With no powder in sight, we sent contributing photographer Fabian Schönenberger to Laax for a weekend dedicated to friends, turns and a shared passion for snowboarding. Scroll on for photos, results and his impressions from the 2023 SuddenRush Banked Slalom…
From top pros to the weekend warriors, Crap Sogn Gion attracted all kinds of riders, pushing each other to ride the 17 banks as fast as possible. And what a race it was on the perfectly groomed course, which, in the words of Super Masters winner Peter Bauer, was “nice and easy, but left plenty of room to pick the wrong line”.
The lively discussions on Friday about line choices showed that the old heads are still quite keen to beat each other by a few hundredths of a second. On that day, Pascal “Pi” Imhof took the win in the Grand Masters category (ages 45-49), Irene and Reto Marolf claimed the fastest times for the Masters (40+), and returning champions Josh Dirksen and Sina Candrian successfully defended their pro category titles (18+).
Did the winners chose the best line? Or was it the best wax? In the end it didn’t really matter because it’s the enjoyment of snowboarding in its purest form that counts the most. Or, in the words of local legend, Nicolas Müller, who finished 3rd on a snowboard from 1998, “There’s nothing better than strapping in and doing what snowboarding is all about – Turn left, turn right!”.
And that’s exactly what the 100 participants in the Open category (18-39) did on Saturday. Full concentration, turn after turn, to take advantage of the small details that can make the difference between winning and losing in a banked slalom. Or, as veteran banked racer Svenja Schallner described, “The fascination of these races is to take advantage of the centrifugal force in each bank and accelerate more and more.” Carla Somaini and Renato Nadig, who won the Open category, seem to have mastered this art to perfection.
The “Fastest Race” at the end of Saturday broke down all of the categories and showed that age is just a number. Accordingly, the 47 year old former boardercross champion Ueli Kestenholz took the win ahead of pipe specialist Dave Hablützel and Open winner Renato Nadig. In the women’s race, Masters winner Irene Marolf proved once again that there is no getting past her for the crown.
On Sunday, the big question was who was more nervous — the kids or their parents? It was great to see that some events are still truly for everyone, with Ex-Pros and legends cheering on their kids from the sidelines. And the next generation did not fail to impress with finishing times that would have been good enough for top places in the older categories. Third-placed Kalani Kestenholz in the old boys’ category was excited, that he, his father Ueli and his brother Kai brought home a whole set of medals. At the awards ceremony, with their offspring on the podium, the eyes of former pros like Ueli and Peter were definitely beaming with pride. Or were they already starting to get nervous that they would be unable to keep up with their own children in another year or two?
Huge praise to the organization and the shaper crew who made such a perfect course out of the less than ideal conditions this winter. Keep worshipping the turn and see you all next year again!