The Gerhard Gross Memorial Banked Slalom Race was held on Friday at Breckenridge as an invitational event for Dew Tour athletes, snowboard industry insiders, and friends of Gerhard Gross III, the beloved former Dew Tour content director. Proceeds from registration for the event will benefit his wife and family.
Gross worked throughout his career as a team manager and then as a longtime voice of the snowboarding community as a journalist and former editor at TransWorld SNOWBOARDING and other magazines before taking on the role at Dew Tour. He died on August 14, 2018 after a protracted fight with an aggressive Stage 4 gastric stomach cancer.
Friday's event opened with an emotional moment of silence in memory of Gross, with his wife Kristen Gross and son Gerhard Gross IV in attendance.
“I cried when they told me they were going to have a moment of silence, but then in the actual moment you could feel a lot of great energy and it really became a positive, celebratory occasion,” Kristen Gross said during the event, as her young son threw snowballs from the top of the course and happily gave out high fives to each of the competitors.
“I was totally blown away when Chris Ortiz and Adam Cozens from Dew Tour first said they wanted to run an event in Gerhard’s honor that would capture the things Gerhard loved most about the Dew Tour: it was just so, so thoughtful," she said. "I hope that we can do it again, and I would really like for the beneficiaries in the future to be other people and other families that need help just like we’ve needed help, because this community has already been so incredibly supportive of our family: Gerhard would have loved to do something like this for others.”
Friday’s racing took place on a modified course originally built for Thursday’s Adaptive Banked Slalom event. In a surprise twist, the Adaptive Banked Slalom gold medalist Evan Strong also won the Gerhard Gross Memorial, by .08 seconds, ahead of his able-bodied competitors. Strong, the 2014 Sochi Paralympics Snowboard Cross gold medalist and 2018 PyeongChang Paralympics Banked Slalom silver medalist, races with a below-the-knee prosthetic on his left leg.
"It's been really awesome that the Dew Tour has been building banked slalom courses to host the adaptive event over the last three years, and it's really cool to see them also using it for something amazing like this," Strong said. "What could be better than hanging out with your fellow snowboarders, going fast, and with the great excuse of the fellowship of snowboarders helping other snowboarders and paying a great honor to the memory of somebody who was universally loved and respected throughout the snowboarding community?"
Strong finished just ahead of Simon Nicholson and Noah Jacques for the win. Taylor Christiana won the women's class, .01 second ahead of Madeli Lochte-Bono. Arielle Gold, the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics halfpipe bronze medalist, finished third.
Though it was a timed racing event, many competitors said they were just in it for the fun times and to honor their friend and his family.
"I spent so many days standing at the bottom of the Dew Tour pipe and slopestyle courses with Gerhard, talking all the ins and outs of shred," says Tricia Byrnes, a former Olympian who frequently worked with Gross at the Dew Tour and other events. "It’s cool to come up here and see all the homies and ride with everybody and have a big feel-good moment to celebrate his life and celebrate snowboarding in a way he would have really appreciated."
Burton Snowboards engineer Chris Doyle noted that banked slalom is on the of the oldest competitive snowboard disciplines and is among the most beloved by core snowboarders.
"For many years I spent my time up at the top of courses like this, helping athletes, and I became good friends with Gerhard as he was working in the industry and running contests," Doyle said. "He was just an amazing guy, who just totally got what snowboarding was all about. What a great idea, to invite people to come help out his wife and family, just by ripping some turns! It reminds me of one of the most important things I learned from Gerhard about snowboarding and why we do this: Life is short, it’s wonderful, and you get it when you can while it’s good. It was fitting that today was an awesome day in every way."