Nate Chute: Boardercross event marks 20 years

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The annual Nate Chute snowboard races are a fundraiser for the Nate Chute Foundation, which is dedicated to reducing suicide among young people in Montana. (Daily Inter Lake file)

The Nate Chute Banked Slalom and Boardercross races will celebrate 20 years at Whitefish Mountain Resort this weekend.

The event raises money for the Nate Chute Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to suicide prevention in western Montana.

On Friday, March 15, the weekend will kick off with a Hawaiian Classic Luau and Calcutta at Bonsai Brewing Project from 5 to 8 p.m. Hawaiian-themed food and a new beer release will be available, plus a new 20th annual Nate Chute Notice snowboard will be up for grabs. Riders will be auctioned off to bidders during the Calcutta.

On Saturday and Sunday, the races will take place at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Registration for racers closes at noon on Friday, March 15.

New this year is an “Old Josie’s” category for women aged 35 and older. On Saturday following the races, the Bierstube will host a benefit night with live music following the Banked Slalom awards. The Bierstube is donating a portion of its proceeds to NCF.

Overall awards will take place at the Bierstube on Sunday, and a community night will be held at Mackenzie River Pizza Sunday night. Mackenzie River will also donate a portion of proceeds to the foundation.

And throughout the weekend, a raffle will be held for a 2019-20 WMR season pass. The winner will be announced during a drawing on Sunday.

Kacy Howard, executive director of the foundation, said a big focus this year is a return to the Hawaiian theme the races originally had.

“We’re really trying to highlight and bring back that Hawaiian theme this year,” she said. “Nate and his buddies, the first snowboard contest they ever competed in was called the Hawaiian classic. So as teenagers, when the group of friends started this contest in memory of Nate they decided to call it the Hawaiian classic.”

In looking at the 20-year mark, Howard said it’s inspiring to look back on how the foundation has grown over those years.

“The foundation really started as people with a passion that just sort of helped out as requests came in, and now we’re at this point where we have a very strategic vision of where we’re going and what we want to do in the community,” she said.

“I think unfortunately our community has been impacted by suicide more than we would like and especially in the last few years. I think it’s really great that our community as a whole is placing importance on this conversation, that we’re more willing to have this conversation and prioritize our community’s mental wellness through the support of the work that we do.”

The Nate Chute is the second longest-running banked slalom race in the United States and the third longest in North America. March 16 will feature a banked slalom through the lower part of the Goat Haunt SBX course into George’s Gorge. Saturday’s race also sets the seeds for the following day’s race. Sunday, March 17 features one of the biggest boardercross races in the Northwest, with more than 100 riders competing on a course that consists of jumps, banks and rollers.

As the host for the event, Whitefish Mountain Resort spokesperson Riley Polumbus said the race series is special to the mountain.

“It’s an event we love to be a part of and host,” she said. “I think it’s just a reflection of our community and it’s one of those things that, when I first came here and learned about this event, it was like, ‘That’s really cool that we have that.’”

“It’s something that people take personally and enjoy just being there and being a part of it, rather than having it be about egos and getting the best time,” she added.

The foundation was founded to honor the memory of Whitefish High School graduate Nate Chute, who took his life in August of 1999. The Nate Chute Foundation provides assistance for suicide prevention programs, mental health counseling and student assistance programs in schools in the Flathead Valley, including Whitefish, Columbia Falls, Kalispell, Bigfork, Lakeside and West Valley.

The foundation also plans to host Scott Poland, an internationally recognized expert in suicide prevention, for a series of talks in September.

For more information on NCF and other upcoming events, visit www.natechutefoundation.org or https://www.facebook.com/ncfoundation/.

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