On Monday, an excavator rolled up Sugarloaf’s Sidewinder trail to break up the snow patted down by a long winter’s worth of snowboarders and begin preparations for the third annual Sugarloaf Banked Slalom.
Hours later, 15 to 18 inches of fluffy new powder fell on the slope, as if Mother Nature herself offered her blessing for what is rapidly becoming one of the biggest snowboarding events in the Northeast.
Inspired by the Mt. Baker Legendary Banked Slalom (LBS) in Washington, two-time Olympic boardercross gold medalist and Farmington native Seth Wescott created the Sugarloaf Banked Slalom as an open-registration competition for East Coast snowboarders. In its third year, the event draws 200 snowboarders from all over New England for what can only be described as a unique, challenging ditch race.
“People are naturally drawn to this event because of the place and the terrain,” Sugarloaf spokesman Ryan Lilly said. “It’s not your typical snowboard race where you’re going around gates. It’s a real challenge because you have to work the banks. You have to pump them. A racer can do well in this event, but it’s really anybody’s game.”
“It’s a very primitive setup,” Lilly said. “The banks are a lot tighter than your typical snowboard slalom or GS. It levels the playing field.”
The two-day event begins at 9:30 a.m. Saturday with qualifying, followed by the semifinals. That will narrow the field down to 150 boarders for Sunday’s finals.
Racers will be broken up into seven age categories, with two runs each on Saturday and Sunday. The top overall male and female finishers each get a free entry to the 2014 Mt. Baker Legendary Banked Slalom, which, Lilly said, is roughly equivalent to winning Maine’s moose lottery in terms of exclusivity.
Awards will be handed out to the top three overall times, and the top three times in each age category, for both men and women.
Wescott, who had to sit out last year due to an injury, is expected to return to competition this weekend. He is coming off a win at this year’s LBS. Defending champions Ryan Flynn and Lindsay Stewart are also among this year’s entries.
The entry fee is $40, and racers also must purchase a discounted lift ticket for $60. Early registration begins at 6 p.m. Friday at the Widowmaker. Those unable to make Friday night’s registration can check in at the Maple Room of the Base Lodge between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Saturday.
Sunday’s finals begin at 9:30 a.m., with an awards ceremony scheduled for 4 p.m.