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Historic slalom snowboarding contest steeped in tradition

The Legendary Banked Slalom is taking place this weekend at Mt. Baker Ski Area in Washington and it’s in its 30th year.

Snowboarders navigate a super tight course with a very narrow margin for error. They weave through gates while speeding downhill, occasionally getting tripped up by holes, bumps and other course obstacles.

It’s been held at Mt. Baker Ski Area for 30 years because when it started in 1985, it was one of the few resorts that allowed snowboarders.

The event was originally planned for the end of 2015 but low snowfall forced race organizers to postpone it until this weekend.

Banked Slalom
One wrong move on the course and the whole run can be a wash.
In a video celebrating the historic race’s 30th year, snowboarders discuss the importance of the event.

One competitor said he wakes up in August stressing about the event and is haunted by mistakes for months after the competition.

Another said the contest is all about getting back to basics.

“I think Pat Bridges said it, ‘turning was the first trick in snowboarding and the second was steering and speed’ so we’re just practicing the oldest tricks right now,” a rider said in the video.

The event draws snowboarders from all over the globe and includes big name riders like Terje Håkonsen and Xavier de la Rue.

banked slalom duct tape
Competitors duct tape their bibs onto the front of their leg.
The contest is steeped in tradition, with rituals that have lasted decades and a course that continually brings riders back.

After the race, everyone gathers for a giant barbecue, called the “Baked Salmon at the Banked Slalom.”

The fastest finisher in both the men and women categories takes home the duct tape awards, a nod to the bibs riders wear duct-taped to the leg of their pants.

Saturday is the Legends Day and the finals take place on Sunday.

TRANSWORLD SNOWBOARDING detailed the event’s evolution over the decades.

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