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Sun Soaks the Sixteenth Slalom
Haakonsen and Jealouse Take It

  • Preview: The Legend Turns 16

    This was almost the final Mount Baker Legendary Banked Slalom. Last year a storm blasted the area with high winds and three feet of snow, forcing patrol to close the ski area to the public (for the first time since 1968) due to excessive avalanche danger inbounds. The race went on, but contestants had to hike up to chair 5 and only had one stab at the course. When it was all over, organizers Gwyn and Amy Howat decided that if three days of sunny, perfect weather ever blessed this race, it would have to be the last race. Because how could it get any better? It couldn't.

    "You just have to let the course take you and hang on...."— Victoria Jealouse, Women's Pro Winner

    But at the awards ceremony, before four-time winner Terje Haakonsen (NOR) and first-time racer Victoria Jealouse (CAN) were presented with the golden duct tape awards, customized Carhart jackets and Native American artwork by Shaun Peterson, Gwyn confessed that her bluff had been called. The race must go on.

    This was good news to everyone in the standing-room-only crowd, many of whom will come back next year to try to take another stab at winning some duct tape and the pride that comes with taking 1st in the coolest snowboarding race ever.

    Winners weren't announced until well after the last racers had crossed the line, but anyone who watched Jealouse's and Haakonsen's last runs could tell they were the smoothest and the fastest. Racers who try some type of strategy in this race often end up frustrated.

    "You just have to let the course take you and hang on," said Jealouse, a Burton team member who had dismissed everyone's predictions she would win. "You just never know until it happens."

    Fellow Burton rider, and Kelowna, B.C. native, Karleen Jeffrey, who won her record-breaking sixth Banked Slalom last year, had some problems today and walked away with 4th place. But she didn't seem to mind. "The pressure was getting to me after a while," Jeffery said. "People where heckling me on the course, throwing snowballs at me and saying that my board looks really slow."

    Haakonsen, characteristically stoic, didn't seem surprised, or even particularly excited with this, his fourth Banked Slalom victory. When asked to describe what's so special about this race – one of the few events he attends – he replied only that "It's the most beautiful race."

    Rob Morrow (yeah, that Morrow) took 2nd in the pro men's division, followed by Temple Cummins (whose brother Matt and father Joe also raced). Temple's special friend Barrett Christy took 2nd for the pro women, followed by Jennie Waara, the Swede now living in Seattle with her special friend, Mike Ranquet (whose fractured foot kept him out of the race).

    Andy Johnson, who brought 225 pounds of salmon down from Alaska with him for Friday's Banked Slalom Baked Salmon party, won the older amateur men's category. With 44 finalists, this was the largest division. Jason Speer out of Bellingham, WA, took the young amateur men's division for the second consecutive year and 15-year-old Seattle grrrl Stacy Thomas won the amateur women's division - a category that has almost doubled in entrants over the past three years.

    Canuck Garry Pendygrasse won the master's division by almost a full second and Bruce Smith of Sun Valley, ID, won the grand master's. In the junior's division, 14-year-old Mathieu Crepel, here from France, won it. He took 2nd last year and said "it's really good" that he won this time. He'll be back next year but says it'll be a while before he's racing pro. Most eyes were on 13-year-old Shaun White of San Diego, CA, who's been making his mark on contests across the country, and took 3rd today.

    And in the next generation wee groms division, 10-year-old Nicky Larson from Golden, CO, hefted the golden duct tape award and his snowboard high up in the air to accept his throne. A star is born.

    As Baker's terrain just continues churning out better and better riders, no one should get too used to their titles at this race. (Luckily none of those young fresh fellows and ladies will have their brains warped at the nightly Banked Slalom must-be-21 parties.) This year's festivities were brought to us by Vans, Red Bull, and the much-loved local burrito joint, Casa Que Pasa. Hundreds of revelers were kept warm and entertained by a huge bonfire and a halfpipe session by seasoned pros and one seasoned poultry, a belligerent local known as "chicken boy," who repeatedly dropped into the pipe but never made it to the opposite lip.

    Friday's musical guests, My Friends and I, Midget Money and members of local faves, Critters Buggin', didn't cause nearly as much commotion as Saturday's appearance by Dave Lee's band Vera, followed by punk-rockers Portrait of Poverty and fire eater Daniel Edwards. One fan put it best when he said, "Happy music makes me angry. Angry music makes me happy." This sentiment was shared by a bloody-nosed mosher who didn't know the name of the band, but said they were good enough to bleed for.

    Everything went off without a hitch, aside from one rouge VW van with a failed e-brake that careened downhill during Friday's party towards hundreds of parked cars, somehow striking only one. All in all, a relatively small price to pay for three sunny days at Mount Baker with Mount Shuksan in full view and riders making new legends on the banks of the Legendary Banked Slalom.

    Mary Catherine O'Connor, Staff