Matt Williams reports from the annual Never Summer end of winter meltdown.
For the past four seasons, Never Summer has partnered with Loveland Ski Area to wrap up winter with a big community gathering, bringing together riders from all over the Colorado Rockies for the aptly named, Neverland Banked Slalom. We checked in with Matt Williams, Never Summer men’s team manager–and 2023 third place winner–on what this seasonal celebration is all about and how this year’s end cap to winter turned out. – Mary T. Walsh
photos: Thom Paxton
The Neverland Banked Slalom has been a cap at the end of the season for the past four years in Colorado. Can you tell us a little bit about how the event came to be and what it’s all about?
Neverland is all about bringing Colorado together at a local resort with mom-and-pop vibes to wrap up the season and have an amazing time with the entire Never Summer family, as well as the entire snowboard community in Colorado. It’s a time for all of our hard-working factory employees, riders, NS lovers, and anyone else that loves snowboarding to come together to celebrate an awesome season with some friendly competition. Everyone is out there high-fiving, making side bets, and stoking out their competition. The factory employees have their own side bets and it really has become a fun in-house competition that everyone looks forward to all year. Being the fastest in the factory gives you a full year of bragging rights. From tattoos to cash, those guys have some pretty crazy side bets going on for Neverland. On top of that, it is one of the highest-paying Banked Slaloms in the area; with $3500 on the line for open classes, it sells out fast and brings out the best of the best in their best shape of the season.
The slalom course itself is in a bowl on the upper part of the mountain, yes? What’s the venue like?
Yeah, it’s a super fun bowl that has natural wind lips up and down the ridge all season. The way the wind bowls out that area makes for the perfect place for a banked slalom course, and with the amount of snow Loveland got this year, we couldn’t have been happier where it was. There is a wood-fire lodge right next door that spectators and riders can hang out in during the race too.
The building and shaping of the course takes over a week, and variable weather conditions can make it super challenging. This year the builders saw sunshine, clouds, snow, and even a downpour of rain. We wouldn’t be able to pull off this course without the help of everyone at Loveland–their cat operators and terrain park crew are key to getting this course put together and riding smooth for race day. On top of Loveland’s crew, we have our stoke master and shipping extraordinaire Joey Herman, as well as team rider Nick Larson up there all week helping direct and hand dig the berms to perfection. A course built by snowboarders for snowboards–the best way it can happen.
Have you competed in the event before or was this your first year?
I absolutely love banked slaloms and have done them at tons of different resorts, but this was the first year I didn’t have a conflict and was able to attend Neverland. And I gotta say, it’s incredible.
How did the course run this year?
It was super fun. The day before the race was sunny and warm, so all of the banks softened up, and the morning of the race, when we pulled into the parking lot it was dumping snow. Course inspection was a mandatory slip this year, and it was cloudy and cold. You could see some people were nervous with how firm it was. As inspection was wrapping up, the sun came out and the snow started to loosen up. By the time that the riders meeting was over and run one started, the course was still fast and firm, but had softened up enough that you could really set an edge. I set a 40.94 second time on my first run and my immediate thought was, “I have to break 40 seconds.” Run two rolled around and the course was even better, still in great condition, but was getting to the point where it was still slushy at the bottom, so it was about as good as it could get considering it was snowing earlier that morning. I ended up with a 39.58 on my second run, landing me in third on the podium behind Dylan and Cobie.
The event is a gathering for the Never Summer team, too, right? Who all was there?
This is a big gathering for the Never Summer family as a whole. It brings so many people that are currently involved with Never Summer, have been involved with Never Summer in the past, or just part of the Never Summer family through a different way. You run into so many friends and good people. For team riders, we had Sam Klein, Emily O’Connor, Jess Tennyson, Nick Larson and I out there this year.
Who would you say is the fastest on the team?
Wellllll…based on all of the races this year, I’m going to have to give it to Chase Blackwell, even though at JLA in Mammoth this year, I was only milliseconds behind his time, and he wasn’t at Neverland, so who knows… 😉
Who is the slowest?
Any of the team riders that didn’t show up. They know if they don’t show, they can’t get beat. Haha.
Did any of the team riders make it on the podium?
Yep! Jess Tennyson ended up second in the Woman’s Open division. There were so many rippers out there. I ended up third in Men’s Open! I’m stoked on it, the only three people to break 40 seconds on the course ended up on the podium!
If someone has never ridden Loveland, what makes the mountain a great place to have a spring event like this?
Loveland is an absolute gem. And while the locals might not want me to share their secret, it is one of the coolest resorts off of I-70. No lift lines, a free cat to take you to awesome lines, affordable drinks and food, and all of the staff are super friendly and stoked. Side hits are everywhere, the tree riding is much more open than most places in Colorado, and you can find pow stashes days after it snows. If you’ve ever been to a mom-and-pop resort in the spring, you know why it’s amazing, and if you haven’t, it’s something you just have to experience. Everyone knows each other, respects each other, and shares the stoke!
Of course, there was an afterparty and it included a preview of the Never Summer 2023-24 line. How did you all present the new line?
We had an afterparty at Cabin Creek Brewing in Georgetown, and it was super fun. They also were having a party for another group that was Kentucky Derby-themed, so the mix up of crowds made for a really fun night. We had a raffle that every single person got to participate in; Sam Klein showed the Sinister Films movie Quicksand; and a live DJ. The 2024 board line was open to be looked at by anyone in the place with Ryan and Seth from Never Summer to talk about the boards if people had questions. It was so cool to see how many people were interested in next year’s line and stoked on the graphics.
And then Sam Klein had a Cheddar Tour stop the next day. How did that go? That’s rad that the Cheddar Tour rounded out the weekend!
It was closing day and closing day is always full of so much stoke. The Cheddar Tour brings so much stoke, as well, to resorts. It was the perfect fit. Cheddar is always great because there are so few touring, fun events that anyone can participate in these days. It brings all of the local kids out to board together and get stoked on each other. More than anything, Cheddar Tour is all about good times, and nothing but that was reflected at Loveland.