Words: K. Ridsdale & Sausage Fingers
Images: Brett Stanley
That’s a wrap, with hangovers and bruises aplenty for the Hotham Bunbarrel Banked Slalom supported by Quiksilver, coupled with a weeks worth of celebrations for the 35th year of the Hotham Boardriders club.
The Hotham Boardriders club turned 35 this year, 170 members strong celebrated with a week of activities that culminated in a fiercely fought banked slalom.
Australia’s oldest snowboarding club was established in 1988 by a small group of mates to promote and defend snowboarding at a time when the sport was not welcome at many resorts. A handful of the OG founders returned to Hotham for the week along with hundreds of members to celebrate the history, the community and the future of snowboarding.
The week kicked off with an all-in band and jug supper session at The Bird featuring two bands comprised of club members who have both just recorded new albums, Duneeater and Steakfaced. Groms front stage, were pulled onto shoulders and partied alongside their parents. Ian “Beano” Bates’ son Kai watched on as his dad crowd surfed the cheering crew, re-living The Bird’s more raucous days as the Boardriders unofficial clubhouse.
One group of partiers reminisced on how they had wandered into The Bird on a night like this decades before and knew that they had found their people. They signed up to the Boardriders and have been coming to the mountain ever since.
The week-long celebration also included a recovery breakfasts, ride days, members dinner, silent kids disco all culminating in the GBBS Gun Barrel Banked Slalom 2023.
Part of the appeal of the club is the sense of belonging that people have found. Locals, ski bums, new and old pros, and weekend warriors share a passion for riding that brings them together. Parents are stoked to see their children supported and nurtured by a community of people from all walks of life who celebrate ability at all levels. Mateship and inclusion are not just concepts here. They are lived and encouraged.
This was most evident in final event of the week, the traditional Gun Barrel Banked Slalom, hosted by Mt Hotham and Hotham Boardriders. 140 people signed up to take part across seven divisions for both men and women, from Next Gen (U12) to Legends (50+). People of all levels took part, Olympians rode alongside those stepping up to the starting gate for the first time.
Due to snow conditions this year the traditional Gun Barrel Banked Slalom was moved to higher ground on Harper’s gully. However the change in location did not dampen spirits as the riders were greeted with an amazing blood red Hotham sunrise. After a week of uncertainty, the crew were impressed that Mt Hotham managed to deliver a challenging course in ideal conditions.
Sunny sky’s and no wind along with the change of location allowed for a beer garden atmosphere with Mt Feathertop as the back drop at the starting area with Red Bull to quench thirsts. Music pumped, mini comps within comps were established between mates with side bets in different divisions. Then there is always anticipation on who will show up on the day for a chance to podium and take home part of the massive $30,000 prize pool.
Everyone was concerned about the 8-12 Next Gen division except the Next Gen themselves. First to launch out of the FIS start hut into two tight turns shortly followed by a blind rollover onto a 38 degree pitch was the Next Gen division without hesitation. Then into a series of locked luge track type turns on Harpers face pre deviating right at the midway point into Harpers gully. Turns 7 to 14 took on a more traditional banked slalom feel and flow through to a fast finish line and looming safety nets.
The first of two clustered groups, Next Gen, Masters 40+ and Legends 50+, opened proceedings and completed their 2 runs setting down clean lines for group two to follow. Then came Jr’s, Open and the 30+ Club under ideal conditions as the temperature climbed and the times dropped with carveable but fast snow conditions.
Lily White took out the Next gen women’s winning one of 14 new Lib Tech snowboards and Dominic Gregory shaved 2.5 seconds of his first run to take out the boys. Visiting Canadian Nickie Rogers put her coaching skills into practice and bettered her Transfer result to take out the 40+ Masters women’s. Back to back Masters wins for Duneeater front man Mike Diesel Doleman putting down the second fastest time of the day with his effortless style and technique. Aussie snowboarding Icon Marguerite Cossettini was one of many interstate crew who made the annual pilgrimage to Hotham taking out the 50+ Legends. Sean Lodge dusted of his competitive spirit at the Transfer banked slalom and brought his A game combined with some local knowledge to take out the men’s legends from last years winner Ash Muller and Dan Burke to make it an all local podium.
Although the day was all about fun, heart rates increase as the crew climbed the stairs into the start hut with a Baker type “Say your prayers” vibe.
Clementine Wall set the fastest female time of the day to take out the JR women’s carrying form from her win at Transfer a few weeks prior. Less than a second split the top 3 in the men’s JR division with local James Garth taking home the gold high back trophy from Angus Young and Alexander Frost. Anna Lockett and Alex Kruse laid down smooth runs in the midday sun to take out top honours in the 30+ club. Jamie Figueira came away with the gold in open women’s from Maise Potter and Taylor Zrobek rounding out the top 3. In the open men’s last years winner Robbie Walker looked to have his hands full with 15 year old Pantxo Wall only 0.04 of his tail after run one. Robbies second run was a combination of technique, determination and a mature competitive mindset shaving of 1.63 seconds to land a 32;00 flat fastest run of the day to take home top honours again in the men’s open.
A huge crew rallied back to the top for the party run through the course to close out the day.
The sun continued to bless the day back at the Bird balcony for the awards ceremony and riders BBQ. Para Olympic athletes Sean Pollard and Ben Tudhope took out the Chumpy Pullin specialty awards for their inspirational performances. Ben explaining how he only found snowboarding post a surfing shark attack accident and how it’s brought a new found perspective on life and love for a new culture. And maybe that’s just what makes banked slaloms so special, it’s a cultural celebration of snowboarding so much more than a race. What other event can have crew rip together from 8 to 60+, Olympians to first timer racers all coming together as one.
Post awards as the sun set the afterparty kicked into high gear inside the Bird, the sponsors put 35 jugs for 35 years on the bar, DJ Eddie took control of the dance floor and the rest is now history.
Thanks to everyone who helped celebrate the Hotham Boardriders 35th anniversary week and the Gun Barrel Banked Slalom. Especially those from Libtech as the platinum partner, Quiksilver, Roxy, Bent Metal, Lib Tech, Yeti, Red Bull, Mt Hotham Resort, Hotham Boardriders crew, Chumpy Pullin Foundation, and on mountain partners The Bird Café & Bar, The General, Frankie, Hoff Hutt and Jack Frost.
The annual Gun Barrel Banked Slalom will be back again in 2024. Follow hotham boardriders here for more details!