Recent experience not required at banked slalom
Steamboat Springs — The Slash and Burned Banked Slalom may be the one event where it doesn’t pay to be an active snowboard competitor.
The Howelsen Hill race has caught on in a big way in its four years, in part, because it’s charmed “retired” snowboarders. Saturday proved to be a reunion of sorts, and after they were done swarming the slope, hundreds of riders relaxed below, trading stories and sharing laughs.
Sunday’s race will be for young athletes, but there were children everywhere Saturday, as well. They weren’t racing, though. They were watching mom, dad or both do it.
“Having been on the competitive circuit, I’ve seen a lot of different styles of competition,” said Erin Nemec, a three-time X Games medalist, a 2006 Olympian and now, a mother to two young boys learning to snowboard.
She retired in 2009, so her competition days are behind her, with one exception.
“This one is really relaxed and fun,” she said. “Everyone’s smiling. There’s really no pressure. It’s just a great day.”
Saturday, she was one of many “retired” athletes to make the podium. She finished third in the women’s open class.
In first was another Steamboat X Games veteran, Maddy Schaffrick.
The story was the same on the men’s side, where Jake Black won the event for the third time in four years.
He, too, used to compete, riding both halfpipe and slopestyle. He was based in Summit County and now lives in Aspen, and he has plenty of friends still on the circuit.
He hasn’t competed in anything since he won the Slash and Burn in Steamboat a year ago.
“I have no idea what the secret is,” Black said, laughing. “I just snowboard a lot.”
There was one athlete with more recent competition experience who made a mark. Steamboat halfpipe Olympian Taylor Gold was second on the men’s side, though even he hasn’t competed much recently. He missed all of last season with a knee injury and was slowed this winter by that injury’s lingering effects, complicated by a dislocated shoulder.
It was Gold’s first appearance in the event, but he dabbled in banked slaloms elsewhere this season. He skipped a trip to South Korea to compete in the Olympic halfpipe test event to ride in the Mount Baker Legendary Banked Slalom in Washington.
He placed ninth there, racing among legends in snowboarding.
Saturday, he was fast again, placing second.
“It was so fun, really cool,” Gold said. “It’s nice to see a little grassroots event like this in Steamboat.”
Gold’s certainly not done competing. He’s hoping a hard summer of work can help him make his second Olympic team.
When he is done, however, he’ll still fit right in at the Slash and Burn Banked Slalom.
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