This is the Baldy Banked Slalom
As snowboarders we live for events like the Baldy Banked Slalom that remind each and every one of us where the soul of snowboarding lives and where it always has. This event is an ode to the roots of snowboarding, reaffirmation of its disregard for the mainstream, but most of all one of the best days of the entire season getting together and shredding an awesome, wild course with our best friends.
Back in the early eighties, long before snowboarding was a twinkle in the eye of competition and probably thought of as mere fad, it really didn’t have an official event to call its own. If you trace the roots of contest riding back, you will NOT find perfectly manicured half-pipes, or perfectly measured jumps, or a judges score sheet, actually you will find the opposite. You will find the most imperfect perfection – you will find courses with banked snow berms as gnarly as you can get with turns meant at any moment to hurl whomever rides it over the edge and out of the race… you will find ice, and rutted out banks meant to catch the heels or toes of the rider and put him and his hopes on the ground. You will find style, or lack of style – the nastiest looking saves, and the most beautiful looking turns hand-on-the-snow chest-inches-from-the-ground beauty. Some say it is surfing a roller coaster, some say like skateboarding a cobblestone sidewalk. We call it the Baldy Banked Slalom and to us it is pure and beautiful. The most important thing about banked slalom it is doing it faster than the friend next to you – likely with a beer, smoked salmon and hot soup mixing around in your belly. Banked slalom is in the DNA of snowboarding – and always will be. That is why we do it here and why we can ignore the mainstream.
The Baldy Banked Slalom is becoming a staple here in the Valley, and finally starting to grow. It may be due to the recent birthing of at least five or six other banked slaloms taking place within a stones throw of Sun Valley, but it is mostly due to the fact that banked slaloms really are that fun.
The BBS typically starts out with the traditional wax party at the Mountain Approach headquarters (above). Folks show up to catch up over beers, talk shop, secretly spice their boards, and register early. The core of Sun Valleys snowboarder were there. The night gets everyone together to hang out, under one roof under a hundred of the coolest historical snowboard pieces, to get stoked on the next day. It can now be considered a BBS tradition and likely will always be.
The Day Of
The weather is always unpredictible. Some years, bright sunshine, others, full on snow storms. Regarless of the weather, the stoke level remains high. Of course along with music and the sound of familiar announcer voices, there were the usual rivalries and smack being talked in the start gate. Each year amyriad of riders that traveled from as far as Denver, Bend, Salt Lake, the East Coast, and of course the Boise crew grace the start list to build a worthy competitive crowd.
The Baldy Banked Slalom brings moments of glory and many moments of extreme heartaches – of sketchy fly-outs, and butt checked screams of frustration, always countered by screams of stoke. The the berms were a relentless and unforgiving minute and a half, but in the end everyone made that makes it down, panting, and always with a smile on their face is rearing for a high-five at the bottom.
Overall, the event is rad. It embodied the reason we all snowboard – the reason why there are cool people in snowboarding – not because of how perfect of an air you can do, or how many spins, or sponsors, but because the community of riders cheersing beers before runs, and reveling in the glory of making it to the bottom, and yelling at their buddies who flew over the berms and out of the race. I can bet you will not hear of this event on ESPN or NBC any time in the near future, and that is the way we like it. This is snowboarding. We will see you next year.