For the 24th Mt Baker Banked Slalom, YoBeat set out to determine once and for all, what makes this event so great. Is it the fact that Mt. Baker is one of the best mountains in North America? Nah, that helps, but there are plenty of good mountains. Is it that the Howatt’s are such amazing supporters of snowboarding, and even get down on the course maintenance themselves? That’s cool, but not the real reason. Maybe it’s that the people who come from everywhere for the event just happen to be the coolest, most down to earth people in the snowboard industry? Again, that helps but, no. It could be that the contest has stayed true to its roots, is about actually being able to ride your snowboard, and hasn’t jumped the shark by adding a ski division, even though everyone else seems to be. But again, not it. No, after a weekend of fun snowboarding and great friends, YoBeat finally fingered it. It’s the food.
A huge part of every Banked Slalom is the parking lot salmon BBQ so this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, but that’s not all. Every meal consumed Banked Slalom weekend seems to supercede the next. And after so many event weekends eating fast food or overpriced mediocre buffets, it sure is nice to show up and get some good grub.
If you love to eat, the Banked Slalom has you covered. Even the hospitality tent stands out. They don’t phone it in like some events, with store-bought lasagna that somehow manages to be dry and greasy at the same time. No, this year’s spread included fondue, soup that changed daily, and fresh giant pretzels. To drink it wasn’t just energy drinks, but juice, water and coffee.
And every great Baker day starts with a trip to Graham’s (Glacier’s bar/restaurant/grocery store) for bagels and coffee. There’s no real words explain it, so we’ll just say, as bagel sandwiches go, these are some of the best.
Speaking of best, Mt. Baker also has the best lodge food ever. Not only is it cheap, but also it’s actually good. We’re talking in-and-out quality sauce on the burgers, fresh bread bowls, loaded baked potatoes and more, all under 10 bucks. If you like beer, they got that too, in several delicious flavors.
On Saturday there’s that BBQ we mentioned. A line of friendly old ladies dish out coleslaw, mashed potatoes, pre-buttered bread and of course, grilled salmon. After a day of shredding, there’s nothing better than plopping down on a hay bale and chowing down on the stuff.
No trip to Baker would be complete though, without a dinner at Milano’s. Much like Mt. Baker itself, the place lives up to the hype. And when Jeannie Debari (as in Rookie of the Year Lucas Debari’s mom) comes up to your table to jokingly move things along because she has to race the next day, well, that’s pretty cool.
Full and happy stomachs definitely set this event apart. Yeah the good riding, good friends and awesome mountain help as well. There might not have been much snow this year, and Terje didn’t show up due to a contractual obligation to take one run at the Snow Scrapers (note: totally made up statement), but people went fast, shredding was done, and the 2009 Banked Slalom was a damn good time. Our sources tell us Nate Holland went the fastest for the dudes and – went faster than the rest of the women. If you want to read more about the actual snowboarding, check out my story on Snowboarder.com.
If not, just look at lots of pretty pictures in the gallery (click a thumbnail to enlarge.)