March in the mountains: spring is in the air and the end of another season looms. The months have flashed by as on-snow days have racked up. Your skills have increased, muscles grown stronger, and now you’re confidently hucking yourself off all the gnarliest drops you can find around the local hill – it’s sender season.
For those that love the steep and deep, March held one more great challenge on the peaks of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort: Wrangle the Chute. If you’re from the west you’ve hopefully heard of the contest, or perhaps you’ve been hiding under a rock (or in the local terrain park). Whichever the case, it’s time to get schooled about the newly revamped cowboy competition. Held in the striking Rocky Mountains above Golden, B.C., the previous five years of Wrangle the Chute gathered outrageously talented skiers and boarders to compete in the big mountains. While the spirit of the event remained the same, 2014 brought a slightly reduced field of competitors with 50 riders getting the nod and new venue near three times the length of its predecessor.
Self proclaimed as an anti-comp, the gathering is filled with returning faces and feels more like a laid-back mountain family reunion than a highly competitive throw-down. Don’t let the friendships fool you though; all these invite-only athletes are ready to show you just why they deserve to rip down that course and score higher than your sorry self.
“Visual inspection only.” These words make athletes both overwhelmingly stoked for powder turns on comp day, and ready-to-lose-your-breakfast nervous for what the new course actually has in store. Or maybe that was just me. Most of these guys are batshit crazy when it comes to what they’ll send. Many chose to hit the hill Thursday for an early day of shredding the unfamiliar and scoping some more lines. Checking out the new venue, both nerves and adrenaline were clearly present.
A new course meant a new viewpoint for judges and those intrigued by the commotion. Although a DJ booth with killer tunes was set up at the venue bottom, most opted to watch from the opposing ridge line where the course in all its might and glory could be seen. Day one of competition saw most finished riders clustering in the bottom corral in hopes of viewing all the decided line choices, tactically brainstorming for day two. For a lucky few, resurrection of the lost bucking bronco occurred thanks to a number of adrenaline pumped ‘lazy’ friends hanging around the finish and bringing the enthusiasm. Picture a mechanical bull that’s shape suspiciously resembles a barrel and is powered by your friends yanking on ropes to toss you off. A staple character in past Wrangles, the bronco grew a bit of a temper in the past couple years and was nearly decapitated in 2013, resulting in an early retirement. The ‘lazy’ characters are a core group of stellar people who annually compete (and often dominate) the Wrangle playground; they helped the bronco live on in their own human standby version.
The friendly faces of Wrangle: Orea Sunshine on the left and Emily Childs on the right.
Each category saw immense levels of skill. Men’s snowboarding, being the first down the new venue, had board after board going to the lingering finger, a permanently closed zone that funnels back into open terrain. They were sending big airs and stomping solid spins, giving the crowed a wild show right from the start. The ladies took to the new course with glee, most changing up line choice from day one to two, and between the group explored a great deal of the new venue. Nelson local Ali Schroeder was one of many to show why girls belong in the big mountain scene. She sent a double drop, sticking with the fall line into smooth fast turns before another display of impressive strength going huge on a popular bottom hit. The line shot her score up after day one and secured her into third place.
Men’s skiing has always had a strong competition field and was truly anyone’s game, as we saw yet again with the fresh face of Dylan Siggers taking home first. Dylan took charge of the course with a GoPro strapped to his helmet and has been stellar enough to share the experience with all of you, so be sure to check it out below.
In true Wrangle style, at least one performance tends to have everyone saying, “WTF is that guy doing?” This year, however, it thankfully wasn’t a competitor, rather another cowboy that decided to steal the spotlight. During Tom Peiffer’s day two run, a paraglider sent himself off a far lookers right cliff from the venue, stealing the eyes of the crowed and filling the quota of attention grabbing crazy for the 2014 competition. Thankfully the judges could drown out the uproar in the crowed and four sets of eyes stayed focused on Tom’s competition line.
Following the on-hill madness, a party was necessary. After awards and a feast, the Kicking Horse day lodge turned into the host of a rowdy party, light show and energetic band included.
In a time when web articles and competition results are old news within a week, a reminder felt necessary for Wrangle. After six amazing years, Wrangle has proven itself worthy of staying on your radar. 2015 has nowhere to go but up, with the new venue beckoning to have its every last inch explored by thoughtful turns and powerful movements. If competing scares you too much, (or head judge Brian Coles rejects your application), come join the party anyways. The people are social, often it’s messy, and the entire experience is one you will not soon forget.