Smash Life! Banked Slalom at Alpental
The goal for racers at the Smash Life! Banked Slalom at Alpental this past Saturday was simple: shred fast, cross the finish line, have fun and give a holler toward the heavens for A-Rob.
Last July, professional snowboarder and Montana native Aaron Robinson, 24, passed away in a snowboarding accident in Chile, and sadness and shock choked the snowboard community, especially here in the Pacific Northwest. A-Rob had been more than a talented athlete carrying the banner for shred companies. He’d been an inspirational light; an orb of positive energy chasing winter and believing that snowboarding was more than just banger video parts, but a journey of made-friendships, wild experiences, of sending it through life. “Smash life,” he’d say.
So, it was in that spirit that we, 150 racers both young and old, gathered to pay homage to the young ripper’s life and legacy in the form a charity banked slalom. The proceeds will benefit A-Rob’s Plant a Seed Foundation, set up to fulfill his dream of helping underprivileged kids learn to shred.
Before the race got under way, we stood atop of the course in the pelting snow and listened to the mantra of the day: “Snowboarding first. Racing second. Love always!” The banner whipping in the wind read: “A-Rob is my life coach.”
The vibe of the race was laidback in true Aaron style. The jam-style format pitted everyone against everyone; no divisions, no stress. Thanks to a healthy storm that had pummeled the Northwest the week before, the tail-end of which was dropping on us now, the Summit crew had the goods to carve out a beast of a course staged on Alpental’s notoriously rugged terrain. But the pow would make things difficult. The unpolished course snaked tightly through fast but choppy corners that either wrecked speed or sent riders jettisoning off into the clutches of sticky pow at its banks. Winding down through the trees, it shot through a flat section, with the last s-turns reaching the ridgeline where the hill drops away with the ski lift.
The low visibility didn’t help. My goal was simply to hang on. With knees bent, body low, eyes straining to make out the near-singletrack line, that’s all you could do. That, and point it and hope you were somehow on course. I shot off into the pow only once. For that, I was proud. Unlike the smooth, swooping course of the Baker Banked Slalom, this was a wild-west of ride on a mountain where a gritty, old-school attitude is needed to stand up to the uncompromising terrain.
Still, there was no denying the child-like excitement resonating in the field. To on-lookers it was likely muffled by the storm. But this storm had brought feet of powder. And in between race runs, we took off to slash some of it out for our own on the upper mountain.
By 5:00 the body was wrecked, the lust for pow was quenched and the awards ceremony had started. Thadius Hukari took men’s with a time of 53:53, and Robyn Borneman topped women’s with 1:00:14. Then, “Manifest” was played.
Before his death, Aaron had started filming a movie, originally titled “Of Life and Love.” His goal was to capture the raw experiences of a pro snowboarder’s life in the making. In the wake of his death, his friends picked up and completed the project down in Chile in his honor. Now titled “Manifest,” the film is a collection of footage capturing Aaron’s effortless style as he makes a playground of endless pow, massive lines, and shares good times with friends. The film is throwback to older snowboard videos when riders weren’t powered by energy drinks. In it, Aaron’s smile is alive. Today, the title is more profound. It speaks to the way Aaron’s passion for life and for snowboarding has truly taken over the scene, and reached the hearts of shredders everywhere.
Aaron Robinson 1986-2011.
(Click for the full movie)