We unexpectedly found ourselves in an enclosed utopian society in Utah last week. And while that sounds like the start to a chronicle about a fundamentalist Mormon sect, we can assure you it was nothing of the sort.
Picture a mudslide that closed entry and exit from the location, our own form of currency, and a village-sized hotel inhabited entirely by professional snowboarders. The 2023 Peace Park Championships at Snowbird was a fun mix of a high-level snowboard contest and a murder-less hunger game.
Ok, maybe I outta slow down. Let’s start with the mudslide. The rising temperatures in Little Cottonwood Canyon were causing a series of avalanches and mudslides that blocked the road intermittently throughout the event. It added a nice scarcity mentality to the Hotel’s beer supply.
The currency refers to Danny and crew printing money with various members of the Peace Park rider roster on the face in various denominations ranging from 20 - 500. The slang for these bills eventually just became Raibu Bucks or Raibuples. Eddie Wall and Pat Bridges were in control of the Raibuples for the most part, handing them out when a rider did something impressive. The money could be redeemed back at the Cliff Lodge for cold hard cash, which could be used on snacks or overpriced beverages.
And though I joke about a cultish community being made thanks to the closing of the roads, the history of Peace Park has a backbone in communal mindset dating back to its inception in 2011. From camping together in the parking lots of Sun Valley, ID, and Mount Bachelor, to the implementation of Peace Parks to the public nationally, it’s hard to argue that Peace Park is not for the people.
The aforementioned list of “people” at this year’s event was quite robust in comparison to past years:
Danny Davis, Red Gerard, Brock Crouch, Gabe Ferguson, Nik Baden, Spencer Schubert, Dusty Henricksen, Luke Winkelmann, Zeb Powell, Nils Mindnich, Sebbe De Buck, Raibu Katayama, Takeru Otsuka, Denver Orr, Sage Kotsenburg, Jake Canter, Sean Fitzsimons, Taylor Gold, Ayumu Hirano, Kaishu Hirano, Sam Taxwood, Robe Roethler, Brandon Davis, Cody Warble, Lucas Foster, Anna Gasser, Queralt Castellet, Hailey Langland, Annika Morgan, Kokomo Murase, Elena Hight, Stefi Luxton, Ylfa Runarsdottir, Yura Murase, Lauren Derminio, Iris Pham, Egan Wint, Kelsey Boyer, Taylor Elliot, Madison Blackley....and honestly a heck of a lot more stragglers.
As with any budding society, the beginning was all sunshine and rainbows. Day 1 of the event held perfect weather for optimal conditions - sunny, slushy, low wind, and warm.
As the days progressed, the relentless late-season snow and cold that swept Utah and California this year grew exponentially. What started as sunny park laps would slowly transform into a firm and frigid war zone by the week's end.
The structure of the event is as fluid as the course itself. Sure, there are judges… but no specific redundant acronym that tries to hide what we all know judging to be– a nebulous and dare I say anti-scientific endeavor.
Judging is often about who stood out. The reasons that make one stand out can be hard to explain. And while this explanation doesn’t always sit well with the traditionally competitive snowboarder, we at SLUSH find it to be just fine.
The two people that left the biggest impression on everyone that week were solid choices. Raibu Katayama, whose continual high-flying disregard for safety, denoted one time most spectacularly while attempting to bonk a Burton sign he kept calling a rail. I’m pretty sure he thought the branding was built for jibbing, which technically it was not….Though maybe in some cosmic way only visible to Raibu, it was.
Anna Gasser too was a continuous locomotive of energy throughout the event. Whether she was battling the challenge rail or lacing lofty backside spins off the big jump you always seemed to notice her during her run through the setup. And standing out at any given moment of such a crowded-with-talent parcel of snow is what tends to deem a winner.
Other riders with a hearty amount of standout moments would be Sebbe De Buck, Cocomo Murase, Red Gerard, Dusty Henricksen, and Queralt Castellet and we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Annika Morgan’s DJ set. Jed Sky body bagged himself attempting to firecracker down the side of an Icy Jump. Iris Pham battled the humble jib section and got the most impressive clips of the field. Kaishu Hirano reminded everyone that he can go bigger than them, and the Japanese riders hung together in a pack that was always the center of attention when they rolled through.
Thankful for all local shamans, helicopter pilots, Danny Davis, the whole Woodward crew, and all the riders that made the community special.