This story originally ran in the January 2016 issue (44.5) of POWDER as part of the “Young, Dumb and Stupid” series. PHOTO: Casey Cane
It’s a typical soggy morning in Alpental’s Lot 3 parking lot, chock-full of 1970s VW vans. Buckets of Olympia beer, Gallo boxed wine, and a hefty supply of Fireball line the snowbank. A large group of 30-something working professionals (who may or may not long for their 20-something glory days), a smattering of old timers, and an all-too-eager-to-learn high school kid assemble.
From their vintage ski clothing, you might think the gathering is just another Gaper Day. But it’s not. They are in uniform, and the skis they carry stretch high into the gray sky. Stand the ski on its tail, reach up with your arm, and make sure the tip is at least as tall as your wrist. The longer the better, because on Long Board Day, size matters.
Long Board Day has been described as “eight hours of tantric sex mixed with sheer terror and canned beer.” Each spring, the Long Board Committee selects a random Saturday based on weather forecasts, with powder clauses and weather days included. This is not a race. The point is not to crown a victor, though certain skiers stand out among the rest (more on that in a bit). Long Board Day—unsanctioned and unsponsored—is intended to pay homage to skiing’s golden age.
Its birth can be traced to Kirkwood, California, an idea conceived in 2005 by a vinyl-loving, ’80s-gamebox devotee named Casey Cane who felt the growing presence of fat skis was regressing the sport. He used the Teton Gravity Research message board to get the word out, and by 2007, the event had grown from just a handful of his friends to a few dozen inspired weirdos. After Cane, who lives in the Bay Area, had kids, co-founder Dave Gorton moved to Washington and set his long skis on Alpental. In stark contrast to LBD’s comfortable California counterpart, the event achieved cult-like status in a place where a rusty old double chair stands unapologetically to the little mountain’s gnarly terrain.
Unlike Gaper Day, Long Board Day is just a regular outing on the hill. According to Cane, it was created “to put skiing in perspective—the roots of skiing and how difficult it was.” Participants are also required to ski as they would on their everyday boards, including the nearby backcountry. “It started because fat skis were giving people false perceptions of their true skiing ability,” says Cane. “People don’t truly understand the skill of Schmidt, Plake, and Hattrup until they strap on the big boys.”
The rules are simple: 210-centimeter skis or longer are required. Snowboarders may opt for a Burton Asym or Craig Kelly Air. Anything with contact bindings and T-bolts are acceptable.
Though Alpental is where LBD cultivates new followers, Kirkwood set the standard. It was in sunny California where Ron Shevock used 230-centimeter speed skis to launch off the Chamonix cornices. Then Cane mounted a pair of 240-centimeter Kneissl long-jumping skis with Salomon 916 bindings. “It was literally like having a full ski behind your boot,” says Cane. “You couldn’t really jump turn because they were so heavy, and you couldn’t really snowplow because your legs would have to be so wide. My shins were all bruised up just from trying to maneuver them with normal boots.”
Back at Alpental, I’m on a pair of 210-centimeter K2 TNCs, joined by a pair of like-minded whack jobs primed to simulate a Chinese Downhill. To the right is a pair of Dynastar Coupe du Monde 223 DH boards. To the left is an equally imposing set of 212 Dynamic VR27s. The booze has been polished off, and another guy behind me, standing on 230s, is on acid. He is, apparently, the only person to ever ‘win’ Long Board Day.