When snowboarding was in its infancy and was looked upon by most ski resorts as punks wasting time, Mount Baker was one of the few snow areas that welcomed snowboarders. When other mountains had closed their doors and barred their passes to snowboarding the burgeoning sport found a home in Mount Baker and a handful of other places like it.
The resort was instrumental in laying the foundations for the strong snowboarding community that we know today. It cemented itself as a snowboarding Mecca when it began hosting the Legendary Banked Slalom in 1985, an event which still draws some of the biggest names in snowboarding today.
Located in America’s Pacific Northwest, Mount Baker is a small resort that has avoided the overt capitalism that seems to be rampant among most snow fields around the world. The resort is self maintained, located in a national park there is no real possibility for over development or massive expansion. Indeed the resort doesn’t offer electricity or running water but what it lacks in amenities it more than makes up for in pure snow delight.
The place is remote but it’s part of its charm
An average 16 meters (641 inches) of snow is dumped on the resort every year, more than any other resort in the world! Not only that the snow area holds the world record for most snow in a single season, in 1998-1999 the mountain was blanketed with a whopping 29 meters (1,140 inches) of fresh powder.
The slopes span two mountains – Mount Shuksan rising to 2,963m (9,720ft), and Panorama Dome with its more modest summit of 1,524m (5,000ft). The resort itself is just South of the Canadian border, the closest town, Glacier, is thirty miles away and has a population of under 300.
Mt Baker has no accommodation at the base of the resort and only 3 small lodges on the mountain. You might be hard pressed trying to get a signal on your phone and wifi hotspots are few and far between. The place is remote, hard to get to, but that is just an added part of its charm.
Mt Bakers Legendary Banked Slalom
On the bucket list of many a snowboarder is to participate in, or even just watch, the Legendary Banked Slalom (LBS). The event has been running for over 30 years and was originally organised by legendary snowboarding pioneers Bob Barci and Tom Sims. It began with 14 riders, a 150m long course and fifteen gates to race through. While that doesn’t sound too bad the terrain and weather of Mount Baker makes it one of the most demanding runs known to man. If you manage to come out on top of the competition you earn the respect of all your snowboarding peers as well as a trophy made out of duct tape. No lucrative cash prizes here, it’s simply a way to showcase your ability and prove yourself against a world class field. Prestige over money, that’s Baker to a tea.
Man made jumps, rails and groomed snow have been foregone, the natural precipitation of the area is in charge of design.
To say the resort is rustic is an understatement, there are no six seater chairlifts or franchised bars and restaurants, aesthetic beauty is the name of the game. Man made jumps, rails and groomed snow have been foregone, the natural precipitation of the area is in charge of design. So you need to take the rough with the smooth.
Whilst the park is less crowded there isn’t an abundance of facilities to get up the actual mountain. Furthermore, the large amounts of snow along with its low elevation and proximity to the coast mean that conditions can turn nasty if rain decides to join the party. As with anything it’s a trade off, but for the purists it doesn’t get much better than Mount Baker.
Find out whats happening at Mt Baker at: www.mtbaker.us
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