Sunday, February 21, 2010

Red Bull Snake Run gets slippery at Waterville Valley

(Words by Mary Walsh) In the days before Saturday, February 20th, facebook was lit up with back and forth wall posts between NH's elite class of snowboarders and buzzards. Claims were flying about who would land themselves in not first, but third place, and everyone was psyched about coming up to the valley early Saturday morning. Red Bull Snake Run, after months of brainstorming and hard work, was finally happening on the slopes of Waterville Valley.

Atypically and lucky for everyone involved, Saturday at Waterville opened up with blue, sunny skies and mild temps. Waterville's events maestro, Jamie Cobbett posted up at registration, filling the 14 and under, ladies and open divisions before 9am. The washed up class though, was a barrage of text messages and phone calls: "I'm on my way...just a little late". The best came from Rome's Ron Faverty, who 15 minutes after registration ended, was at the McDonald's twenty minutes away in Plymouth, because "really, we're just hungover, but we're coming."

Luke Mathison and his scrappy park crew had pushed snow to create the craziest banked jib run ever imagined/created to this day. Luke and his park rats brought to life a fast course with five large banks set up tight one after another. On each berm was a feature: the first a mini flat rail which landed you into the pocket of the first turn, the second a tilted flat box, a flat bar on the third, c box on the fourth, a hip/barrel bonk combo on the fifth and ending in a quarter with the skate-style Red Bull wallride perched on top of it. The best thing about the course was that it was open to wide interpretation. The younger riders took to the solid, white wave with front and backside slashers that made the old guys proud, while the Open competitors were doing 270s, handplants and nosepicks and all those other tricks that are considered "good." The old guys, with refined vision for unique tranny-finders that they can still hit and feel good about themselves, were getting super creative. Tyler Davis, washed up but still debatably a local pro snowboarder, was gapping the entire second bank with perfect crails and Big Mike was getting wicked on the barrel and wallride.

The whole event was mellow and fun, a unique day that brought old friends together with young impressionable riders, for better or for worse. 14 and unders, Jack Harold and Jacob Aaronsen seamlessly poached the Washed Up-er's runs, and Bill Enos and his crew of coaches slid through the course after their nationally sanctioned contest had finished up for the day. By the time finals came around, the Open division was still riding strong. Tanner McCarty, Nick Doucette and Ben Ross were among those legitimizing the actual snowboarding competition, holding down the course with Merrick Joyce and Travis Neuenhaus. Ben Ross even hiked the course repeatedly after the contest ended, saying "this is great because you can't just go from feature to feature, you actually have to turn and be able to ride."

The Washed Up final was exemplary: Tyler Davis, Mark Wakeling and Chris Mulcahy were giving into their inner shreds, still hiking the snake run. The rest of the Washed Up finalists were at Buckets cracking open tallboys waiting for awards, probably because their knees hurt.

Overall, the scene was a perfect before and after of the life cycle of snowboarding. NH's young riders of tomorrow, with their smiling faces, good style and shred-filled hopes and dreams as elastic as their acls, standing next to their haggard forefathers, now semi-functioning members of society as shop owners, snowboard reps and the like, nursing sore joints, lingering hangovers and the societal obligation to grow up just a little over the past ten years. The top of the course was a who's who of the "I stop snowboarding at 1pm to go to the bar nowadays" scene: Forum's Fatt Matt, Eastern Boarder's Mulch, NH's own snowboarding expert Nelson Wormstead and the man behind ASS industries, Eric Kovall, were among the venerable Washed Up division.

When all was said and done, everyone mingled together at the bottom, hopping onto podiums for their respective divisions and cheering on every level of rider that competed for the day. As a forecast or possibly a warning of what the future holds, the Washed Up podium featured Wakeling in third place, Tyler Davis grabbing second, Mulch taking first and Kovall earning Honorable Mention. Everyone had smiles and people were giving pats on the back until Mulch took a giant swig from his trophy: a large bottle of Tide laundry detergent that ironically was filled with Tide laundry detergent. As Mulch spit blue bubbles out onto the crowd, most of the riders cheered, even those not yet washed up. Mulch later complained of a stomachache that was completely worth it.

Though the Washed Up shreds were the most vocal of the day, the fun and excitement was definitely not lost on the younger generation of rippers. Sam Gidea, a 10 year old from Boston who was experiencing the majesty of Waterville Valley for the first time ever on Saturday, took home first in the 14 and under category and might have been the highlight of the day. Red Bull Snake Run was his first contest, and he left with a boost in confidence that couldn't be matched-a kick start down the road of snowboarding that will hopefully lead him into the larger boots of the guys that stood on the final podium of the day, drinking laundry detergent and sharing laughs, memories and beers around the Waterville fire.

The full circle of snowboarding is the undying love for something bigger than life and the satisfaction of returning to our youths, even if just for one day. The Red Bull Snake Run and Waterville Valley have done just that for so many of the "washed up" and soon to be "washed up".

Huge thanks to all of the sponsors, Oakley, Ass Industries, Neff, Emerica, Eastern Boarder, Ratchet Skateboards and Red Bull , Deb, Kevin, Jamie and Luke at Waterville Valley and everyone who came out and risked life, limb and respect of their peers to come ride the snake run. See you next year with the new bbq feature.

Check for the full photo gallery and video.

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