The Snowboarding scene on the East Coast is full of diehards. A Family of misfits and buzzards all working towards the same goal. To have as much fun as possible and enjoy your time on your snowboard. The spring can only amplify this mentality. The weather starts getting brighter, the days a little warmer and the snow a little softer. The improved conditions always correlate to improved morale.
A host of awesome events stacked back to back every weekend for a month fuel the fire as well. What we are left with is what seems like an 8 week long party celebrating the things we love most. Every year we look back in satisfaction knowing that’s the best way to enjoy our home. With the gathering of friends and the execution of time honoured traditions.
It usually begins with one of the last “pow days” of the season. I’ll be real, the east coast doesn’t get the same kind of pow days as other destinations. But, when it hits, it can be all time if you know your terrain.
You can usually count on 1 or 2 good storms at the end of February beginning of March. It’s like clockwork. It’s like Mother Nature is scraping up what’s left of winter and throwing it all at you in one big pile. This last chance to ride big sweeping effortless carves usually gets everyone in a good mood. And as that pow turns to spring slush the crowd becomes ready for the last chapter of winter.
There are dozens of events with the same ideals and they always shuffle around dates. It’s different every year but there are 3 that count for the most fun in my book;
- Tyler Davis Hip Jam – Gunstock, NH
- Mike Baker Banked Slalom – Waterville Valley, NH
- Eastern Boarder’s Last Call – Loon Mtn, NH
The reason these stand out is mostly because none of them are defined by the term “Contest”. They are loosely organised and more focused on fun across the board. I don’t think the riding level suffers from this either, in fact I think it thrives.
This atmosphere attracts pros from all over the world to these events. So in turn they support the highest level of riding possible. X Games and Olympic medallists find themselves riding next to the local top dogs. They are all feeding off each other’s energy. Testing the limits of whatever set up there is in front of them.
The Tyler Davis Hip Jam
The Tyler Davis Hip Jam has been going strong for 4 years now. Sticking with the mentality it’s a loose jam style format Hip contest. This one is an extremely unique event, there is nothing like it.
A hip contest is probably the rarest form of snowboard contest. While it’s a lot like having a big air, the tricks somehow become more technical. So the type of riders it attracts are a different crowd altogether.
This event’s main purpose, as described by its creator Tyler, is to have a place “where progression happened, but it was more about having fun and having everybody show up”.
The crowd is always frothing for airtime when they drop the rope on the freshly tuned hip. He who sets the track, has a huge responsibility on their shoulders. This year it was Brendan Hart who stole everyone’s hearts with a massive double “Michalchuk” off the hip. Aside from that big hammer the event was full of creative lines and technical displays of edge control.
The Mike Baker Banked Slalom
Mike Baker has been hosting his event for the last 5 years, 3 of them with Waterville Valley NH. The most unique thing about his event is a gauntlet that forms half way down the course. This usually intensifies after everyone gets their first lap done (I assume this is out of respect for the actual race portion of this event).
When I say gauntlet what do you think of? Is it the space between two turns in the course which is littered with debris? Is it 20-30 people throwing everything from beer cans to logs and barrels at competitors? Is it carefully constructed walls of debris designed to stop racers in their tracks? Cause it’s all of those things.
The Mike Baker Banked Slalom is the pinnacle of gnarly when it comes to racing in the north east. The course is usually very tight and packed with features. This makes it interesting to ride if you make it through the gauntlet.
Eastern Boarder’s Last Call
Finally, Eastern Boarder’s Last Call is usually on a Monday mid March. It’s host to the biggest crowd of competitors for any jam style contest around. Going strong for Over 100 invited riders. They shred 3 different jam sessions on 3 separate courses or “sections” as they’re called.
Usually the first section is a Jump but there’s always something unique about it. Like a ¼ pipe side hit or a crooked take off. It might just have an insane amount of pop.
Next there’s a rail garden section. With each jam lasting 45 minutes and including the entire field of competitors, this section can get hectic. Not to mention that there are usually 10-15 features to hit in this section. It all makes for a tough one for the judges.
With boards flying everywhere and kinks being destroyed by the legends on hand, everyone is usually ready for lunch after this one. So the contest takes a quick pause and becomes a great big “grill and chill” session for about 45 minutes.
After, the last section (which varies but usually has something to do with Loon’s massive wall ride) will get underway. This is everyone’s last chance to impress the judges. Also to just generally enjoy the amazing set up that Loon builds for this every year.
I found myself just looking forward to riding the setup every time I competed because it’s so unique. You don’t get many chances to ride features like this all at once. Weather or not you are there for the snow sculptures, the view is amazing and the riding is always next level.
In the end with each of these contests there is a winner crowned and a bunch of prizes do get passed out. But that is a secondary reward for these competitors. Their true reward came through the riding and the comradery.
To have a snowboard community like this one which is dedicated to the good times and the easy living is more than a blessing. I know all of my closest friends who grew up with this lifestyle wouldn’t trade it for anything. That is what makes it feel like a family.
We have found the perfect time of year, the perfect conditions and a couple of traditions that redefine the word “contest” for most of us.
These events make competing less about winning or being the best and more about snowboarding’s truest roots: fun.
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