Vans Hi-Standard Series (2023)
Brighton Resort, Brighton, UT
I guess there was a lot I didn’t know. On the morning of Saturday, March 4th, this realization came in the form of not knowing what time the sun would rise. Presumably it’d be up—it usually is when I start my day. I also didn’t know what time I'd have to leave to find parking, which, unbeknownst to most Brighton diehards, may come as a surprise given I haven’t been this far up Big Cottonwood since Bonezone. Oops. Everybody kept telling me to get there early. The problem was, I didn’t know what early meant. Early is different for everyone and, since I didn’t know about traffic, the weather, or the amount of extra time my half dead pre-dawn body would need, I set my alarm for five.
It was five. The alarm came first, I shut it off. What followed, like clockwork, was the little Norm shoulder devil that started speaking to me. We could go back to sleep. I’m sure one of the other magazines will do a write up. It’ll be cold up there. Did you know that? Snowy too. It did sound nice, and it was going to be cold up there. Snowy too. The sun wasn’t up yet, I thought it would be. Ah shit, I thought, then got out of bed.
Shower, clothes, coffee. This routine, in similar clockwork fashion, is the same no matter the time. I packed a bag, grabbed my mug, and walked out to my car. It was still dark out, but there were no stars. There are never any stars in the city. I got in. Brighton.
In hindsight, five was too early. But I’m not complaining. I’m one of those once I’m up I’m up types of people. I had my coffee, the heat in my car, and the radio to keep me company. I pulled up near the Milly lift. Ok, I thought. I made it. A truck pulled in next to me. Jon Stark in the flesh. As in, Jon Stark, one of the founders of the very magazine where you’re finding this article. We caught up a bit, drank some coffee. Slowly, more faces started to arrive. The sun was coming up too. I could see everything for the first time. It was a Hi-Standard. Hi-Standard! I was at a fucking Hi-Standard. Oh, the memories. Vans Hi-Standard, Mount Snow, 2016 (or was it 2017?). There were jumps, jibs, and cash. I walked away that day with $20, the first money I had ever made snowboarding. But time went on. The Hi-Standard moved to different mountains, I got older. We didn’t really keep in touch. Last I heard, it had been on an indefinite hiatus due to Covid. Now it was back. Terrific.
I never knew people lined up before the lift opened, you don’t really see that at Woodies. By 8:30 this became abundantly clear. The line stretched back a way, but I ignored it. I wasn’t riding. Instead, I walked to the base of the course. Katie and E-Stone were warming up on the mics and a few of the riders were testing out the jibs. Danny Kass did a back three on the jump and the event just… sort of began.
The first portion was cash for tricks. Riders would do tricks and, well, they’d get cash. Get it? The judges—Desiree Melancon, Mikey LeBlanc, Mike Bogs, and Danny Kass—were handing out twenties to anything on par with Jed's switch backside spins. Remember, nothing over a 720. The obvious exception to this rule was Mike Rav. I’m pretty sure Mike did a 1600 at one point on top of the rainbow box. Is 1600 the right term? I start to lose count when we get up that high. Either way, the judges didn’t seem to be sticklers for it.
Cash for tricks went on. Parker Szumowski, one of the masterminds behind the Hi-Standard course, was also giving out money to riders like Jill Perkins, the second mastermind behind the event. Jill, by the way, made a brilliant comeback after having her board fly out of her truck on 1300 while coming up to Brighton. There were others too. Egan ollied the set, as she’s one to do now. Spencer bounced off the inflatable boot, and Louif sessioned the flat box to tube (take notes, kids). Then, of course, came the coup de grâce: that one moment when you know it’s all over and you can die happy. Close your eyes and imagine Tommy Gesme riding down the course while “All About Her Shmoney” serenades you through the speakers. This, for the uninitiated, is probably analogous to some famous sports person doing a famous sports thing in front of a crowd that wants nothing more than to see it. I don’t know, I never did care for sports. You get the idea, though. Right?
Cash for tricks ended, but not before Sierra did a perfect cab two to close out the stairset. The boarders retreated to their respective corners to count their money like a pirate would plunder. Then they all started to crowd. Wood was being placed at the top and bottom of the stairs. There were rumors of skaters. I had heard Ben Kadow would be in the DJ booth (and I prayed that rumor would be true) but I wasn’t sure who else would show up. Vans skaters, sure. But who? Then, once the wood was all in place, I saw them. Pedro Delfino and Taylor Kirby. Taylor Kirby, by the way, is in my opinion one of the most underrated skaters alive. Brophy took the mic. The crowd was cheering. They knew what they wanted. Kirby jumped into boardslide, Pedro into fifty. A few tries later Kirby rolled away and Pedro pulled the plug. Shit, I don’t blame him.
The snow was just beginning to come down then. It was light at first. Section two was starting. Section two was run based. As in, one rider at a time on the course and each rider gets a certain number of runs. This was as much an aid to some riders as it was a crutch to others. Stefi Luxton, Olympian and early morning consigliere to the board loss fiasco, seemed right at home with a perfect 360 on the jump. Remember, nothing over a 720. I also feel like I’d be doing everyone a disservice if I didn’t mention Melissa Riitano’s method, Robby Meehan’s wall bash, and Tommy Gesme’s tina. Each of those tricks were beautiful and amazing in their own right. I’m sure there were more tricks that would have garnered mention in this article, but it was getting hard to see. The snow had picked up.
There was no more standing outside between sections. By 2:30, The lodge was packed with snowboarders trying to avoid the very thing that had brought them out. Somehow, I got a seat. There were a few chairs, so I was joined by Alexa and Phipps. We waited and wondered, are they really gonna do this? It seemed every time we looked out the door the snow was coming down harder. From where I was in the lodge I couldn’t see to the top of the course. They can’t, I thought. Then, they did. Desiree stood on a table and announced the list for finals. We heard Phipps and started screaming, so the rest of the names didn’t really process. From one intern to the other, nice.
Finals started and I felt like Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining. I was cold, tired, and covered in snow. I heard the little shoulder devil again. You should go home. What about the traffic you’ll hit if you stay? I know you want to be in our warm car right now. Mmmmmm. Ignore him, I thought. This is good. And it was. John Cardiel was in the DJ booth. All hail. The women’s battle, I thought, was between Ivika and Jill. For men it was a bit wider. Tommy, Robby, Reid, and Jed were all fighting for it. Realistically though, with 10K on the line, everybody was fighting for it. But, in the end, it was Jill and Jed with the big checks (or guitars in this case). And it was Spencer Shubert who came home with the Ojo award – in the Ojo shirt no less.
Crack a Corona everyone. We have our champions.
Photography by: Oli Gagnon