Here's a roundup of ski-slope events and contests for the young and the restless this winter around Western Washington.
Forget the spandex. De-tune the edges. Race wax isn’t necessary. A helmet? OK, that’s probably still a good idea.
If you want to see the future of winter sports this year, avoid the Vancouver crowds and take a long look at the peaks in your own backyard. While the International Olympic Committee hype machine is running full blast just over the border, local ski areas have a blizzard of snowboarding and freeskiing events that are focused on fun, not politics.
Hometown heroes, blue-collar weekend warriors, little kids and, yes, the occasional Olympian, all show up for a shot at grassroots glory and grilled hot dogs.
Krush Kulesza, youth marketing director and events guru at The Summit at Snoqualmie, is leading the charge — or at least encouraging it — with a full lineup of events that inspire creativity and community. From the Downtown Throwdown in Seattle’s Pioneer Square to the Greenhorn Games at Summit Central, Kulesza knows a thing or two about grassroots gatherings.
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“For any event I would say stoked kids, progressive features, credible judges, loose guidelines and a good playlist are a must,” he said.
While the Olympics and X-Games freestyle contests typically focus on preplanned runs on a set course, many of the new vanguard offer riders an unstructured “jam-style” format, which more closely mirrors an actual park or freeride session with friends. At the end of a specified length of time, judges decide which riders performed the best — rewarding creativity and style over the choreographed spins and flips often focused on in larger, traditional contests.
“Events are fun, a gathering, a place to make friends and progress. Contests are negative, judgmental and stifle progression,” Kulesza said. “There are a lot of riders that the only event they will do all year is one of mine because it’s fun and doesn’t have all the figure skating, made-for-TV, I’m-better-than-you vibe.”
And this year, there’s a whole range of unconventional events in the Cascades for skiers and snowboarders of all ages and ability levels who are willing to push the boundaries.
• Open Season Rail Jam, Dec. 11, Stevens Pass.
Open to everyone, this rail event is a great way to start the season off with a bang and some bruises as you attempt all the tricks you forgot how to do over the summer. www.ridestevenspass.com
• Jib This!, Dec. 26, Summit Central
Setting the standard in early season jib events, Jib This! is open to snowboarders of all ages. It showcases The Summit park crew’s creativity with quirky features to slide, tap or launch over. Perfect for breaking in that new Christmas present. www.summitatsnoqualmie.com
• Cowboy Up Freeskiing Challenge, Jan. 29-31, Stevens Pass
No leather chaps needed as
kids ages 12 to 17 ride cliffs, trees and powder in this three-day competition on Cowboy Ridge at Stevens. www.ridestevenspass
• Greenhorn Games, Jan. 30, Summit Central
In its third year, the Greenhorn Games is a chance for snowboarders 13 and younger to ride smaller terrain features without the intimidation factor of the “older kids.” Registration is free, helmets are required and a parental signature is needed. Open to all levels, with tons of prizes.
“We get kids from all over the Northwest, and the genuine stoke of these kids is amazing,” says Kulesza. www.summitatsnoquamie.com
• Legendary Banked Slalom, Feb. 5-7, Mount Baker Ski Area
Famous pro riders and locals of all ages are treated to heaping spoonfuls of humble pie at the longest-running snowboard contest in the world. Come out and have your legs turn to jelly as you carve your way down a natural gully for a shot at the famous duct-tape trophy. To enter, put your name in the lottery at www.mtbaker.us.
• North Face Masters of Snowboarding, Feb. 9-12, Crystal Mountain
Big mountain snowboarders will be pointing it down sketchy chutes and big cliffs in this tribute to white-knuckle freeriding. www.northfacemasters.com
• Holy Oly Revival, Feb. 20, Summit East
You might say they’re hoping for a landslide victory this year as the popular freestyle gathering moves back to Summit East, even if lifts still aren’t running. Following last year’s lift tower-toppling earth displacement, the 2010 Holy Oly will feature a huge quarterpipe, live music and some of the best snowboarders to ever come out of the Cascades — all in the shadow of the iconic “Oly” water tower.
“I wanted to create an event that gave a nod to all the amazing Northwest riders of past, present and future,” Kulesza said. Watch pro riders and local kids boost huge tricks out of the quarterpipe while you enjoy a grilled hot dog and cold beverage. www.summitatsnoqualmie.com
• Silver King Freeride, March 3-7, Crystal Mountain
Big lines and steep spines at Crystal Mountain’s premier freeride competition for skiers and snowboarders. www.mountainchallenge.org
• Ride Shakedown, March 12-13, Summit West
This one’s kind of a big deal. Expect big-name snowboard pros and top-shelf prize money for this big-air and rail competition at Summit West. Running for years in Quebec, this is the Ride Shakedown’s inaugural south-of-the-border run. “It’s a large scale event that still has its roots,” said Kulesza. www.summitatsnoqualmie.com
• Strapless Weekend, March 27-28, Hurricane Ridge
If bindings are feeling a little confining, head out to the Olympic Peninsula for a weekend of snowskate events. From a powder downhill and park jam to a snowskate banked slalom, the laid-back event is a chance for everyone to compete in the Olympics — mountain range, that is. Call North by Northwest Surf in Port Angeles at 360-452-5144 for more info.
• Hoedown Throwdown Slopestyle, April 11, Stevens Pass
All ages late-season freestyle event with lots of prizes and cash, and hopefully, some sunshine. www.ridestevenspass.com
• Kinko De Mayo, May 1, Summit West
Things get kinky toward the end of the season with this spicy rail contest. www.summitatsnoqualmie.com
Be sure to check your local mountain for up-to-date listings and more information, and be aware that weather can affect event times and locations.
John Kinmonth is a snowboarding freelance writer who lives in Seattle. Contact him at email@example.com.