Snowboard Iskola

After the US Open one year, I drove from Southern Vermont to New Hampshire’s White Mountains. It was early in the 2000s. Magazines and VHS tapes were how snowboarding was spread. Grenade was high in its reign. Red Bull (a World Quarters sponsor) was pretty new. And pros from all over came to New England every March for the US Open, which was followed by the World Quarterpipe Championships, just a few hours northeast, at Waterville Valley.

World Quarters, the East Coast’s anti-contest, had been running since 1998, founded by Pat Bridges and Mark Sullivan. It gained steam quickly—who doesn’t love a quarterpipe contest—not only for the concept but because the event eschewed anything that could be taken too seriously (outside of the snowboarding itself). It crowned winners like Jeff Billo (1998), Shawn Durst (1999), Guy Deschennes (2001), Shane Flood (2000 and 2002), and Kevin Casillo (2003) who walked away with a badge of honor of bragging rights--not only for their riding but for their riding amidst a not-so-controlled chaos.

A few things from that day in 2004 are still stuck in my memory: Dave Schiff was there and he was wearing a multi-hosed beer dispenser (the “Octobong” if I remember correctly). “PIN IT” plus an alliterative expletive was spray-painted on the QP wall, along with a hastily drawn PBR logo. Someone, I don’t know who it was, had brought a plywood bed of nails, and they hit the quarterpipe while lying on it shirtless. And of course, there was The Gauntlet, a mandatory bonfire ollie in the middle of the run-in. On either side of the fire stood some of the best snowboarders in the world—US Open champions, newly minted Olympians—and every time a rider dropped in, the denizens of The Gauntlet pelted them with snowballs and sprayed them with beer.

It was a hell-has-broken-loose sort of celebration, reckless by definition (“reckless” is probably putting it lightly) and beloved because of it—a combination of high-quality snowboarding and low-brow decision making (Scotty Lago won that year, cementing him in the canon of snowboarding lore before he even won bronze in Vancouver). Back then, the World Quarterpipe Championships was the sort of event that, when you’re young and looking for the place you belong, brings the pages of snowboarding magazines to life with an alluring and rabid delirium.

But after a while, resort risk management teams were fairly averse to the anti-contest contest. It disappeared for a few years, was resurrected in '08, and then it went away again. But while the World Quarters faded into memory after its initial early aughts heyday, it was never forgotten.

And then in 2021, Slush the Magazine brought the fabled wall back.

Of course, things evolve. Hangovers get worse as you get older. Health insurance becomes more expensive. But the siren’s song of a 20-foot quarterpipe hasn’t ever lost its appeal, whether you’re the one hitting it or in the crowd watching.

And it was that last part that Pat Bridges underlined when he resurrected World Quarters, because it’s really hard to bring anything back that was so beloved two decades prior. Nostalgia is something that doesn’t always age well outside of memory. But that’s why the current World Quarterpipe Championships is so awesome. It focuses on what’s really important: the snowboarding (obviously). A pristine quarterpipe, highly talented riders, and the bragging rights that naturally come with going triple overhead above the deck.

On Friday, May 3rd, World Quarters touched down at Mammoth Mountain, a resort with a long tradition of celebrated springtime events—Superpark, WCI, Grenade Games. The season is long in the Eastern Sierra and Mammoth Unbound knows a thing or three about building immaculate jumps and transition.

The Unbound crew had pushed the behemoth wall at the base of The Mill, just looker’s right of Chair 2, nestled against the trees. Quarterpipes, rare as they tend to be in snowboarding, have a “build it and they will come” austerity. Since Slush’s first edition of World Quarters, the event's roster of riders has grown every year. 

On Friday, nearly 100 of snowboarding’s best were in the lineup, including Dustin Craven, Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, Kennedi Deck, Keegan Hosefros, Judd Henkes, Iikka Backstrom, Luke Lund, Shannon Dunn, Ellie Weiler, Brooke D’Hondt, Valentino Guseli, Raibu Katayama, Ryo Aizawa, Gabe Ferguson, Bode Merrill, Harrison Gordon, Summer Fenton, Joey Okesson, Darrah Reid-McLean, Jeff Kramer, Brandon Davis, Darcy Sharpe, Stefi Luxton, Scott Blum, Morris Gifford, Lyon Farrell, Levko Fedorowycz, and Teddy Rauh. Flanked by an audience that set up lawn chairs to watch the proceedings, the riders represented a true cross-section of snowboarding—past World Quarters winners, NST champs, Olympians, backcountry veterans, street boarders, legends, and up-and-comers.

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Quarterpipes, in all their glory, are about resistance to intimidation as much as they are about skill; straight-lining toward a vertical wall is no small feat. Blasting high above the heads of the media circus on the deck is another. Quarters are king- and queen-makers, rewarding those that set course and don’t blink, combining lofty amplitude with technical precision. And it's because of this that it's so exciting to spectate.

So, there were awe-inspiring moments that afternoon at The Mill. Judd’s air-to-fakie, Ellie’s McTwist, Goop’s handplant on the tombstone, every time Keegan dropped, and of course, the heated battle between Raibu and Valentino. The two men tested the limits of the QP, going tit for tat as they creeped higher and higher in the sky and closer and closer to World Quarters glory. In the end, their duel was settled by a super finals and Val rode away victorious. 

On the women's, it was Ellie Weiler's combination of big airs, handplants, and the McTwist that secured her first World Quarters title. For fun's sake, the Nixon Best Time awards went to Raibu and Shannon Dunn-Downing.

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It’s really hard to bring anything back that was beloved two decades prior. But Pat and the Slush Magazine crew have done it. There’s no gauntlet. There’s less havoc. But you can’t force a ruckus and more importantly, you don’t need to. The riding is the reason the World Quarterpipe Championships shines. The reunion on the sidelines. The awe in the air. Because no matter the passing of time, if you build a perfect quarterpipe, the riders will come, the crowd will assemble, and the show will be great.

Big congrats to the 2024 Slush World Quarterpipe Champions, Ellie Weiler and Valentino Guseli.

See you next year.