The Burton Blog

Staying Grounded: Why We Love Carving, Earth Surfing, and Banked Slaloms

When the way forward looks unattainable, we sometimes look for inspiration from the past.

Lately, it seems like you can’t throw a rock without hitting a banked slalom course. What’s more, the average snowboard video on YouTube now features a few clips of riders doing maneuvers with both feet on the ground. Carving is cool. Turning is trendy, but don't call it a fad. It’s been a part of snowboarding for a long time. In fact, it’s the foundation we built this whole scene off from the start. One can argue, the rise in popularity of the more gravity-friendly side of snowboarding is the sign of a healthy community.


staying grounded ChristianHaller_PeacePark02015_Blotto_6330.jpg
Christian Haller has earned a reputation for his ability to maintain composure on-edge. P: Dean Blotto Gray

Snowboarding may still be one of the most-watched events in the winter Olympics, but it’s no longer the hot new thing in mainstream sports. Coverage of snowboard events has risen to levels where it is seemingly measured against ratings of reality TV shows and Netflix binges, putting big-airs and celebrity-spotted halfpipe events at the forefront of what the general public sees. While it exposes snowboarding to new audiences and pushes progression, it is largely in the realm of “them” for the average rider, rather than the “us.” That’s why the ground swell of banked slalom races and edits featuring deep carves are so exciting. Snowboarders are doing what they do best: taking something and making it their own. 

It’s as though we’ve all calmed down and remembered that simply riding your board and ripping turns is (dare we say) extremely fun. We got a little carried away for a few years, sensationalized by highly caffeinated maneuvers and primetime TV appearances. Now that the sugar-high has settled, snowboarders are re-realizing the organic appeal of surf-inspired, grassroots events like banked slaloms.

Entry into the Legendary Banked Slalom at Mt. Baker is more competitive than ever. Events like the JLA Banked Slalom at Mammoth, A-Rob's Smash Life Banked Slalom series, Slash N' Berm at Killington or the Dirksen Derby at Mt. Bachelor have become annual favorites for pros and joes alike. Each one carries its own flavor, but the atmosphere at these community-built events is uniformly positive. 

“Snowboarding is not about who can go biggest or spin the most rotations,” says seasoned snowboard instructor, Rachel Rose. “Many of us don't go around hopping on and off this or that. We're not so springy anymore. But a banked slalom? I'd shred that. (And I like to think I'd kill it!) I've never been a NASCAR fan, but I love rippin' Talladega turns in bumps and trees. Sharpen those edges, open it up, and let it fly!”

staying grounded Hirano_Pates_Esser_Lago_Gold_Ferguson_Breckenridge_CO_GLHeureux_.jpg
Sunny spring laps running carve trains with the crew. Epic. P: Gabe L'Heureux

The early snowboard competitions that pioneered the sport weren’t held in stadiums or on TV. They were slalom races, hand-dug halfpipe jams, and banked slaloms. The organizers were folks from the local communities. The competitors were just the same, and respect was earned with a good attitude and well-executed turns. The imperfection in terrain and conditions only fed the respect for near-perfect execution on a snowboard. There have always been favorites, but speed and precision can be honed without a foam pit, and guts can still lead to glory.

staying grounded BenFerguson_PeacePark2015_Blotto_3016.jpg
Ferguson, an edge-wizard on the wall. P: Dean Blotto Gray
Staying grounded DUSTIN LALIK PHOTO_ZIGZAG-5994.jpeg
Ben Ferguson at Baldface's Zig Zag banked slalom. P: Dustin Lalik

There’s a joy in trying to perfect your skills that brings riders together. When you see someone rip a beautiful turn, it’s hard not to want to try one yourself. Add a few berms, a clock, and a homemade trophy to the mix, and it’s enough to keep 100 people of all ages and skill levels entertained for a whole weekend. If certain trends can come and go, these are the things that will always stay the same. Even if we reach the limit of how many times you can flip and spin. There is no limit to the amount of time you can devote to perfecting the subtleties of board control, just as there’s no limit to the enjoyment you can get out of a healthy community of riders.

"Carving gives you a really strong feeling of control," says Burton Team rider, Christian Haller. "To me it’s like driving a really fast car, I can make speed in no time and I can break whenever and wherever I want to. Being able to stand on your edge properly is the main thing in snowboarding. You can see it from a mile away if a rider is really able to do that or not so I think it’s the essence of snowboarding."

staying grounded BenFerguson_Cervinia_Italy_GLHeureux_8367.jpg
How low can you go? Ferguson drops it under the sign. P: Gabe L'Heureux
staying grounded AttainableZakHale_BearMountain_Blotto_1858.jpg
Zak Hale leans into a sunny, slushy toeside carve. P:

If there isn’t a banked slalom at (or near) your home mountain yet, there’s a good chance there will be next season. Between the berms, or between hits in the local terrain park, more and more riders are channeling the art of the carve. Is it a sign that the undertaker has moved on? Well, to answer that you have to assume he was coming for us in the first place. When banked slaloms and deep carves are the hot new thing, it’s a sign that snowboarding is not in danger. In fact, it’s doing just fine.∆