike the arm, drop into Hemis, or find pow stashes under Chair Four. The terrain is insane. Super steep, lots of cliff lines. This is Mt Baker’s busiest weekend of the year, yet there always is enough powder to feed ‘em all.

Spencer O'Brien runs Sunday finals on a flawless course

Every snowboarder puts their lives on hold to drop out of the start shack, out of love for their sport and its culture and the thrill of competition. Grand-prize winners walk away with spray-painted gold, silver and bronze duct tapes, Pendleton blankets, a Carhartt jacket with the embroidered raven LBS logo on the back, and featured art from the Northwest, but prizing stays miles away from the monetary– it simply extends the feeling of community racers experience over a weekend standing with legends as peers. But it’s not just the gathering of snowboarders that make the event what it is; it’s the crew behind the scenes. The lengths that the general manager Duncan Howat, his two daughters Amy and Gwyn, and the Mt Baker staff and volunteers go to producing LBS each year are legendary in their own rite. They put their heart and souls into hosting a flawless event, and year after year, they deliver. For example, a few years back, there was no snow, just frozen solid, icy walls and Gwyn and the building crew were riding down the course, carving walls with chainsaws.

This year was no exception.

One week prior, snow was hammering down on the Pacific Northwest, trees were snapping in half over the Mt Baker Highway. It was so wet that brand new Gore-tex would do you no better than riding in wet jeans on the east coast. Knowing the highway was going to shut down, Gwyn, a few avy controllers, and patrollers decided to stay up top at the lodge, so they could spend the week digging out the course, and clearing snow countless times from hundreds of chairlifts. The forecast for Thursday called for rain, so they fired up the chairlifts and rode the best powder of their lives. Gwyn kicked off the awards ceremony by saying she has been at Baker since 1968, and that was the best day she ever had. Well deserved Gwyn. We salute you.

Chris Ankeny, turn four.

JF Pelchat was ninth in Pro Masters– his daughters, Juliette and Amalia, took first in Junior Girls and second in Next Gen Girls

Capita Snowboards founder Blue Montgomery, 10th in Pro Masters

Helen Schettini edged into fifth for Pro Women

Temple Cummins, low and powerful, was sixth in Pro Men

The one and only Travis Rice, 12th in Pro Men

Nils Mindich won both Pro Men and the Fakie Race– when you're on, you're on!

Sarah Niblock on her way to Gold Duct Tape

Félix Dallaire was the fastest Canadian of the day, earning seventh in Pro Men– still, his dad, André (a Montreal industry vet), placed higher in his category with fourth in Grand Masters

Terje Haakonsen has seven LBS wins– this year, he took eighth place in Pro Men

Hightide Snowboards co-founder Gabe Langlois earned Silver Duct Tape in Mid Masters
Megan Porcheron took second in Pro Women Masters

Chris Rasman carrying the family torch– Chris' dad, Rudy, made finals in Grand Masters

The weekend wraps up with the White Salmon Lodge getting packed out for the longest, but most exciting awards ceremony in snowboarding. The Craig Kelly Award is given to a recipient chosen for making a significant contribution to Pacific Northwest snowboarding. This year it went from Tex Devenport to John Logic who started Seattle’s SnoCon shop. John spoke of learning to snowboard in 1989, and how back then when you saw a snowboard on someone’s car, you would race up the freeway, honking your horn, pointing to their board. "Snowboarding had a real tribal feel to it back then," he said. He also told the story of how he ran into Craig Kelly in an elevator at the World Championships, and told him he wanted to open a shop, asked him where he thought would be good. Craig came up with Seattle. John got out of that elevator, found a payphone, called his girlfriend, and said, “I just met Craig Kelly, and we are moving to Seattle.” And they did.

Tex Davenport passes the Craig Kelly award to SnoCon founder John Logic

It’s in incredible feeling seeing friends holding up Duct Tape, seeing the love between best friends Megan Porcheron and Barrett Cummins as they hug out their rivalry for another year, or cheering for JF Pelchat’s daughter, Juliette and Whistler local Finn Finestone as they beam about their wins. It's crazy to think is that if these kids keep winning Duct Tape they could break Terje’s record of seven golds by the time they are racing pro. Congratulations to Stephanie Haines, Juliette Pelchat, Megan Fraser, Finn Finestone, Sara Niblock, Scott Reynolds for bringing gold home for Canada.

As friends and family step to the podium, John Logic's talk of snowboarding's tribal feel rings true

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