Today, January 17, 2011 was the Martin Luther King Jr. Local's Qualifier for this year's Legendary Banked Slalom at Mount Baker Ski Area. The last few days have been pretty wet and in a bad way. It has been really warm and rainy up on the Mountain and I was half expecting to need a snorkel to ride. I carpooled up to the hill with my friends Brandon and Maggie in his Subaru station-wagon. I arranged the ride last night after not being able to confirm one with some other people over the course of the evening. Thankfully he was willing and able to come and swoop me up from my house even though they both live on the other side of town.
Brandon and Maggie arrived at my house at about 730 and we made the trek up to the mountain with two stops on the way. The first one was at Maple Fuels so they could get some breakfast and gas. I highly recommend calling ahead if you plan on grabbing a sandwich on your way. They make a pretty mean breakfast croissant. I like to get sausage, egg, pepper-jack, green peppers, and onion. I snagged a Clif Bar and some juice. Since I have quit drinking I don't buy beer but it is a good stop to grab yourself a sixer of tallboys if you want to save some cash on beer at the lodge. If you do plan on drinking in the parking lot, which is illegal and you could get a fine if the troopers and park police catch you, the law is that you must be inside your vehicle. Remember: keys out of the ignition! The second stop was to drop Maggie's little dog off at a friend's house in Glacier.
We got to the parking lot at White Salmon Lodge at approximately 9. Brandon and I went up to the third floor to sign the necessary paperwork (waivers). We were both given our bibs that were to be taped to our front leg and headed back to the lot to get on our gear. Once suited up we hopped on Chair 7 and rode down to Chair 5. The course is set-up in the Natural Halfpipe with red gates on the right bank and blue gates on the left. All of the riders were allowed to side-slip the course one time prior to the event beginning of the race. Brandon had signed up for the Pro Men category and I the Older Amateurs. The Pro Men raced at 1050 and Older Ams were supposed to begin at 1230, which meant after we slipped the course we had some time to kill.
We decided that we were going to take some turns in the meantime so we headed back up Chair 5 and rode back down Sam's Ridge to a fun descent through the trees. The snow was pretty soft and there were some open spots with water rushing below the snowpack. It was a little bit disconcerting, but all in all still a lot of fun. Once we got to the bottom of the run we went over and took some runs down Chair 6 in the trees in an area called "Hidden Wave". I'd tell you exactly where that is, but that takes the fun out of the name "Hidden." The snow was still pretty fun and there was a lot of the hill that had some untouched terrain and good-ish powder.
Brandon made it up to the start of the course in time to watch some of the other guys take their runs and see what was and was not working. We waited around for a bit before deciding to take a couple more laps to keep our legs warm. Brandon was the second to last racer in his group which meant we were all hanging around and cheering on the other riders for quite sometime. It was a lot of fun to watch on as the other guys were trying to stay on the course and make their way down to the finish. Maggie and I moved down the side of the course to watch as he left the gate and she was able to set up to take a photo as he rode the course. Brandon did really well and made every gate in pretty good time.
There were a lot of categories that went before I was able to go. I saw a bunch of friends and was able to root them on from the sidelines! After Brandon's run we took a little break and I got a cup of coffee in the lodge. I met up with a couple friends that were up to cheer me and the other riders on and we hung out while I thawed out and let my gear dry from the rain/sleet/snow. It wasn't as miserable as I was expecting, but was still pretty wet.
I took a couple more runs before heading up to the start area while the youngsters and the ladies took their runs. I was able to get my legs warm again and had a lot of fun pushing the snow around the mountain. I made it up to the start and since there had been some delays for the patrol to smooth out the course I had a bit of time to stand around and wait for my turn.
The first time that I tried to race the qualifier two years ago I had been drinking beers and smoking some greens the whole day. As you can probably assume I didn't do that well. I finished the course and didn't miss any gates but I came in DFL. I think it was not only due to the substances that I had taken in, but also because I was pretty new to the sport. This time was a bit different. The course was a lot less icy, however as the day went on the temperature had been dropping and the snow was falling a lot more than in the morning. I have been feeling pretty good about my riding ability since quitting the booze and herbs which played out rather nicely. I was really in tune with my body and breathing. I stayed low, powered through the rutted turns, and made it through every gate. This is my run:
Overall the day was a success, but since Brandon had to be at work by 5 we took off before the awards. I don't know exactly how I did in the very large and competitive division that I had signed up for. It is pretty tough to figure based on the amount of guys that have been riding for two to three times as many years and in the age group of 20-29. Next year I will be able to race in the Masters or Pro Masters division. I think I will shoot for the Pro Masters. As for now I will be checking the Mt. Baker website to see how I did over the next few days. If you raced today or know someone that did you can also see the results when they are posted. I am not super competitive when it comes right down to it but this event was a lot of fun and there was definitely a lot of cheering and camaraderie for all of the racers. I love the vibes at Baker!
Great job to all the people that showed up to race today. Thanks to all the friends that didn't race but were still present to cheer on the homeys! A huge thanks to all of the people that made the course and maintained it during the day!
I am always looking for new and interesting perspectives on Snowboarding, Skateboarding, Rock Climbing, Action Sports, and Marketing. Along with those topics some related issues that interest me are Sustainable Marketing and bridging the gap between the growing nature of businesses and the goal of enhancing the current sports industry business model to a healthier design for all!