The Legendary Banked Slalom: Inside the race with Nils Mindnich
When I first met Nils Mindnich at the US Open in Stratton, VT, I was floored by his modesty. Especially in contrast to his level of riding. At the time, Nils was an up-and-coming 16-year-old. He was kind, shy, and avoided the spotlight as much as possible. Even though his snowboarding continued to put him right under it.
This past weekend, as I camped out on the side of the Legendary Banked Slalom course at Mt. Baker and watched Nils tear apart the banks (both regular and switch), I couldn’t help but remember that first introduction. Nils, now 22, was still amongst the younger riders in the pro field. However, just by watching his riding you would have never known it. It was my first LBS, and I was at a loss of words to describe the experience, so, after Nils’ second run in finals,(and before anyone knew that he had won) I tracked him down for a beer and to get his perspective on the race.
“This is my third Legendary Baker Banked Slalom. The first year I did it was in 2014, and it was very icy and absolutely horrifying. I didn’t even end up making finals. I had actually been on a banked slalom tear until I got completely shut down. Then the second year, last year, I was able to come in 10th. I felt fast this year, which is really sweet!
“These guys are the truest and hands down the best snowboarders in the world.”
But above all, regardless of times at the end of the day, this race is the pinnacle of my season. It means a lot to me to see everyone within the industry and all of the different riders. It really reminds me why I got into snowboarding in the first place. It has been an incredible experience this year. We’ve been blessed with super good weather for finals today and I think everyone put down some nice runs.
I am really just stoked to be a part of the program. Riding with some of my idols is intimidating, rewarding, and exciting all at the same time. It is pretty cool to drop in with Temple Cummins and [Josh] Dirksen right in front of you, and you’ve got Seth Wescott right behind you. I’m high-fiving them and staying stoked and acting normal, but on the inside, I am freaking out. Like, ‘Holy shit these guys are so sick!’ I’m still a little kid in a candy shop. I love it. It puts everyone on a level playing field and reminds you that everyone is human.
Initially a lot of people might think that you’d find your world-class snowboarders and the best of the best at those televised, top tier events, with slopestyle and halfpipe and all that. But in reality, the guys in this event, even though you might not see them on the sports network or they might not have hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers, in my opinion, these guys are the truest and hands down the best snowboarders in the world. It is such an honor to come to Mt. Baker—the humble and ominous resort that it really is, and with all the history that it holds—to just try my best, against the fastest.
I’m still freaking out on the inside that I was able to put up a quick time. I am just super grateful I was able to stand one up. My dad came out from New Jersey, and he hasn’t even seen me ride seriously in 10-15 years, since I was doing the Junior Jams at the US Open at Stratton. So I am psyched to put down a good run with him here. He has wanted to come out here since before I was born, and this year he finally made the trek out. Hopefully it’s a good year for him to be around! I’m just grateful that he is able to be part of it. He had the classic Dad moments where he introduced himself to Terje and Travis Rice and embarrassed me. So he played his role and played it well. I am just psyched to have him here, great weather, and quick times.
I think the event itself not only helps breed a lot of talent in the right direction, but an event like this—in my opinion—is the most important and hands down the coolest thing in snowboarding. As long as it keeps going it will always hold that title.” – Nils Mindnich
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