Words: Garry Wall
Images: Brett Stanley
Mt Hotham’s Gun Barrel has had a gravitational pull on snowboarders since the late 80’s with its incredible natural inbound terrain.
Hotham Boardriders club was formed back in 1988 as a community voice for snowboarders on the mountain and the annual Gun Barrel Banked Slalom was born. This year, some 32 years later, most of the founding member returned to where it all began.
The first event ran in 1990 as a collaborative effort between Mt Hotham resort and Hotham Boardriders with the support of the emerging Australian snowboard industry. As a result, the event has become an annual pilgrimage for the snowboarding community to unite and compete in its purest form on epic natural terrain. Pro’s, Olympians, Hotham locals and weekend warriors of all ages come together in this fun event with 7 divisions for both male and females to test their skills in the famed Gun Barrel, the spiritual home of snowboarding at Mt Hotham.
What started out as a traditional event has now transformed to a celebration of community, art & culture, environment and industry on one of the most technical banked slalom courses in the world. With over $17,000 total in prizes spread equally across genders from event partners Libtech, Quiksilver and Roxy the stage was set for a big turnout post the last event being run in 2019.
With an expected field of 70 local competitors the 150 strong field from across Australia, the largest in the competition’s history, was one of many unexpected surprises as competitors gathered at The Bird bar & café for the Thursday riders briefing and LTD tee-shirt collection. With an ugly forecast there was cause for concern, however the weather Gods came to the party and delivered 7cm fresh overnight with competitors awakening to sunny skies.
The course was set earlier in the week allowing it to be naturally ridden in as the walls of Gun Barrel are too steep to shape with a kat. The well ridden course combined with some late Thursday arvo hand shovelling by the locals, plus the 7cm of overnight cream and sunny morning skies had set Fri 19th up for the perfect day. With Inspection and training now in the rear vision it was time for the competitors to send it with nerves running high in the start gate.
What started out to be a smooth fast flowing but technical course, experience soon became a determining factor on run one. Run 2 became survival of the fittest with some natural hazards’ beginning to show their face on the course, so it was the calculated who made it look easy while many went for a ride of their life locked into 20 turns down the infamous Gun Barrel.
Tons of spills, bruised ego’s, enough smiles and stories to fill a lifetime, or at least fuel a solid after party at the Bird.
The groms under 12 division full of froth stepped up to the plate first, full of smiles and seemingly unaffected by nerves that ran through the onlooking rest of the field. In one of the most impressive runs of the day Lotus Whitelaw-Holmes took out the grom women beating her closest rival by 7.98 seconds while riding with a broken arm. It was her super smooth lines and courage that inspired all generations on the day that also saw her awarded the Chumpy All IN women’s award.
At the other end of the age spectrum it was Ian “Beano” Bates now in his late 60’s who was awarded the Chumpy All IN men’s award for continuing to inspire generations of snowboards with his effortless style and positive vibe on full display in gun barrel.
Grom mens was taken out by Alexander Frost 2.40 seconds clear of second making the journey south across the border for this year’s event.
Clementine Wall backed up her Transfer banked slalom win at Thredbo from the week prior taking out 1st in the strongly contested youth Women’s division.
Pantxo Wall narrowly piped James Garth to take out 1st in the Youth men’s with the equal 3rd fastest time of the day.
Rose Rostron smooth first run saw her claim the Rookie women’s title navigating everything Gun Barrel threw at her. After some timing confusion was cleared up it was Oscar Sayers who claimed the men’s Rookie win with an electrifying equal third fastest time of the day.
It was an impressive showing by the next generations coming in hot on the heels of the open competition. Pantxo Wall & Oscar Sayers =3rd , James Garth 5th, Zepher Whitelaw-Holmes 6th in overall fastest times of the day making up 4 of the top 7 overall times confirming the depth of up and coming Aussie talent in the mixed martial art of banked slalom.
As we moved into the open divisions it was Freya Hammerliein’s quiet riding style, determination and calculated lines that had her lay down the fastest woman’s run on the day and go one better than her 2nd at the Transfer event the week prior to take 1st , choosing to ride in the U30’s division finishing ahead of Olympian Josie Baff.
FellowOlympian Adam Lambert put down two smoking runs with his first run 1.00.20 the second fastest time of the day taking out a solid field of U30’s men’s.
The challenging conditions were no match for Hannah Trigger who stacked two consistent runs narrowly bumping Anna Lockett to take out the U40’s woman’s.
Then Robbie Walker slid into the starting blocks, between media interviews, supporting his son in the grom division and constant request for advice he rolled out of the starting gate and put down the only sub 1min time of the day 59.23. Quiet and calculated as always its was only until the following day when the drone footage was posted of his run that we could all see the true technician at work. Carefully selecting an independent line for each berm, managing speed and nuances of gun barrel to the last tern taking the tightest of lines across the finish to take the win. Back to back wins coming fresh of his Transfer win he accepted his award gracefully and continued his journey south to his home in Mansfield.
With Mt Hotham’s rich snowboarding history it was no surprise that the U50’s divisions had the largest participation numbers with local knowledge shining through in the results.
Merrin Jokic’s constant pursuit of stoke and global riding hours had her come out on top over close friend and sparring partner Stacey Doleman in the U50’s woman’s.
In the U50 men’s it was Michael “Diesel” Doleman’s seemingly effortless style, flow and power combined with one of the best outfits of the day that gave him the win. Close partners in crime Myles Pollock 2nd and Daniel “B-Set” Busettie 3rd made for an all local podium that turned into a WWE wrestling match of stoke.
B-Set laying down a 1:10 switch second run only to be outdone by an even more impressive freestyle performance on the dance floor after party with DJ Eddie directing traffic.
50+ women’s was taken out by Danni Morris putting her 30+ years of Gun Barrel experience to good use with support and a solid amount of heckling from her kids.
The last person to drop into gun barrel in arguably the most deserving wins of the day went to Ashley Muller. Ash used his smarts to out box the 15 strong 50+ men’s competitors to take home the gold base plate. Ash was a founding member of Hotham Boardriders who negotiated with the lift company to allow snowboarding at Mt Hotham back in the 80’s.
So a fitting close to a great celebration of snowboarding culture not possible without the people and industry support of Libtech, Quiksilver, Roxy, Mt Hotham resort, Hotham Boardriders, Chumpy Pullin Foundation with local support from The Bird Café& Bar, The General, Hoff Hutt and Jack Frost.
The date is locked in for next year, Fri Aug 18th 2023. So plug it in your calendar now as it’s sure to be the biggest ever as it’s the 35th anniversary of Hotham Boardriders.
Golden Base Plate Winners
Grom Women: Lotus Whitelaw – Holmes
Grom Men: Alexander Frost
Youth Women: Clementine Wall
Youth Men: Pantxo Wall
Rookie Women: Rose Rostron
Rookie Men: Oscar Sayers
U30 Women: Freya Hammerlein
U30 Men: Adam Lambert
U40 Women: Hannah Trigger
U40 Men: Robbie Walker
U50 Women: Merrin Jokic
U50 Men: Michael Doleman
50+ Women: Danni Morris
50+ Men: Ashley Muller
Chumpy All IN Women’s award: Lotus Whitelaw – Holmes
Chumpy All IN Mens award: Ian “Beano” Bates