words and photos: Jeff Hawe

January 4th was a blustery cold day at Big Sky Resort, Montana. Temps trapped the mercury in the single digits and the whipping wind gave the day a sub-zero bite. The snow under foot crunched like hollow styrofoam. All-temp wax was a disadvantage on the frozen banks of the Third Annual Smash Life Bank Slalom (SLBS). In spite of the weather, one hundred and thirty snowboarders of all ages came out to race and support the A-Rob Plant a Seed project. The SLBS is a fundraiser in the disguise of a really good time racing a snowboard against your peers. All funds raised by the event are channeled toward the underprivileged youth of the Flathead Valley who get a chance to experience shredding because of this phenomenal organization. Sound cool? Learn more on the A-Rob Plant a Seed Project Facebook page. Back to the racing. The course was half banked slalom, half super-G: a series of seven man-made banked turns rolled into a high speed step down, which immediately set a rider into the next turn and trying to hold it together through the remainder of the last seven gates. Sound like fun? It was.

With all the racing done, an impromptu best method contest was held on one of the berms which happened to have a hip shaped into it. Keeping it light, A-Rob style. Winner of this little session received the A-Rob award, a custom Aaron snowboard from K2. Kyle Miller impressed judges, one being myself, with multiple lofty switch methods: two to make it true, three to just rub in in. The fun of the day progressed into the fun of the evening with Riot Act opening up a three band party for the evening. It got loose, Montana style. The night faded away, but the fun did not stop there.

The Big Sky SLBS has evolved into more than a one-day race event. Maybe it’s the long distances people travel to get to it. Maybe its just the true spirit of A-Rob permeating the crowd. But this event tends to see people lingering to shred as a large group for days after. Sunday brought a walk in the woods to a little secret spot which Aaron used to frequent. Last year a homage to the late ripper was erected above the zone. When J-Rob and I crested the top and found it still standing tall and gleaming in the sun it was a powerful moment. We took the moment to reflect and bask in his presence, then proceeded to smash pillows! Filling the icy cold afternoon air with laughs, and shouts of excitement. Party boarding!

Word was that Bridger Bowl just to the north had received ample snow this season, with a recent two feet of fresh on event day. So a stop there on Monday was mandatory and it did not disappoint. For me, it was a stellar return to the grounds where I cut my teeth both as a rider and more importantly, as a photographer. And well, truth be told I can’t be bound to shooting all the time. All work and no play makes for a bad snowboarder. With that in mind, I got mine. Our crew spent the day threading the needle of Bridger’s signature tight chutes and smashing the dry interior mountain powder. One final day to celebrate what we all live for and savor the days this sweet!

All said and done it was a proper Montana road trip. Icy roads, face numbing cold, lots of greasy food and time spent with some of the most down to earth quality people you will ever meet. In the true spirit of Aaron Robinson, we Smashed Life every hour of every day.

RACE RESULTS

Women
1. Tess Avery 58.23
2. Saris McComb 58.31
3. Desiree Melancon 58.47
4. Amy Balbier 58.76!

Men
1. Yancey Caldwell 50.79
2. Kyle Miller 52.3
3. Jason Robinson 52.9
4. Spencer Cordovano 53.71
5. Alex Lopez 54.75!

Grumpy Old Men
1. Jason Schutz 57.08
2. Ray Kovarski 57.19
3. Steve Davenport 57.31!

Youth
1. Rhett Leuzinger
2. Travis McCall
3. Talon McCarver