Bryce Phillips is easily one of the most influential figures in the Northwest snow-riding scene. Founder of Seattle’s evo ski and snowboard shop and online retailer, he’s played a vital role in fostering a vibrant snow-sports community, cultivated largely through his entrepreneurial spirit, core company values and passionate staff. Read more
Posts from the ‘contests’ Category
Seattle’s historic Occidental Park once again played host to the Downtown Throwdown on Saturday, marking the rail jam’s sixth year of inundating the city’s core with a spirited snowboard crowd. Grown from grassroots by Snowboy Productions into the region’s notorious kickoff event of the season, the DTTD is a spectacle of rail-riding’s finest young talent, all gunning for $10,000 in prize money. This year, the sun came out to play; Occupy Seattle protesters geared up for an evening march on the fringes; and the snowboarders threw down a display of riding so wicked the snow gods were surely pleased and will bring an awesome winter.
Locals watching the finals at the 2nd annual Ride Shakedown this past Saturday at the Summit-At-Snoqualmie may have had trouble glimpsing all the action. A strange ball of fire was glaring down through deep blue skies—typically elusive—while the riders themselves threw a blinding dose talent before the crowd of 5,000. The Shakedown, now a TTR World Snowboarding event, returned to the base of Summit West with its unique format: Big air-to-rail jam. The finals lasted 90 minutes, during which time riders were judged on three of their runs. Before each, they called out the tricks they’d deliver.
And deliver they did. Canadian Matts Kulisek, who took 2nd in the rail jam Friday night, snagged an early lead and eventually $15,000 with his stomped frontside 1260 off the 50-foot booter to switch 50/50 on the kink rail. No other tricks eclipsed it, though 14-year-old Japanese Ride team phenom Yuki Kadono’s cab 1260 to boardslide-to-fakie on the down rail came close. He earned $8,000. Clenching 3rd and $4,000 was Volcom’s Tyler Flanagan with Cab 900 to frontside boardslide on the kink rail.
The good vibes fueled by the sun and laid-back attitude of the NW, resonated through the mellow but enthusiastic crowd. The day was surely marked by Yuki’s performance in the wake of the recent Japanese tsunami. With the crowd erupting each time he stomped a trick and his family in attendance, Yuki committed to donating half of his winnings to the victims of the earthquake. Ride Snowboards matched spectator donations, bringing the total amount of the day to $6,200.
Ten riders in all made the finals cut, down from 34. All dudes; no ladies’s division this year. Nick Hyne and Nick Brown both brought the Kiwi spirit. Jeremy Cloutier, who took 7th in finals, also won the rail jam and $5,000 for his weekend of work. Scott See and Zachery Stone were among the other forces to be reckoned with. At times, riders dropped in in trains, throwing a dizzying array of tricks; several dialed methods were served up to the crowd; and more than a few gnarly crashes left many contenders for the Sandbox $500 biggest crash award (I was in the bar when that one was announced).
All in all, the Summit stop of the 10th anniversary Ride Shakedown was a welcome jolt of gnar so close you could slap it. Not to mention luxurious warmth and Vitamin D on the skin and, of course, shredding in the grand ole Cascades.
Next up: Holy Oly. Be there.
By Sunday afternoon, the wind had picked up again, making its way over the jagged peak of Mt. Shuskan and down onto the course of the 26th Legendary Banked Slalom at Mt. Baker. But the sun was finally out and the wind stayed mellow enough to not disrupt the festivities. Saturday, 92-mile-an-hour gusts had forced the lifts to a halt. If competitors wanted to finish their qualifying runs, they had to hike up to the top of the course, a mean feat to the legs before dropping into the natural halfpipe.
But nothing completely disrupts the LBS. Not lack of snow (though they finally got 7 inches the night before finals); not wind (the ravens were out circling again); not the passage of time. The “legendary” in the name speaks to the presence of this whole place, set deep in the mountains of Northern Washington, out of reach of time or ordinary life. It’s embodied in this shred-family tradition for which pros skirt their winter schedules to compete against locals defending their own titles—all for the glory symbolized in the duct-tape trophies. And for the fun.
It’s not hard to feel big when you’re here—though it’s not just the enormousness of the mountains that you’re in the presence of, but the past, present and future of snowboarding. But, because when you’re here, you’re a part of it all.
Baker’s Gwyn Howat said this year’s finals course may have been the best they’ve ever had: the perfect amount of the right kind of snow. The course was also split mid-track, giving riders a right and left option. And the riders, well: The Men’s Master’s category topped out at 80. Pros like Terje Haakonsen, Temple Cummins, Jamie Lynn, Josh Dirksen and Blair Habenicht found themselves bested by 17-year-old Colorado native Harry Kearney. Haakonsen won the switch race, again. And Canadian Olympic gold medalist and reigning champ Maelle Ricker won women’s pros with a broken arm. That’s how it goes at the LBS—all of it fueled by bbqed salmon, alcohol, great vibes… and the essence of the mountains.
