Mountain-boarders make it look… hard |

Mountain-boarders make it look… hard

Lindsey RhynardCompetitors took to the air during the weekend event at Donner Ski Ranch, but most also spent some time in the dirt

Even though it’s the most over-used word of the last decade, you’d still be hard pressed to call snowboarding extreme after it was incorporated into the mainstream years ago.

Maybe that’s why the young and brave destined to push the envelope invented landboarding, also known as mountainboarding.

Whatever the driving force is behind the fledging sport, it could use a refinement or two. Like brakes, a large net, a mound of soft dirt or any contraption that will slow one down.

Mountain boarding, depending on the type of board used, appears to be either a 4×4 version of snowboarding or motocross skateboarding.

The longer boards are essentially snowboards with shock absorbing trucks and soft 3- to 4-inch diameter pneumatic wheels. The shorter land boards are more like skateboards with solid, faster wheels. Both types of landboards are designed to allow a rider to move over terrain like the summer-time slopes of Donner Ski Ranch.

Last weekend The Ranch was the site of the Second Annual Donner Summit Downhill Festival, the second of four events in the West Coast All-Terrain Boarding Championship Series.

Null and Pincetich Designs (NPD) sponsored the festival.

According to its web site, Lance Null and Chris Pincetich were the first to patent the landboard and have been instrumental in the promotion of it and the sport itself, including TV promotions, printed advertisements, and demonstrations.

Saturday and Sunday’s events included dual slalom, freestyle big air and a super downhill.

The downhill, a mass start, mad dash from mid mountain, and the dual slalom, in which two riders raced head-to-head over and through mini jumps, tabletops and berms, showed that the sport has potential.

As participants navigated the slalom course at speeds of up to 20 MPH and barreled toward the cheering throng of their peers at the bottom of the hill, the event generated a genuine enthusiasm and sense of promise.

The events created some of that same vibe when participants used their athletic ability and skill to move through a given terrain so dangerous that if something went wrong, or a mistake was made, the consequences could be severe.

The aerial competition closed out the weekend festivities, but opened up many wounds.

It also reinforced the realization that a very thin line is sometimes all that separates an “extreme” event from questionable intelligence.

The field, divided into novice and experts, dropped in on an approximately 50-foot long runway to launch off an 8- to 10-foot jump.

The mid-air 540-degree spins, kickouts and even backflips were indeed impressive. The trick was landing them and then quickly devising a way to stop. Those fortunate enough to land in an upright position attempted to slide out at the bottom of the jump area. The problem was, it was as much rocks and lumps of grass as it was soft dirt.

Still, most were able to slow themselves down just enough that the ensuing, and inevitable, toss off the board and down the slope didn’t break a wrist of blowout a butt cheek.

A noteworthy side note: the unorthodox stops drew more oohs and aahs from the spectators than the mountainboarders themselves.

“It always feels good to fall. It loosens up the muscles,” said Doug Warren, one of the aerial finalists.

Amazingly, after three jumps each that seemed destined to end in a plethora of broken boards and bones, only one board was snapped and the only notable injury was to the shoulder of a participant who landed his jump squarely on his back.

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