words and photos: T. Bird
Mike Baker is a New Hampshire hero. I first met Baker when I was studying English at Plymouth State University. I had heard the lore. Seen his video part in Iron Curtain. Been told to stay away from him at times. But more importantly, I was instructed by my elders and peers to stop what I was doing when he strapped in and dropped because he simply rides faster than anyone on the mountain at any given time. Eventually, under circumstances I don’t recall, I had the pleasure to meet the man that had generated so much hyperbole and since then, I’ve realized that he is as influential as any snowboarder that has ever grown up in the White Mountains, even if they did go on to ride bigger and better mountains and garner more exposure than their Granite State colleagues, and this is because Mike Baker never left New Hampshire. For the snowboard scene in this state, Baker has been a hellion, a heckler, a rebel and a rabble-rouser. Currently though, with his contest, he’s becoming one of the frontmen again, a protagonist and an advocate of recognition for a small area that has produced larger-than-life talent. More importantly, after all these years, he’s still fast as hell when he straps in and drops.
For years, people have told him, “Dude, you HAVE to do the Mike Baker Banked Slalom,” simply due to the similarity and satire in the name itself. However, a few years later, Baker made it happen, somehow, some way, and since its introduction to the New Hampshire snowboard scene, it has become the hallmark gathering that sets the cadence of the biggest weekend on the east coast. This year, Luke Mathison and his Waterville Valley, NH park crew, I’m sure with plenty of Baker’s input, dug out an immaculate banked slalom setup that drew the curiosity of some of the fastest powder gun slingers in the east, and with the lack of snow on the west coast and a record-breaking year from Maine to North Carolina, this could be the one winter in which the Mike Baker Banked Slalom course might boast a better course than the actual Legendary Baker Banked Slalom, now in its 30th year.
The great thing about banked slalom events is the fact that anyone can ride the setup. Unlike last week’s US Open in Vail, Colorado last week where Japan’s Yuki Kadono took top honors in the men’s Slopestyle with back-to-back 1620 triple corks, when it comes to contests like the MBBS, all you have to do when bouncing from berm to berm is stay on your feet, and as scary as any event with Mike Baker’s name headlining it may be, snowboarders of all shapes and sizes were dropping in on Friday, smiling from ear-to-ear, waxing their boards feverishly, and trying to find minute flaws in their technique in order to shave off hundredths of seconds with every turn.
The roster of racers read like a first ballot east coast Snowboard Hall of Fame register peppered with a litany of pro snowboarders from around the globe. Aaron Diamond, Andrew Mutty, Mike Baker himself, Ben Newton, Nelson Wormstead, Brandon Reis, Shanesaw and many others dropped in alongside the likes of Jesse Burtner, John Murphey, Ben Bogart, Ted Borland, Mark Landvik, Alex Andrews, Sean Genovese and many more and battled it out while bashing from turn to turn all afternoon, but in the end, it was the Massachusetts madman and honorary Granite Stater Andrew Mutty who took the win for the Open division with a staggering time of 32.7. In second place was Rob Hallowell and in third Adam Metterville. It was an unbelievable event that is slowly becoming one of the premier banked slaloms not only on the east coast but in the world. Do yourself a favor and check it out if you’re ever in New Hampshire in March.
With its move to the hallowed grounds of Waterville Valley, this year, The Mike Baker Banked Slalom has become an institution, an event that anyone within two-hundred miles has no excuse to miss anymore. And with this event, Mike Baker himself has put himself back atop the list of New Hampshire’s most influential snowboarders, and as astounding as it is for me to write that fifteen years after Baker attempted to decapitate me with a method while standing on the knuckle of a jump in the Waterville park, what’s more astounding is the rate in which his event is growing year over year. Maybe soon enough, Baker will officially earn his deserved title and re-name the event The Legendary Mike Baker Banked Slalom.
2. Rob Hallowell
3. Adam Meterville
1. Nirvana Ortanez
2. Katie Kennedy
3. Krista Dixon
Read the full The 2015 Mike Baker Banked Slalom at Waterville Valley, New Hampshire article on Snowboarder Magazine.