THE CARSON IANSON QUARTER PIPE CLASSIC
If there's one thing distinct about hardcore snowboarders and skiers, it's that they always know where to find the goods. Bisecting the state along Highway 55, summer streams bloated with runoff water and another dry season about to set in, it was difficult to imagine sitting on top of a snowcapped peak last weekend watching freestyle enthusiasts hit a handmade quarter pipe as part of the Carson Ianson Quarter-Pipe Classic. But, like I said, hardcores know where to find the goods.
West Mountain is mixed into the majestic looking peaks situated above Cascade. Once June hits, the mountain road that accesses the area opens up enough to allow vehicles through. For years, skiers and snowboarders have used the West Mountain vicinity as a place to get in late season turns or build a kicker under the clear, sunny skies of summer. It's sort of a big playground for winter enthusiasts feeling nostalgic.
Where the dirt road hit the summit, the trail was well trodden to the event epicenter in the distance. Trucks and vans loaded with skiers, snowboarders, dogs and hangers-on crowded into the parking lot, some carrying hitchhikers who had thumbed a ride after making turns from the summit, traversing over to the road at the bottom.
The actual event was held in a natural half-pipe along a ridge that had enough snow to look glaciated. There was a dip in the earth that felt like a terrain park at a resort. Local terrain park builders from Bogus and Sun Valley worked all week to create the quarter-pipe, set a rail for grinding and build a kicker that was used for launching. It was a surreal scene. The run-up to the kicker or jump was flat, so in place of a steep slope a snowmobile was used to tow in skiers and snowboarders who then launched into radical aerial maneuvers.
"Carson really loved coming up here," said event organizer Cory McDonald. "This is a way for us to remember him."
Ianson passed away while traveling in Thailand in November of 2002. A Boise native, he had significant influence on the local snowboarding scene. There was no doubt about that Saturday. The event was as underground as they come. There was no advertising other than a listing in BW's Sports and Rec section. It was a true testament to word of mouth. Riders showed up from Washington, Oregon and Utah.
"This is the roots of freestyle," commented Carrie Bishop as she carved away at snow that was shoveled into place to be used as a ramp. There wasn't a big enough slope to create speed entering the quarter pipe so the park artists hauled in a painting scaffold and then piled snow up next to it. It was intimidating to say the least. Riders would pass their boards up to the top of the thing and then lock into their bindings as fellow jibbers stabilized the wobbly contraption. Once locked and loaded, many of the athletes would then drop five feet or so onto the snow to get more speed for the run up to the quarter-pipe.
The first place trophy, won by Boise native Josh Isaac, was made of glass blown by local glass artist Cheyenne Malcolm who works at Zion Art. It was a fantastic showing of localism. "Made In Boise" (MIB) flags were flown from the rim of the quarter-pipe. "Made In Boise" was a phrase created by Ianson and his pals working at the Bogus terrain park as a reference to and pride in the homegrown snowboarding scene.
"We had a bunch of T-shirts made (with the MIB logo) and we sort of sell them underground," said Malcolm, who also worked as part of the Bogus terrain park crew.
In the end the low-key event sort of became a tribute to Boise outdoor enthusiasts who have passed away lately.
"I remember at last year's event, Jason Harper was one of the last people left riding the quarter pipe," commented Travis Moore, who furnished the scaffolding. Harper disappeared earlier this spring while ski-mountaineering in St. Elias National Park in Alaska. Harper's brother Doug finished third overall in this year's contest.
The Carson Ianson Quarter-Pipe Classic had a hardcore feel to it without the competitive edge. Nobody was into who won or lost. It would be difficult to find a more soulful event anywhere in the west. Somehow, I got the feeling that's the way Ianson would have wanted it.