Lessons of a Peace Park first-timer.
words and photos: Mark Clavin
A few weeks ago, I texted Danny Davis to see if I could photograph the latest iteration of Peace Park Championships in early May. The rumor was that it was going to be in Snowbird, and I had a free ride to Salt Lake City around the dates, so I hit him up and waited to see if it would all work out. Luckily, I got the “all good” so I hopped in a friend’s car and headed towards the crossroads of the West in preparation for attending my first Peace Park.
Out of all the events I have photographed over the past decade, the Peace Park Championships have always alluded me. First just from lack of invite, but then some calendar conflicts got in the way, and I have to tell you, after eight X Games in a row, the contest venue and format change-up that Peace Park offers is pretty enticing. I never knew much about it besides that I wanted to go.
Peace Park has been going on for ten-plus years under the influence of Danny Davis and famed shaper Chris “Gunny” Gunnarson. Nik Baden won it once. There was a time where everyone slept in campers in a parking lot at Mt. Bachelor. And last year featured a massive wall that Zeb and company got down on. Peace Park, in my mind, has always been the spring shoot where everyone got to hang and hit big/creative stuff if they felt like it, have some loose contest rules to crown an overall winner, and film follow-cams through the whole park with everyone snaking down at the same time. I am not ashamed to say I wanted to experience that, and it only added to the FOMO that a random assortment of the top riders of the world seemed to show up every time to put down stylish runs on the custom-built park.
Cut to this year, with Utah’s extra-large snowpack and unstable temps, and my trip was almost cut short before it started. I had the invite, but the event started just as the roads closed leading up to the resort, due to avalanche and mudslide concerns. Nik Baden and I showed up six minutes after the road up to Snowbird was officially closed for the day (the difference between 8:00am and 8:06am) and the only reason we got up was due to the kindness of one UDOT employee, who let us pass by the cops to drive up and register. A good amount of slides had already gone through the area and the damage was noticeable on the way up. A few hours later, a mudslide actually ended up popping over the road and shut it down for the next 24 hours, interlodging all of us that were lucky enough to be up and riding for day one.
Day one was warm and sunny, and consisted of the riders figuring out the course built on the backside of the resort. Jake Canter, Raibu Katayama, Mikey Ciccarelli, Sean FitzSimons, Anna Gasser, Taylor Gold, Danny Davis, Sebbe De Buck, Brandon Davis, Brock Crouch, and the rest put on a show on the jumps, and then put on a bigger show at the pool at the Cliff Lodge, since there was nowhere to go and road the back down to Salt Lake was closed until further notice. Also, big shout out to fellow photog Mike Yoshida for letting me crash in his room.
Day two started out the same, but with riders already dialed, the sessions picked up early and pretty heavy clips were logged before noon. The rumor from the night before also came to fruition. A few big names were stuck in Salt Lake City due to the mudslides, and with the short weather window, there wasn’t much wiggle room. Red Gerard, Sam Taxwood, Hailey Langland, Annika Morgan, Todd Richards, Chris Grenier, Stan Levielle, and a handful of others were actually dropped off at Peace Park via helicopter, and made such good time that they even beat a some of the riders staying in the hotel at the bottom of the tram. Red, Sam, and Hailey immediately joined in on the sessions and the standard “best riders in the world on the the best park in the world” stuff went down.
The next three days were a mix of flat light and perfect sun. Plenty of rumors of more road closures circled, Reid Smith graduated from college and left the contest early to make his graduation, and Arthur Longo boardslid his first rail in awhile. The huge mix of riders from all walks of snowboarding rode, partied, and ate together, thanks to some solid catering at the hotel. And to be honest, it was all I was hoping for out of one of the last major contest I had to cross off my attendance sheet. I jotted down some notes, like Kaishu Hirano going huge in the quarter, Raibu Katayama hitting everything with a smile, Elena Hight and Queralt Castellet trading hits all over the transitions, and some lessons that other events could learn from. Here are my findings.
– Every contest needs a method award. It looks good, it looks like it feels good, and who doesn’t love a good method? We should just quit the games and add a prize for best method at every event where people strap into a snowboard. It doesn’t matter what it is for, just let it become a standard at every and all snowboard events. Maybe same should go for handplants. Fans love it, photogs love it…everyone wants to see them, so let’s just put a price tag on it and call it a day.
-Always follow Scott Blum. Don’t have the proper credential? Just follow Scott. He will either get you into wherever you are going–or you will end up at someplace better.
– Live music is NOT NEEDED. Sure, it might bring a bigger crowd and it can definitely be a huge plus, but we all saw the awkward Yung Gravy performance at X Games this past year. Peace Park had no live music performances, and only one awkward music-related moment where a DJ at dinner was playing it slightly too loud to hear anyone talking. Overall, big win. Big shout out to Annika Morgan for DJing post-dinner parties with the expertise that only she could bring.
– Have a road closure rumor. Actual road closures probably aren’t good for business, but it is pretty funny to see people freak out about being “stuck” at a bougie place for one night that they were already planning on staying at for four. It also adds to the intensity that people will use as an excuse to party, which will lead to a solid hangover…but who cares, you are stuck.
– Good food keeps riders as happy as good weather. People complain a lot less about the weather if they are looking forward to a good meal or just had a good meal. Lamb shanks are a good option to shut up meateaters, while bruschetta seemed to be a popular choice for vegetarians.
– Fly a few athletes in on a helicopter. Nothing like setting up a hierarchy by flying in some VIPs to make everyone stay on their toes. To be fair, that is not what happened at Peace Park, but that would be quite the move for riders looking to intimidate the field at say…a regional rail jam in Michigan?
-Hot tub limits don’t exist.
That is about it! The riding and atmosphere lived up to the hype, Danny Davis and the crew behind the Peace Park Championships pulled off another one without a hitch, and the food at Snowbird is pretty good! Anna Gasser and Raibu Katayama won the overall award for the week of riding. Elena Hight and Kaishu Hirano took home the best methods, and Danny Davis, Queralt Castellet, Cocomo Murase, and Jake Canter took home the Flow and Charging awards, respectively. Video edits will be dropping soon, but for now, these photos are all you got! See you at next year’s Peace Park hopefully!