Because that’s where it all started. Here, terrain takes precedent. It demands an element of humility, but also balls and a hardcore mentality that serves you when it’s just you and the massive arms of powder out there, some of it ready to break off in an instant.
In bounds, everyone points it and hauls ass (because typically there’s no need to watch out for other riders; the resort is a backyard mountain solely to small towns). But out of bounds, they dance, they carve, they flirt with Mother Nature, paying homage, but taking what they can. By afternoon, there’s not a contour untouched, not a steep untracked. And you wouldn’t know it if you saw them in the lodge—know that they just lost their minds in a field of pow. You can only imagine the feeling. Or get out and do it.
If you missed the Legendary Banked Slalom this year, make sure to come next year. Or the year after. It’ll still be going on, likely for another 26 years. And you’ll probably still see many of the same faces, though older and weathered from their rugged lifestyles. New heroes will hold up gold rolls of duct-tape, new legends will accept the Craig Kelly award. But the spirit will always remain, because it’s in the blowing snow, and all these folks—their hearts are surrendered to it.
Saturday morning the eagerness was swelling inside; the drive up felt like a home coming. I shot along the freeway out from the bawls of Seattle toward the mountains; Mt. Rainer blushed in pink far off to the south east. A cold, clear atmosphere, 22 degrees maybe?
I reached the exit to Summit West and made the left turn toward Alpental. Down at the end of this pot-holed mountain road lined by tall snowbanks, parked at Lot 4, is where I play most weekends during the winter—up amid the trees, along the peaks, in the powder-filled bowls.
Alpental and Summit Central joined the rest of the West’s mountains by revving up operations Friday. And yet, Saturday it was still quiet ’round here. That’s Alpental—a few old chairs, a few good folks, and, on Saturday, heaps and heaps of snow.
This second day of the season, it was already staggeringly magnificent. Never in the last several years have I seen the trees and peaks so caked in snow. Their winter burdens create a definitive majesty. The runs too, were covered with their share of the fortune. Sure, it was heavy at the bottom, but grew lighter and lighter the higher you went, until it was fluff and slashable, even in the shadows. Huge moguls obscured the runs, their valleys carved deep into the bowls, making each run a workout that called upon the deepest muscles. Early season legs seem so unresponsive and sloppy. But it’s fun, you know, carving and slashing, working for the reward.
I left the wonderland behind at Alpental after kneading the muscles down to mush and drove down the lane to Central to catch Rome SDS’s Premature Jibulation. It’s the first contest of the season here and one the many that Krush and his crew will bring to the Summit. Like many of the smaller ones, it was relaxed and saw array of mini and am shreds in neon throwing down in the jam format. It was enough to spark the stoke. The sun’s rays fueled the good vibes. We don’t get many bluebird days here.
For opening weekend you can’t do much better: Dumps at Alpental, a contest at Central and alpine-crisp blue skies to reveal the outlying beauty. It’s why we spend weekends here—the jib kids and us (older) Alpentalics.
It’s hard to reconcile the location of this winter playground—so close to the city, yet so far from its clutches. Just drive past blushing Mt. Rainer on a clear morning, zip along the 90, turn left, or right, at the pot-holed mountain road, park, gear up, breathe and grin. And then head out into the homecoming of the season.
La Nina must be on the horizon. It rained on this year’s Downtown Throwdown—a total indication that a gnarly season is on the way. Or… just a another fall day in Washington. But the drizzle-turned-misty flurry-turned heavy rain hardly put a damper on lively spirits as the core snowboard community huddled in Seattle’s Pioneer Square (in ponchos) sideline of the rail jam, put on by Snowboy Productions. The grassroots contest has become the customary kickoff event for the upcoming season the last five years, and this year it held true to that with insane snowriding serving as a rallying cry to beckon—or challenge—the snow gods.
Amid the rustic brick buildings and tarnished statues of old-town’s Occidental Park, the riders threw down despite the soggy conditions—and slick rails. The always-creative course this year consisted of a barrel stack below the two drop-in rails, concluding with the ever-popular wall-rides. The cohort of riders used said jibbery to demonstrate the future of urban shredding. Local “Hiro” Austin Hironaka used those walls to display his reputed ultra smooth style, launching channel gaps between the two. His local comrade, Austin Sweetin, seemed everywhere at once with tricks, atop each obstacle so quickly, the crowd could hardly keep him in focus. And self-declared (as he did standing atop the towering drop-in, smiling down at the crowd) single-and-ready-to-mingle Johnny Lazzareschi probably did go home with a date on each arm thanks to his luminous energy and stomped tricks trailing 4, 5 descriptions in one. He did indeed go home with the surprise Zumiez Destroyer Award: a thousand bones and a shiny new angle grinder. All together, $8,000 were up for grabs.
A northwest icon in his own right, the hilarious Jesse Burtner on the mic lovelingly taunted the riders with the elusive 540. Still, every combination of spin, directional stance, press and switch beneath it dazzled the crowd, who let it be known when they appreciated what they saw. The barrels offered an avenue for some unprecedented maneuvers. Nick Visconti revved up the cheers with his with one-footed fastplants in neon boots across the top. And Scott Stevens elicited collective gasps with his handsprings up and over the barrel stack, so graceful and so deserving of his $2000 second-place prize.
