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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

36th ‘legendary’ Mt. Baker snowboarding competition canceled

Next weekend’s Legendary Banked Slalom at Mt. Baker Ski Area has been pushed to 2025 due to poor conditions this winter. The event, shown here in 2023, typically draws snowboarders from across the world to Whatcom County.  (Ramon Dompor/The Seattle Times)
By Trevor Lenzmeier and Ramon Dompor Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Next weekend’s 36th annual Legendary Banked Slalom snowboarding competition at Mt. Baker Ski Area has been canceled. The culprit: El Niño, which has sent too much rain, too little snow.

The family-owned ski and snowboarding hill announced the cancellation earlier this week. Emails went out to Legendary Banked Slalom racers with details for saving a spot in the 2025 event, which has been scheduled for Feb. 7-9, 2025.

“It pains us greatly to say this, but El Niño has now washed the 36th Legendary Banked Slalom into 2025,” said Mt. Baker Ski Area CEO Gwyn Howat in a video update posted online Wednesday. In the video, she stood on the course, backdropped by a boulder and dense fog, and said the ski area needed three things to happen for the race to be run as planned.

“We needed to not lose a lot more snow base, we needed the temps to cool down a little quicker than we were hoping even, and then we needed a good shot of snow this coming weekend in order to have enough for the race,” she said.

Instead, the ski area lost “about 14 inches of snow base” between Sunday and Wednesday while welcoming “over 3 inches of rain” thanks to the slow-moving atmospheric river that continues to dump rain on the Northwest. Finally, Mt. Baker isn’t “seeing the shot of snow to get enough snow back to heal what we’ve lost and actually have enough to be able to run a fair and a fun event.”

In the video, Howat gestured to the huge hunk of exposed rock behind her, typically “kind of a small rock that’s usually a challenge” for racers, now an obvious liability. As Howat was speaking, the videographer lost her footing, sliding down the hillside.

“Things have not been in our favor this week and the timing sucks, no doubt about it,” Howat said.

If the weather turns around, Mt. Baker may host an unofficial “fun run” type of event on the course next weekend, but Howat made no promises.

Reaching for “the ray of hope out there in the bigger picture,” Howat said that after canceling the 2005 Legendary Banked Slalom due to poor conditions, Mt. Baker got 800 inches of snowfall the following winter. And in 2016, after canceling the 2015 race, they got more than 600 inches.

The (usually) annual race consists of a timed run through a gully marked with slalom gates. Like a natural halfpipe, each turn is banked. The course embraces the surflike flow of snowboarding, but running the 500-foot course in around 90 seconds sends G-forces surging as riders struggle to balance speed with control.

Independent Mt. Baker Ski Area was one of the first hills to embrace snowboarders, and the Legendary Banked Slalom race is central to the mountain’s esteemed place in snowboarding lore. The event brings together a community of Olympians and aspiring racers to compete and have fun