Say Your Prayers: Chris Owen recaps the 28th annual Mt. Baker Legendary Banked Slalom
“Say Your Prayers,” these are the words that loom above you as you enter the start shack at the Mount Baker Legendary Banked Slalom. They are ominous words, but anyone who has dropped into the minute and a half (give or take) long course made up of treacherous banks and berms knows its valid advice.
Ostensibly, the banked slalom is a race, but it’s more like a picnic in the mountains. At the top of the course, groms mix with top pros and retired legends who’ve come out of the woodwork to compete. Warm food and drinks keep the riders fueled throughout the day – good stuff like chowder, smoked salmon, and coffee. But the competitive aspect of the event always comes back into focus when duct tape-worthy times are posted and bets start getting made.
Some of the riders hoping to hoist this year’s duct tape trophies included long-time attendees like Terje Haakonsen, Josh Dirksen, the Cummins brothers, Scotty Wittlake, and Maelle Ricker. There were also a few faces that hadn’t been seen at the LBS in quite some time, Shaun Palmer and Matt Goodwill. What I like most about the event is that Travis Rice, a teenager from Seattle and a real estate agent from Bellingham all turn out to ride the same course as fast as they can. I also like that the clock is the judge and competitors often miss their heats because they’re off hiking the Shuksan Arm.
If I could paint a few more words in the start shack under “Say Your Prayers,” here’s what I’d add: Expect to have some butterflies in your stomach as you enter the course, don’t fall at the top because that’s where the majority of the crowd lurks, and if you just breathe and stay on your feet, you’ll put yourself in a pretty good position. If none of that works, and you don’t win, you’re still going to have a good time.
I think the Banked Slalom is the best event in snowboarding. If you’ve never been, put it on your bucket list.