It’s still considered pre-season around here for most of the snowboard community who hasn’t been chasing winter around the globe or riding ridges out in British Colombia or Alaska. For us it is a time where we dust off the board from the corner of our bedrooms, grab the nearest screwdriver and begin tightening the screws on the pair of bastardized bindings left over from summer in Lake Tahoe. Every turn of the screwdriver, our senses ignite with joy and our memories of last season flood into our minds. Early snow near the Mt. Rose area enabled some Lake Tahoe riders their first taste of snow in winter. A few jibs and rails are set up off in the woods near the summit. Everyone is extremely eager to get the board back under their feet. Some riders however are picking up right where they left off.
I got the call to take the pre-season trip to Las Vegas for some competition I was skeptical about to begin with because snow, in Vegas, Really? But hey, its early season and there’s nothing else to do around North Lake. The plan, drive ourselves down to Las Vegas to cover Matt Shaffer, a sponsored snowboarder, while he competed to win a huge cash pot. The crew: Matt Shaffer, Dustin Dresser (Local Tahoe snowboarder and ripper), Kurt Brending (Film and photo man), and myself (another film and photo man).
Early Friday morning we packed the car to the gills with snowboards, snowboard gear, and camera gear. We piled into the small 4-door sedan, cramped as all hell, and left from Incline Village towards Vegas! This was not going to be a straight drive to the desert and back, no way. Mammoth Mountain just opened their lifts the day prior and was an absolute must on our way to Vegas. Along Rt. 395 down the Eastern side of the Sierras is an amazing drive. Long flat sections of earth butted up against some insanely steep and snowy mountainous terrain that leaves your mouth watering. We passed through landmarks like Mono Lake, the Eastern entrance to Yosemite Valley at Tioga Pass, through the June Lake Loop, and finally arrived into the town of Mammoth Lakes.
We shot some b-roll footage and snapped a few photos along the way, but as we neared the resort all our attention was focused on getting out of the car and getting on the hill. First lap, summit run of course! The first descent…pure ice on the face! Shit! It got much better as we reached the area where they set up a few rails. The set up was 3 sections, 2 features wide, on a 1000 foot blocked off area. All the shredders were there, Mike Rav, Tim Humphreys, The DC crew and now Matt Shaffer. Kurt busted out the death lens and got us all hiking the features while stacking the first few set of clips for the year. Everyone was throwing down and getting their shots, especially Matt sending switch and hardway. It was sick until our half day passes ran out at 4pm when Mammoth closed their lifts.
Our stay in Mammoth Lakes was not to be very long even though the party was definitely on here during the opening weekend. A stop at the store for a 30 rack of CL and a local restaurant for pizza, wings, and more beer had us set and ready to make the next 5 hour stint into Sin City. The course had us crossing through Death Valley at night, which is one of the creepier things I have ever done. All around you is empty until you see the faint outline of a looming dark mass which are foothills, although you never know if there is something in the form of life on the other side or more black abysmal. The nothingness switched to a few pairs of headlights coming at you to more and more society popping up around you. The sky is insanely bright because of the glow of Vegas’s obsession with neon lights and flashing bulbs. We arrive at ‘The D’, the hotel we were supposed to have a room in. We grabbed the important stuff out of the car and got to the front desk for check in. We’re exhausted but ready for Las Vegas. Of course, the hotel room was not booked, we were supposed to have it squared away but things never go as planned, do they? Luckily we bunked up with Mike Burton, fellow Gilaffe rider. Our first thought was to dump the bags and go get a drink. Our hotel was in Old Downtown Las Vegas. The famous Fremont Street and all its casino attractions and street performers. The real show is people watching because there are some strange people out there! We had to turn in not too long after just to be able to function tomorrow for the contest.
We spent the morning grabbing bomb breakfast and checking out the set up for the contest. It has been gnarly in years past, and this year was no different. After registering we ate, hit the hot tub, and napped until it was time to walk across the street to the events center for the contest.
Over 5000 tickets were sold to a ton of enthusiastic people waiting for the Throwdown. They were definitely in for a treat. Some other familiar names in the contest were Denis Bonus, Ryan Paul, Mike Burton, and Cody Boan. The idea was to have skiers vs. snowboarders. The judges would decide who rode the best overall and that person would win $4,000. The first place prize was a cool $3000 for the skiers and for the snowboarders. The location was epic, the lighting was epic, the set up was definitely one of a kind, and we were ready to see the riders do what they do best. The contest lasted a while and everyone was pretty worn out. After about 3 different jam sessions the finalists were chosen and announced on the music stage. The last session was the hardest hitting for sure. The top riders were throwing down everything they had! Some crazy bails hurt to watch and had one skier leaving with stitches and staples. The top 3 were chosen and announced!
1st: Ryan Paul $3000
2nd: Drayden Gardner $1500
3rd: Matt Shaffer $500
We were stoked for Shaffer on a late 3rd place announcement! Props man! Now it was time to do what any other person in Vegas would do after placing in a contest and not having anything else better to do…Rage! We hit Fremont Street and a few local bars and tore it up. The memories of the night are vague, but they say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Waking up at the pool five minutes before checkout time is a testament to having a pretty solid night when it snows in Sin City.