Most great stories start out with “it was a cold day” which is precisely where this one begins. “It was so cold that….” typically comes next, but while it was cold enough to freeze the roots of your molars, it was not cold enough to deter a cadre of 80 plus snowboarders from lining up at the “Dollar Mountain Money Shot”, Sun Valley’s banked slalom race and qualifier for the hallowed Baker Banked Slalom. I sought to justify a balmy -10f as reason to go shoot photos (great light, lots of icy breath, crystals suspended in air) but honestly believed it might keep the riders home snuggled in bed. I was wrong.
When I rolled up to Dollar Mountain, a park riders fantasy playground, the sky was bright blue, the sun just cresting the face where I could see the two Smith Optics tents perched above demarcating the start and finish. The course slinkied down the gut of the mountain, perfectly complimenting the freshly built 22 foot super pipe and myriad other park features which pepper the slope. It sat front and center – visible from the lodge and accessed by a high speed quad lift ride. The frigid temps hadn’t chilled anyone’s enthusiasm, and a good number of hardy souls even managed to be holding cold beers in apropos irony.
So what inspired the Money Shot? 28 years ago Mt. Baker decided to host, what most everybody can agree on as the first snowboard competition ever, the Baker Banked Slalom, and the tradition continues today. It quickly gained a reputation as one of the best, if not the best, snowboard event to attend. After making the pilgrimage for years, a few locals decided that Sun Valley should support the cause and join the fray. Fun is fun no matter where you are, and they would send the Money Shot winners on their way with coveted entries to the Baker event. These two spots to Baker that Smith Optics puts up as first place awards are as good as gold to the competitors that show up for the Money Shot.
Pat Lee may be from the lowlands of Pittsburgh, but he can stand up a toe side with the best of em – Three Rivers style.
It was the brainchild of Cory Smith, senior promotions manager for Smith Optics, and with the help of a number of local snowboarders they have put this event on for two years now. “It is really cool to be involved in something that is original like this… so it makes sense for Smith to be involved, and to bring it here to Sun Valley where we have a tradition of racing we have seen it wholly embraced,” says Cory, “It’s more about the camaraderie and less about triple corks and crazy stunts, it’s riding fast and riding strong with your buddies.” Cory says.
Most everyone hung out cheering each other on, standing by the fire and chowing on some delicious chili supplied for free from Ketchum’s Big Wood Bread.
Throughout the day riders tackled the Money Shot course just because it’s a blast. It was cool to see all the faces I had been missing since turning my foot around backwards. I savored riding up the lift with some of my greatest buds, hearing how fun and gnarly the course was to ride. Most of all I soaked in the sights of the mountain I learned to ski on, and a run we had all raced as kids in the Kinder-Cup. Seeing it transform itself for the first time into a Banked Slalom and host a killer snowboard event showed us all how thankful we are that the park crew at Sun Valley helped us make the dream a reality.
Wyatt Caldwell, pro snowboarder, winner winner chicken dinner. His Isotope Lab-created award reads, “It’s called a karate chop”. Local flavor headed to Baker.
In the end Wyatt Caldwell came out on top taking the number one spot for the men, and Tammy Harrison rode smooth and took it down for the women. Congrats! Watch them both in Baker in February.
Tammy definitely won a spot to the Baker Banked with her riding… and a spot in all our hearts with her smile. awwww.
If you ever get the chance to make it over to Dollar for the Banked do it! There will undoubtedly be free chili at the top, friends slapping high fives, tunes playing, and a warm fire to stand next to on a bone-chilling day. ~Mark
My set up for the day: pack, cameras, lenses, crutches and this damned boot. Looking forward to 2014.