The crowd assembles at the top of course Image:: Fawcett
Transfer | Banked Slalom
This article first appeared on the pages of Transfer Snowboard Magazine Issue #18. Available for purchase HERE.
The concept of The Transfer Banked Slalom is relatively simple: pile a bunch of snow up into banks in a snake-run-like formation, invite friends, pack in a few beers and let the good times roll. This event embodies the very essence of snowboarding. So when a hundred odd snowboarders from all corners of the community gathered at the top of Thredbo’s Sponars gully for the first annual ‘Tournament of Turns’, the age old saying stood true: build it, and they will come.
This is the recount of a day when Australian snowboarding came together to collectively experience the very roots of our culture.
The pre-race psyche-out session Image:: Fawcett
From the outset, the purpose of The Banked Slalom was to attempt to unite the Australian Snowboard community. It was to be the first event held in Australia that brought the whole tribe together – irrespective of age, gender or what type of snowboarder you consider yourself to be. The only requirement was a passion for snowboarding. Hell, even Freeski royalty like Boen Ferguson ditched the toothpicks for a mono-board and ran a bib. Legends like Marcus Stocker, Mark Cowley and Benny Bright all ran along side a new generation of younger riders like Joss McAlpine, Joel Cantle and Harry Green. Here were veterans of Aussie snowboarding riding alongside those who’d just discovered it. This even included the youngest competitor on the day, Micah Lam, who at only 3 years of age navigated his way down the course with Dad in tow. It goes without saying, everyone was cheered on as they took to the turns.
Torah Bright loops through the final few turns through Galina’s gulley Image:: Fawcett
Mother nature has a tendency to throw curve balls when it comes to weather and events in the Australian Alps. A storm was looming in the forecast, with rain potentially on the cards – not exactly the conditions you want for a race. But as luck would have it, the old girl granted near perfect conditions for whole day – calm winds with a slight nip. Friday, the day prior to the event, was warm, with even a little snowmelt occurring – which inevitably snap froze overnight. This left the course in perfect condition for the following day. When the competitors arrived on Saturday morning, they knew it was going to be firm and fast – perfect! At least for those who wisely invested their time tuning their decks. For the slackers with rail beaten boards, it made the course a little harder to navigate. With the day heating up and over a hundred or so riders passing through, new lines were created as the snow pack softened. For the calculated rider, this presented a new opportunity to gain speed in certain places and to slingshot out of corners. For the ‘Wildmen’ – whose only strategy was to go as fast as possible – an adaptation of a pinball was performed. Either way, it made for good spectating, that’s for sure.
Right out of the gate, stood arguably the most challenging corner of the course. From the start line, riders were faced with an off-cambered, downhill slope leading into the first turn – it quickly became dubbed the ‘Eliminator’. And for good reason, too. Cut into the wall right bellow the spectator area was this hairpin turn that neared 90º. This slingshot awaited those overly enthusiastic competitors whom whipped their way out of the gates in a Lindsey-Jacobellis-like fashion. These riders quickly found themselves flying off the berm’s backside in a starfish configuration, only to be greeted by ‘The Boneyard’ below it. Thankfully, the only serious injury of the day was a broken collarbone sustained from the now infamous ‘Eliminator’.
Firm and fast. Image:: Fawcett
According to Transfer intelligence, there was an underground gambling syndicate in place leading up to the event. Members of the snowboarding community had taken their cash and placed bets on the day’s podium placers. Whilst there was wide speculation regarding whom was involved, no person was singularly identified as being part of this sinful group. The law-abiding staff of Transfer Snowboard Magazine had no prior knowledge of such activity. We really didn’t, we swear. Really.
Nothing levels the snowboarding playing field like a course made up of back-to-back banks in all shapes and sizes. For a rider, the challenge was to make it down the course as quickly as possible – sounds easy, right? But with reputations at stake, it was do-or-die for many. So when Australian Snowboarding’s most sought after male stepped up to the grid, there was much anticipation. Jordan Crockford, cover-boy of issue #17 had secretly been preparing himself all winter long for this race and was a known source of verbal psyche-outs during its lead up. But things went quickly south for ‘Crocky’ as he came into the first two turns far too hot; inevitably going down like a wrecking ball made of glass. Whilst many thought the guy was dusted, he arose, only to straight-line the whole course right into a berm, sending his carcass skyward and popping a base-slapping method. This opened a can of worms for those who’d fallen victim to the berms. Banks became booters and despite skipping out on their winning chances, many riders sought to have fun anyway by throwing a couple of crowd pleasers. It goes to show, even if you don’t win it, don’t bin it.
