Dave Sypniewski always says, “Teams in snowboarding are stupid.”
There is no World Series, Superbowl, or Olympic Medal that names the best team of competitors in snowboarding. We never know which board, boot, or clothing company took home the greatest number of podium finishes for the Grand Prix, the Vans Triple Crown, or even the U.S. Open. Who really cares?
Snowboarding teams are created out of the necessity for sponsoring companies to attach their product to the personality, individualism, and skill riders possess. That personality, individualism, and skill puts all snowboarders on a “team.”
The Team Challenge isn’t so much about who the best team is in snowboarding as it is an excuse to bring more than 100 of the best professional snowboarders together for a photo shoot—photos and video footage—the most important aspect of freestyle snowboarding.
So, on a typical Snow Summit, Southern California day, nineteen teams—Airwalk, Burton, Elan, Forum, Joyride, K2, M3, MLY, Morrow, Nidecker, Nitro, Option, Ride, Rossignol, Salomon, Santa Cruz, Sims, World Industries, and defending champs Atlantis—”battled” it out on a slopestyle course of rails, hips, and hits to become the best team in snowboarding.
* * *The rules seem simple enough: the Challenge is open to teams from board companies only; the teams are made up of three riders and one alternate; each rider takes one run through the course; seven judges are stationed at key points along the course; riders are scored individually, and their point total is added to their teammates’ points to decide the overall winner. The winning team gets bragging rights for the year, their names engraved on the Team Challenge trophies (one on display in Snow Summit’s Boarders’ Lounge and the other on display in their sponsor’s office), and this year Summit kicked in a Palm Springs golf-with-a-pro weekend for each of the winning team’s riders.
The Snow Summit park staff spent Tuesday, February 29 fine-tuning the course while riders, team managers, photographers, and video crews rolled in from all over the globe. The week prior to the Team Challenge, was the Nippon Open was held in Japan. A lot of teams jumped on flights from Japan right after that contest, flew into Los Angeles, hopped in a van, and drove straight up to Big Bear Lake.
Quite a few big-name guys rode the park that day, which made a lot of starstruck Summit-goers pretty happy. Two kids decked out in Forum gear argued with each other for ten minutes about whether or not the guy they’d been following through the park was really Jeremy Jones. After they couldn’t stand it any longer, they asked Snow Summit Director of Snowboarding Chris Gunnarson if it was in fact Jeremy. Gunny confirmed their suspicions, making them so excited they practically knocked each other down as they ran off to tell their friends. One teenage girl was so flustered at seeing Kurt Wastell in the flesh that she begged her little brother to ask for an autograph because she couldn’t muster up the courage to look him in the eye, much less speak to him. It’s one thing to see Erik and B.J. Leines, Joni Makinen, and Gian Simmen in a video, in a mag, or on TV—it’s a totally different ball game to sit on a chairlift with them, have them talk to you, and see them ride in person.
Every night after the resort closes down, Gunny and his crew really go to work. They spend their evenings grooming and rebuilding what was destroyed during the days riding so the mountain will be back to normal in the morning. Gunny spends a lot of this time in a snowcat making sure each jump’s takeoff, landing, and run out will allow all riders that visit Summit to push their limits. (See Gunslinger sidebar.) The only difference for the night before the contest was that the riders who would be pushing it tomorrow have limits most of us only dream about. It even snowed a little bit Tuesday evening, causing some people to worry about the conditions for the contest on Wednesday.
While Gunny and his crew were hard at work, most of the weary travelers hit the hay early, but a few of us hung out in the hotel’s bar and listened to Travis Parker and TransWorld Senior Photographer Embry Rucker tell some pretty stupid jokes.
Travis: Knock, knock.
Embry: Who’s there?
Embry: Orange who?
Travis: Orange you glad I didn’t say banana.
Things began to deteriorate even more when Dragon’s Team Manager Brian Harris decided to demonstrate his skill and uncanny aim while shooting popcorn from his right nostril. Bobby Meeks one-upped him and began shooting cocktail olives from his nose. It was definitely time for the rest of us to go to sleep.
Wednesday morning began with crystal-clear skies and 50-degree temperatures. As the remaining teams checked in, the photographers and riders sessioned the park. Once everyone had warmed up, the judges took their places, and the run was cleared, all the riders waited at the top of the course. Paavo Tikkanen hit the course first, with Dave Downing set to go second. Dave’s team manager, Blotto, asked him if he was sure he wanted to go—if he didn’t, fellow team rider Tyler DeWilde could take his place. Dave said he felt good, but if Tyler was feeling on fire he’d let him go. Blotto replied, “Nope,” and Dave boardslid to 180 out off the top rail and disappeared down the course. Maybe teams in snowboarding are stupid, but sportsmanship and teamwork isn’t.
In the end, the World Industries team posted the highest overall score with Kurt Wastell, Jordan Mendenhall, and Jon Kramer scoring 58, 52, and 46 respectively. M3’s Chad Otterstrom had the highest individual score of 63 points, with Morrow’s Todd Richards second at 59 points. The M3 team of Chad, Blaise Rosenthal, and Mikey LeBlanc were only one tiny little point behind World’s overall score, and Morrow’s Todd, Billy Anderson, and Tyler LePore ended up third, off by just four points.
For two years in a row there’s been a surprise team winner—last year’s Bobi Rey, Josh LeVine, and Patrick Karlsson from Atlantis, and this year’s Kurt, Jordan, and Jon from World. Next year should be even better. In the meantime, here are some of the best images from the 2000 Team Challenge. We’re sure you’ll see more in upcoming issues, company advertisements, and just about everyone’s video.
If you’d like to check out some of our video footage or see the story that appeared on transworldsnowboarding.com, go to: transworldsnowboarding.com/video/team_challenge.html and transworldsnowboarding.com/team_challenge.html.
For more information on Snow Summit go to: snowsummit.com or call (909) 866-5766.
For lodging in Big Bear Lakes contact the Northwoods Resort: northwoodsresort.com or telephone (909) 866-3121.