KICKING HORSE FREERIDING
INTO THE BIG LEAGUES
By Dan Evans
EVENTS I PHOGRAPHY/FILM
This year’s Wrangle the Chute at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort meant a big shift for the Golden ski area. By moving from a local’s hangout to the only four-star Freeride World Qualifier (FWQ) north of the 49th parallel, Wrangle the Chute gave Kicking Horse the chance to show off its steeps and deeps. Did it deliver?
It’s no secret that the eastern mountain ranges of British Columbia offer amazing skiing. From the Rockies to the Monashees, this region holds some of the world’s best mix of terrain and most consistent snow conditions. In recent years, though, it seems that Revelstoke is getting most of the attention, with mega resort plans and a former stop on the Freeride World Tour.
Conversely, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort has been the overshadowed little brother on the other side of the Selkirks. But, with this year’s Wrangle the Chute, held March 26 to 29, it gained FWQ four-star status. Boasting more than 85 in-bounds chutes and a unique mix of alpine spines and old-growth tree skiing, Kicking Horse is the perfect venue for such an event. As the only FWQ event in Canada, Kicking Horse hoped to open the doors to shredders from North America and show off their steeps and deeps.
The original Wrangle the Chute started as a local’s hangout, where “the only prize was bragging rights, so you had to go big,” said long-time local and this year’s head judge, Brian Coles. It was known as a massive party centred around some skiing. The original event was by invitation only, and saw riders ski a face, hit a mega booter, and then ride a ‘bull’, which was held up by two snow cats.
Although some of the legacy shredders couldn’t make it in this year, former Wrangle the Chute champion, Carter McMillan, thinks it’s for the better. “It’s nice to have a small event where it’s all locals and hometown friends,” said McMillan, “but, it makes me proud to see an event grow out of its shoes and into something bigger and attracting international crowds.” And quite an international field it was with competitors from New Zealand, France, and Germany, and a large contingent from Canada and USA.
This year’s conditions were challenging, with warmer-than-average temperatures across North America, but the athletes were up to the task.
On Day One the field of 98 competitors tore up the field. The crowd-pleaser came from Alberta skier, Kyler Tritter, going for an air, 60-plus feet into the guts of the venue. After entering the Ozone, Tritter couldn’t quite keep it together on landing and tomahawked a few times with great cheers from the crowd. “It looked definitely doable and I just went for it,” said Tritter.
Freestyle in big features was the theme of the event, led by young guns like Trace Cooke and Whistler’s Jack Evans, who both put down massive floaty 360s off of Lesser’s Leap on Day Two. Amazingly, Evans also pulled off the event’s only 720 on a feature down low in front of the appreciative fans.
No one could touch Martin Lentz, though, who took home the top prize for Men’s Ski, and secured a spot on the Freeride World Tour next year. Lentz (USA), who grew up skiing in Salt Lake City at Alta/Snowbird, was impressed by Kicking Horse’s terrain. “As far as the venue goes, [Kicking Horse is] probably one of the better ones I’ve ever skied, “said Lentz. “Definitely the best one this year.”
Lentz’s smooth and intensely fast skiing made quick work of the venue, and he had a sizeable lead after Day One. With laser focus, Lentz’s second run was just enough to keep the lead from Day Two’s top run from Cooke.
The other top-prize winners included three Canadians: Kylie Sivell (Women’s Ski), Jonathan ‘Peter Pan‘ Penfield (Men’s Snowboard), and Lake Louise local, Audrey Hebert (Women’s Snowboard). Hebert has been on fire this year, with podium finishes in all three FWQs that she’s entered.
All in all, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort delivered a great event in a year where freeskiing competitions have been repeatedly cancelled. The four-star status of Wrangle the Chute was well deserved.
Adventurer, cinematographer, photographer and father, Dan Evans is constantly following good times and peeking around corners for the next journey.