When I was younger, I always dreamed of being in the old person class. I would look at the scores in the 35+ women’s division and scoff. I could beat that! Plus there were so few competitors that you were basically guaranteed a podium finish. Man, I just had to not quit snowboarding, let time do the hard work, and I would reach the top of the podium!
Well now it’s the future and I’m pushing 40. I was pretty excited to head to the Vermont Open Banked Slalom at Stratton on March 13, 2021 and put down the top time for the old ladies. I had three boards in my line up — a Yes 420, Interior Plain Project Harrow and an Arbor Shreddy Kruger. They’re all old like me, and I knew one would be just the ticket for the day. I never got around to waxing any of them; but luckily sub-freezing overnight temps had the super-curvy course riding smooth and fast.
Due to COVID changes were in order including: spreading the event over two days, not allowing spectators and giving everyone an electronic timing chip so less man power was required at the actual course. After a check-in that ended at 8:30 a.m. competitors were given their start time and I felt a little pang in my stomach when I saw 35+ didn’t go until 3:15 p.m.
At age 39, a good shred day either starts at 1 p.m. and ends at 3:15 or starts at 8:30 and ends at noon. There’s no such thing as a full day without herbal and alcoholic refreshment, which means if I start snowboarding at 8:30 a.m. I am definitely going to be drunk by 3:15.
But as an adult I have learned to pace myself, both with beer and snowboarding. The course, filled with nothing but banked turns, took actual energy to push it to the bottom, clocking in at 1:00.16 for the best rider, Josh Wylie, 39. Since I’d already overdone it the day before during a perfect slush day created by the “spring of deception” at Killington, my back knee was creaking and I really needed to keep it mellow to last all day.
Luckily, Blower co-founder Jim O’Leary made the trip up from West Bennington to meet me and act as coach and cheerleading squad. He arrived around 10, just as I was joining the super unorganized, definitely unsanctioned memorial lap for Jake Burton. We got our pic and cruise to the bottom, where Jim was waiting.
As soon as we met up, we went to brunch. I don’t know about you, but it’s been over a year since I went out to brunch and Benedict’s in the Stratton Village was a great reintroduction — it was delicious and despite it being prime time on a Sunday, empty. We even got signed up to win a Kettle One snowboard that Jim suspects was a CAPiTA. Hope I win!
We took a few runs, shared a spacious gondola with two dudes named Mike, one from Killington and one from Okemo, who also happened to have pocket beers (cheers was in order), and generally made the best of our day. When we looked at the time, it was already 12:30.
Under normal circumstances, it would be a perfect time head home, have a nice nap, and then move on with my day.
Unfortunately, I still had to wait almost 3 hours to take my timed runs.
Luckily, I have vast experience in finding convenient parking at Stratton so I’d scored a spot at the end of the village. We went and checked out the Burton store, where they were handing out very cool Jake Burton sticker sheets and arm bands. Then we headed to the “parking lot lodge”(aka my Highlander) for beers.
As we finished our Miller Lites, it was almost 2 p.m. so we made the executive decision to head back to the course and get the shot. Unfortunately the 18-25 age group was pretty sparse. There were maybe 10 people and waiting them for them to lap the AmEx lift to take their next runs down East Byrneside was kinda dull. Jim and I debated if they were just the age that thought they were too cool for banked slaloms, or if that was the generation snowboarding lost to free skiing, and decided that maybe there just weren’t that many people there at all. The event was only open to Vermont residents and students, so it didn’t fill up instantly like in the before times.
Satisfied with our photo haul, Jim and I headed down for a pee break before I finally took my contest runs. Back outside, we ran into Mike and Mike again in the lift line, who informed us that they were pushing up the old person start time. It was on!
As I stood in the line up, which of course, is now the largest group, as opposed to the smallest, I could only laugh. Seems all those people I’d counted on quitting were still at it, and more adults had joined the fold. And, unlike the 90s old timer category, these are all people with 20-plus years of experience snowboarding. In other words, it was by far the most competitive division for both men and women.
That said, I am pretty sure I won. My Arbor was fast as hell, and during the one practice run I took on it, I was a few turns behind a little kid and caught up quickly, prompting an impromptu follow cam course check.
As for my first contest run, I nailed it. No speed checks, floated the berms like I was skating and only bobbled once with limited consequence. Even though we were allowed 5 runs, I’d told Jim I’d take 2-3 runs; if I didn’t fall and didn’t vastly improve my second run, I wouldn’t take the third. But if I fell either run, I’d go for a third.
I crossed the finish line for my first and rounded the box truck to check my obviously super fast time. I scanned the two electronic scores boards- — one for men and one for women, which rotated several sheets of times. But after the whole thing started to recycle, I started talking to myself in confusion. That’s when a Stratton employee appeared and said, “You need to have your timing band on your leg, below your knee.”
Spazz I am, I had put it on my arm, so I quickly grabbed at where it should have been to move it where it needed to be. But as you’ve probably surmised, or read on Instagram, the timing band was no where to be found. Of course, I’d lost it.
I was confident I could put down another great run, so no big deal. I figured I could retrace my steps and maybe find it, but for time and energy purposes, I was only going to retrace my on hill steps. In doing so, I found nothing, so I cruised down to Jim’s photo perch to tell him it was time to go home. I’d had plenty of fun and this way, I can always believe I would have won, even with the stacked field. And isn’t it better that way?
As for making us old folks go last, the reasoning finally struck me on Sunday as I skipped the race because driving sounded hard and my knees hurt. The old people are by far the best and they wanted to slow us down, as to not embarrass the kids!