Our new guest contributor Alex Greenwood gives us the full lowdown on the Sammy Carlson Invitational that went off over the weekend in Mt. Bachelor.
It’s been a mixed season for Sammy Carlson, winning gold in the inaugural X Games Real Ski Backcountry at the Aspen X Games but missing out on competing in slopestyle due to injury, however the season was always set to end on a high with the return of his Sammy Carlson Invitational event. Back for its second year at Mt Bachelor OR, this year promised to be bigger and better than the previous year and it certainly did not disappoint. The set up was similar to last year, a table-top booter and wall ride, except the wall ride had been tripled in size. The wall itself was a curved 80ft wide monster that stood a staggering 60ft from the ground, with two quarter pipe style transfers at either side of the wall. The wall was so big that high winds the previous night had meant that the construction team, including Sammy, had been up until 2am stabilising it by tethering it to flatbed trucks behind.
The format of the competition itself was a relaxed affair, bringing a welcome break from the increasing pressures of a sport inevitably having to look towards Sochi. No bibs, no numbers and all the judging was an informal matter with riders casting their votes for the five available awards at the end of the day. Two jam sessions took place, with no limit for the number of runs that could be taken, with riders frequently dropping in to the commentary box and grabbing a microphone to keep the event’s compere Luke Van Valin company.
At the start of a sunny day in Oregon there was definitely going to be some kudos to be taken home for the first rider to reach the top of the huge wall ride. The race would be on with such a strong field of riders, from young guns such as Willie Borm and Hudson Knoll, through to heavy weights such as Alex Schlopy and Henrik Harlaut, right through to bona fide legends like none other than Candide Thovex himself. The first jam session saw most of the riders taking advantage of the large knuckle off the side of the main booter to throw down some breath taking butters and flips. Tanner Hall opened up the strongest, boosting huge front flips off the knuckle to some smooth cork 540s onto the wall. John Spriggs started well with a few huge backflips off the knuckle, one going so deep as he almost landed to flat. The race to the top of the wall was definitely on, with the charge being led by Schlopy, Harlaut and Sammy. As most riders looked to get the speed dialled during the first session, Sammy started to make use of kicker which had been built in the woods to the side of the main booter to transfer onto the landing. It was clear that all the competitors were enjoying themselves on a course which had been designed with them very much at the forefront. Throughout the first session riders continued to impress, Phil Casabon looked as smooth and stylish as ever, with a number of switch tail butter 720s off the knuckle and with plenty of hand drags onto the wall. Pat Goodnough got a switch tail butter 900 dialled after a few attempts and last year’s winner, Torin Yater-Wallace continued to show what a force he is outside the pipe, with some effortless butters off the knuckle and throwing some huge alley oops onto the wall. Despite Steve Stepp, fresh from winning MVP at the West Coast Sessions, stomping a number of rodeo 540s off the knuckle AND a switch 630 onto the wall, still inspired cries of “you’re still an AM!” from the crowd…
It was clear to see that there was a real party atmosphere with both riders and spectators enjoying themselves, with non-stop tunes being played and BBQ smoke in the air. In between the sessions the park crew worked hard to maintain the run in and ensure that the course would have the right speed. The second session saw the increased use of the big 65ft table-top booter as many of the riders got into the swing of the competition. Reigning Euro X Games slopestyle gold medallist McRae Williams looked good and Willie Borm continues to defy his age (only just 16!) with a perfect right side double cork 10 mute. JF Houle rolled back the years with a perfect backflip japan and to the delight of the watching crowd Tommy Ellingson stomped a double backflip.
As the second session really got underway, the riders got the speed dialled and things started to get wild. Local boy and Hoodcrew member Hudson Knoll started to step up. Following on from his huge flatspin 5 onto the wall in the first session, Knoll went so big on the wall that he ended up sitting on the coping at the top. True to form, Candide Thovex went huge on the wall to reach the coping even though he is currently carrying a slight knee injury. Reed Lewis showed no fear, hitting the wall like a man possessed all afternoon but it was the man himself though, Sammy Carlson, who consistently went the biggest on the wall using the left hand transfer onto the wall, Sammy slid the coping at least 20ft every time.
After it was all said and done, votes were cast and all the riders enjoyed a much deserved drink. The prize money for this year’s event was simple, $2500 for each of the 5 awards. The first award the “Kamikaze Pilot” was given to Reed Lewis for his relentless assault on the course all day. The second award for “Best Trick on the Wall Ride” was taken home by Hudson Knoll for his massive flatspin 5 and aforementioned lofty perch at the top of the wall.
True to form Casabon, following up from winning most stylish rider at last year’s event, won the “Wise Guy” award for best creativity and the “Most Stylish” award. Casabon took a number of unique lines on the day, utilising the side of the quarter pipe transfers to take a totally different hit onto the wall.
It was Sammy Carlson though who took the final award for “Overall Champ”, he killed it all day and thoroughly deserved it. When the dust settles after the second SCI, an event that he masterminded and made a reality, Sammy can surely look back on this season and be sure in the knowledge that whatever happened, it will be remembered for finishing in style.