Baker’s the place for boarders

October 29, 2006 

The Legendary Banked Slalom at Mount Baker is one of the best-known snowboarding events in the country, drawing competitors from around the world. Winners get a duct-tape trophy and a surfboard.

MICHAEL O’LEARY/THE (EVERETT) HERALD FILE

Temple Cummins has done just about everything there is to do on a snowboard.

He’s been featured in industry magazines since he was a teenager.

Gnu named a snowboard in his honor.

He’s even jumped over a moving train. (Check out the footage at videovat.com.)

But the 32-year-old who works at his dad’s University Place snowboard shop – Northwest Snowboards – will tell you some of his favorite riding days came at Mt. Baker Ski Area.

On Feb. 5, while most people were watching the Seahawks lose to Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl, Cummins was winning Baker’s Legendary Banked Slalom.

Some believe the LBS was as influential in the evolution of boarding as the Super Bowl was for football.

The race through a natural half pipe started in 1985 when snowboarding was still searching for its identity. The event remains one of the nation’s best-known snowboard events even though the winners only get a duct-tape trophy and a surfboard.

“It’s not about who wins,” Baker spokeswoman Gwyn Howat says. “It’s about celebrating the sport.”

Precisely why winning the event last season and in 2001 was so special to Cummins.

Baker is one of Cummins’ favorite places to ride, even though it takes him as long as four hours to drive there from Tacoma.

“Baker has it all,” Cummins said.

If you’re planning on riding at Baker, Cummins offers a few tips.

HEAD OUT OF BOUNDS

“The backcountry is what keeps bringing me back,” Cummins said. “I spend most of my time out there, just make sure you have an avalanche transceiver and the right gear.

“And make sure you know where you are going. Don’t follow tracks. You never know when it will lead you right off a cliff.”

AVOID THE CROWDS

On a busy weekend, Cummins suggests hitting Chair 1 on Panorama Dome. Austin, an intermediate run can be a good run to get away from crowds. If not, it has nearby access to the backcountry.

SWING BY MILANO’S

Cummins’ favorite place to stop on his way home from Baker is Milano’s Restaurant and Deli in Deming.

“They have the best Italian food around,” Cummins said.

GET A CONDO

Worn out by the long drives, Cummins’ family bought a condo near the mountain a few years ago.

“That’s another reason I spend so much time up there,” Cummins said. “It really is the way to go if you are going be up there a lot.”

Many condos are available for rent for as little as $130 per night. The resort recently launched a new lodging Web page, mtbaker.us/travelers.

YOU’LL LOVE

There is no such thing as bad snow days at Baker, which gets almost 650 inches a year. The backcountry terrain is outstanding.

YOU’LL HATE

Bring a pillow and a book for the painfully slow lifts.

THE BIG RUN

Vertical drop: 1,460 feet

Lifts: Take Chair 7, then ski over to Chair 8.

Hardest way down: Ski down to the top of Chair 5, and then take the double-diamond pitch called Gabbles under the lift to the Raven Hot Cafe.

Easiest way down: Almost all of the runs in this area are intermediate, so unless you end up in the halfpipe, you probably won’t have much trouble.

WHAT’S NEW

A $1.3 million upgrade to Chair 4 changes it from a double to a fixed-grip quad.

RESORT STATS

Lift tickets: $42.54 general, $32.04 ages 7-15, $36.54 ages 60-69, $20.54 ages 70 and older, free children 6 and younger. Fifth-graders can also register online to ski free.

Season pass: $591, $529 full-time college student, $434 ages 16-17, $246 ages 13-15, $172 ages 7-12, $296 ages 60-69, $47 ages 70 and older. Prices good through Tuesday.

Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Terrain: 1,000 acres served by lifts including a half pipe and a terrain park.

Lifts: Eight (four fixed quad chairs, two doubles, two rope tows)

Trails: 50 runs (24 percent beginner, 45 percent intermediate, 31 percent advanced)

Summit elevation: 5,050 feet

Base elevation: 4,300 feet main base; 3,590 feet lower base

Vertical drop: 1,460 feet

Annual snowfall: 647 inches

Cross-country: Four kilometers and backcountry trails

Information: 360-734-6771; mtbaker.us

Fast Fact

Mt. Baker set a national record for snowfall by a ski resort during the 1998-99 season when it received 1,140 inches.

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