Forest Bailey, a name well-known by now in these parts, consistently stoked out the crowd with his multi-combo trick lines on his signature Park Pickle. He’s now $1000 richer, having garnered 3rd place. Basically, no rider disappointed and everyone’s unique style brought a complementary mix of trickery. Jack Kuzyk was so determined to impress, he seemed to almost forget that he was in a jam. The judges didn’t; they awarded him fourth place and $750.
Roosted up in the judging tower were snowboarders by the names of Sean Genovese, Zac Marben, Pat Milbery, and Darrell Mathis. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? They used their shred wisdom to decide that Ryan Paul had impressed over all with his dialed-in consistency. He won $3,000.
But the one to impress this writer most? Female phenom Jess Kimura. That chick—the only to enter this contest— is tough, talented and so damn smooth, she gives the guys a run for their steeze. She’s on posters and in shred films, and stuff. Badass.
Decorating the outer rim of the 5th Annual DTTD were the sponsor tents, with a healthy showing of local companies: Lib Tech, Jones Soda and Zumiez. Within its boundaries the jibbery that went down was so hot, the rain couldn’t put a chill on the good vibes circulating. Thanks to Snowboy Productions, Seattle got a little pre-season taste of the coveted white stuff. Here’s to hoping La Nina makes good on her promise to give us a big heaping of it.
The inaugural U.S. stop of the Quebexican Ride Shakedown went down this past weekend at Summit West. And, while not a Northwest-bred contest (which was apparent by the unfamiliar flat voice replacing Jesse Burtner’s hilarity over the mic), the Northwest welcomed the contest with a generous dumping of snowfall, which has been elusive most of this winter. Unfortunately, after a morning tease of a peek-a-boo sun, the flurries came during the (3-hour) semi-finals making for tough start to an already uniquely challenging contest: Big air-to-rail jam. But with $35,000 up for grabs, riders did their best with the sticky snow and sketchy landing.
The two-day event saw a rail jam Friday night and a packed day Saturday that was supposed to include a skateboard half-time show and see 16 men and five women compete in the jam-style finals with a night-time party vibe. Eric and I didn’t catch the rail jam; we rode Central park Friday night. But it was again Austin Hironaka who garnered first place–following his Holy Oly crowning–as the rail jam champ, going home with$5,000. Izzy Lalive reined as queen of the fancy-footers, scoring a check for $3,000.
Saturday, after a bluebird Alpental sesh, we arrived at West to the snow showers putting a damper on the semi-finals. The skateboard “half-time show” (is this foozball?) was canceled due to the mositure laden rails–probably a good thing. The interim time allowed spectators the chance to warm the fingers and toes inside the lodge before the finals kicked off.
As the cloak of darkness wrapped itself about the mountain, the skies opened up to a beautiful winter night and the finals–and with them loyal and undeniable excitement–filled the close-knit crowd tucked in and around the setup. Friends and family cheered on the likes of Eman Anderson, Alex Cantin, Austin Hironaka and Forrest Bailey, Hana Beaman and Megan Whiteside. And the riders turned what could have been an anti-climatic grande finale (in the wake of all the hype) into an expo that actually got the crowd pumped and ready to party.
The riders had an hour to throw down. But only two of their runs (they determined which) would be judged, and before those runs, they were to call out the trick. Unfortunately the weather conditions made the run-in incredibly slow and many hardly made it past the landing’s knuckle which was some 50 feet from the lip. More crashes ensued than landings. But while in the air…the riders and their tricks were impressive–some double corks came down; still none of them were stomped.
The jibbery at the bottom forced the riders to draw on their urban skill set as well. The above stacked cable spools were a crowd pleaser, and is what Hironaka employeed to win the rail jam. In the judge’s booth sat Peter Line and Pat McCarthy, scrutinizing over tricks, or, more likely, imbibing hill sodies. It was a relaxed scene as the Northwest calls for, but out-of-town riders were all too aware that the conditions were also customary Northwest, and home-court advantage played into the podium results–at least for the girls, as local rider Megan Ginter walked away with the women’s top prize of $5,000. Matts Kulisek took first for men’s and is now $12,000 richer. He had tough competition with Manual Diaz, a Chilean am who earned his way into the finals and all the way up to second place. Eman Anderson took 3rd for men’s, and Hana Beaman and Megan Whiteside went 2nd and 3rd, respectively, for the ladies.
The long-awaited, “biggest” contest of the year, bro, had finally gone off at our local hill. Did it put Summit-at-Snoqualimie on the map? Who knows. Some would say Krush did that long ago, but not with outside contests coming in and trying to promote the hell out of our little neck of the woods. He did it with building highly-anticipated, Northwest-grown, small-time-turned-big, backyard comps. But isn’t that the way the Northwest has always done it? DIY?
Now, who wants to ride?