Adaptive snowboarders ride ‘gently’ to tame powder-filled banked slalom course
England's Pick wins, Aspen's Gabel top American finisher in third
COPPER MOUNTAIN – Owen Pick of England had to think for a moment about the best way to summarize what it was like racing through the Dew Tour slalom course during one of the biggest Copper Mountain Resort powder days in memory.
Then, it hit Friday’s adaptive snowboard banked slalom champion. On an afternoon when bottomless powder conditions postponed all other Dew Tour events, Friday’s competition was about riding as light and careful as possible on a course built for speed.
“It was like trying to be as gentle as possible,” the 28-year-old Pick said. “If you tried to make any kind of a move or anything, you weren’t getting the time. But it was kind of fun. They worked hard and got the course ready, and it worked out alright.”
Twenty of the world’s best men’s and women’s adaptive snowboarders — 16 men and four women — dropped into the Dew Tour slalom course on Friday as snow continued to pour down and gust sideways. Despite the inclement conditions, poor visibility and humidity, each rider had the chance for two runs through the course conceived by Summit County local Daniel Gale and Copper Mountain-based Adaptive Action Sports.
In the end, Pick tamed the tricky course better than any of the 15 other men’s riders, snaking through it in a time of 1 minute and 6.2 seconds on his first run, which turned out to be his fastest. Despite living in England, Pick said he’s improved his skill to be one of the best para snowboarders in the world thanks to living and training each winter in the mountains of France.
“In France, we do get days like this, rarely,” Pick said, “but these racing conditions were just bonkers. But it was fun.”
Finnish 33-year-old Matti Suur-Hamari, who dropped in second to last on Friday, ended up posting the second-fastest time, with his second run time of 1:07.58. Even with his success on the course, Suur-Hamari remarked how Friday’s course and conditions were a challenge like he’s never experienced before.
“I haven’t been at the course where it’s knee-deep snow in some spots,” he said. “It was super slow. There was one almost fast line, and if you stayed on that line, you could do pretty good.”
Friday’s third-place finisher in the men’s competition was Keith Gabel, a native of Ogden, Utah. Having lived there, and residing in Aspen now, the 35-year-old Gabel said his familiarity with pow days may just have helped him to post a time of 1:07.86 on his second run through the course. The challenging and fun course — featuring a quarter-pipe element and a hip jump toward the bottom — became intimidating in Friday’s conditions.
Gabel said he was grateful to the Woodward Copper terrain parks crew who worked hard Friday to prep and manicure the course through dumping snow.
“We were so lucky to have the course crew up early this morning doing their work,” Gabel said. “I know we had long course holds due to multiple different reasons. … And coming up here, I love pow, I’m a pow hound by trade. So getting into (the slalom course) just, again, like these guys said, (I was) trying to stay light on the feet and hold the line. I actually rode someone else’s trench for most of the way down and held onto it.”
“I loved the quarter pipe,” he added. “I ride halfpipe back home and to take the design that Daniel from Adaptive Action Sports designed and really run with it and build something, it’s like something we’ve never actually seen before having a quarter pipe in there and then a hip jump here at the bottom. They did a great job. It provided a lot of snow for us and a lot of man hours and a lot of (snow)cat time and we couldn’t be more grateful for it.”
In the women’s competition, without Kiana Clay of Dillon competing due to a head injury suffered in practice Thursday, Lisa Bunschoten of the Netherlands won with a time of 1:14.11. Brittany Coury was the runner-up with a time of 1:17.85 while Peggy Martin finished in third with a time of 1:28.51. Summit local Arlene Cohen finished in fourth with a time of 1:38.74.
As for Summit locals in the men’s competition, Joe Pleban finished in seventh (1:09.18), Zach Miller took eighth (1:09.19), Garrett Geros finished tenth (1:10.21) and Mike Minor was 12th (1:10.50).
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