Red-Dog Neumann was unofficially awarded the title for the creepiest get-up Image:: Fawcett
With such a diverse field of competitors, out came a whole flurry of snow craft. From thoroughbred race machines with structured bases to DIY cut-n-shut swallow tails. Believe it or not, some kind of strange snowskate thing even made an appearance. It actually happened to chop through the course faster than half the field. As one would imagine, this bought on a whole new layer of shit-talk and psyche-out tactics – all in the name of good fun of course. Even the Transfer staff came under fire when self-proclaimed contender and boardercross enthusiast, Phillip Maclarn, begun scrutinising our inferior craft.
Kaz-man won best-dressed Image:: Warden
At any given chance – especially with the prospect of a party being involved – the average Australian will automatically assume there is a need to don a costume for the day. So it’s no surprise that when bib collection came around on Saturday morning, an obvious array of outfits came on display. The order of the day was the speed-dealer sunglass, along with ’90s snowboard paraphernalia. The last-minute mandatory brain bucket rule quickly presented the opportunity to rip out some classic dome pieces: from metal-flake motorcycle lids to ski-hire Joffa’s. This proved that fun and safety can co-exist on a day with such extreme intention. The impromptu “best-dressed” award went to Richie Carroll’s period-correct one-piece hotdogger uniform, complete with headband, flowing hair and certified rave spectacles.
The course was sculpted to perfection Image:: Keats
The first annual Transfer banked slalom would never have been possible without the relentless pursuit of Thredbo’s park crew to carve a course of utter perfection. Due to the slalom’s unique location, just off Sponar’s t-bar, most of the banks had to be entirely dug by hand due to machinery use being limited by the zone’s natural features – which the course was sculpt around. Manual labour only added a layer of authenticity to the whole event – a nod to tradition and snowboarding’s forefathers who had to ‘make’ their own fun. A special mention must be made of Matt Gallina, who personally spent two weeks digging the course. Right up till the very morning of the event, Matt was sculpting the banks with shovel in hand. The zinc’d up Canadian’s efforts were well rewarded with a second place finish and huge praise from everyone who had the privileged of turning their board on those banks.
Stoked Image:: Martinez
With the Mile High event nearing, many international riders had ventured to the Deep South early to get some prior practice in. When the word went out about the slalom – it was no surprise that the likes of Swedish ripper Sven Thorgren and his European comrades joined in on the good times. Lib Tech had also flown all-mountain mad-man Jason Robbinson over from Montana to take on the course. As one would expect, J-Rob came and conquered, showing incredible speed – inevitably taking out first place honors. Course builder and proud Canadian, Matty Galina, took out second with the Swedish Sven taking out third place. In true Australian style, we let ‘em have it. Besides, a good majority of the class had succumbed to the allure of tinned beer come second lap – not exactly a performance drug by any means.
Jai says cheers as he rips the scab of a tinny Image:: Warden
Any event that brings together a bunch of snowboarders is definitely an occasion to party. Once the sun had begun to set, the limes where squeezed and the Cervezas were flowing – courtesy of Corona. Competitors, spectators and freeloaders had all assembled on the deck at the Alpine Hotel for the podium presentation. Josh Monin, of Offshore Snow Shapes, reluctantly parted with his handmade miniature fish-shaped trophies – safe to say they were the envy of each competitor. The party heated up just as the night cooled down. Old friends and new bonded and joined in on the ruckus at hand. Special mention must be awarded to J-rob who backed up his first place win with a solid performance at the bar. The guy really did rip this place apart.
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This year should be even better Image:: Keats
Thanks to the unprecedented success of the inaugural ‘Tournament of Turns’, the 2nd Annual Transfer Banked Slalom is back with vengeance in 2015. In terms of participation, last year’s event was the largest snowboarding event in the Southern Hemisphere. We’ve been thrown a bone this year, and will be packing the event into two days of peace, love and boardin’. Don’t worry though, we’ll be keeping it independent and true to tradition – this is one event FIS won’t be getting their hands on. New and exciting plans for the course are coming to light, and a total ruckus will take place on the Saturday night, with live performances by some very fitting bands. Rest assured, the banks will be back and the ‘Tournament of Turns’ will triumph again.