Words & Video by: Dan Abrams

Photos by: Alex Giesbrecht, June Jansson, Faith Dusevic, Wally Randall & Dan Abrams

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort’s Wrangle the Chute rode in to the small Western town of Golden, BC a week ago and delivered big mountain thrills in a fun and unique format. More than your average freeride competition, Wrangle the Chute combined gnarly lines and big air trickery with a fun cowboy vibe. This event falls in with an emerging new breed of freeskiing competitions that have been combining big mountain and freestyle, catering to both crowds and well-rounded huck artists. Riders chose their lines down the face of Kicking Horse’s infamous CPR ridge, then threw their best trick over a gap jump at the bottom. To cap it off, competitors could up their scores by mounting a bucking bronco suspended between two snow cats and wrenched around by the other athletes. In keeping with he event’s fun and wild vibe, judges could also award bonus points for exceptional showmanship.

Golden local Matt Cote. photo: Alex Giesbrecht

photo: Alex Giesbrecht

photo: June Jansson

The 50 riders were given a combined score based on one run on each day of the competition, and the guarantee of competing on both days added to the laid back vibe and made the trip worthwhile for competitors from far and wide. The competition was open to both skiers and boarders, although far fewer single plankers entered (none in the women’s division).

photo: Alex Giesbrecht

Day one treated athletes and spectators alike to warm temperatures and clear blue skies, and at high noon the first of the wranglers dropped in. In the end it was Alex Wall of Nelson, BC who stood atop the scoreboard, skiing fast and fluid down Ryan Sullivan’s winning line from 2009 and capping off his run by stomping a 360 off a mid size cliff near the bottom.

photo: Faith Dusevic

Sullivan himself unfortunately bobbled on the way down and pinballed through the chute briefly before pulling off an impressive recovery and finishing his run. In second place was Stu Bilodeau of Invermere, who skied one of the fastest and most fluid lines of the day. In third was Aaron Schmidt, who sampled a unique line down skier’s left of the course which featured some of the bigger hits of the day.

Aaron Schmidt. photo: Alex Giesbrecht

Another notable run was laid down by Chris Turpin, who skied an all-switch line complete with zero spins off some small drops in the one of the first freeride competitions of his long and illustrious career. Could the original pioneer of switch pipe skiing be giving us a glimpse at future trends on the freeride circuit? As usual for Turpin, his run was more pleasing to the eye than to the judge’s scorecard and he sat in the middle of the pack at the end of Day 1.

Chris Turpin. photo: Alex Giesbrecht

On the girls’ side, Izzy Lynch and Leah Evans took first and second respectively by a narrow margin, charging very similar lines. Zoya Lynch took third, completing her line and performing her bronco ride in spite of briefly dislocating a shoulder mid-run.

Zoya Lynch. photo: Dan Abrams

Saturday’s conditions were also ideal for the Wrangle the Shoot photography contest, and the course was littered with photographers taking their shots at the thousand dollar first place prize. In the end it was Golden local Wally Randall who won four of the five voting categories, but there were plenty of breathtaking images to admire when the photos went on display that Saturday night. The only remaining category, Best Landscape, was won by Kicking Horse ski patroller Alex Giesbrecht.

photo: Wally Randall

Lane Faulkner Clark. photo: Wally Randall

photo: Wally Randall

All skiers know that perfect weather never lasts, and Mother Nature truly tested the athletes, spectators, and event organizers on Day 2 by blanketing the venue in a thick cloud that refused to lift.

Looking down on CPR ridge from above the clouds on Day 2 of Wrangle the Chute. The competition venue lay below the cloud line, off the peak in the bottom right corner. photo: Faith Dusivic

With the ridge all but invisible from the bottom, judges were forced to hike on to the course and spread out to watch the athletes’ second runs. The crowd waited patiently to view the big air and bronco ride stages, but what happened up on the ridge that day remains between the athletes and the judges.

photo: June Jansson

photo: June Jansson

photo: June Jansson

It’s reported that most riders stuck to their original lines due to the poor visibility. It’s a true testament to the grit of the riders and the strong vibe of the competition that almost all competitors chose to drop in on the second day despite near whiteout conditions. Alex Wall and Stu Bilodeau maintained their first and second place positions, with Austin Ross moving up into third place. This was a big win for Wall, who showed up hungry after taking a disappointing fall at the recent Red Mountain comp. Leah Evans overtook Izzy Lynch to claim the Women’s title, with Zoya Lynch maintaining her position in third. At the end of the day, title sponsor Wrangler Clothing decked out the entire field of athletes and event staff from head to toe in Western duds.

All in all, Wrangle the Chute was a huge success, especially considering the challenges of the second day. The crowds were given a unique spectacle, and some seasoned competitors declared it the most fun they had ever had at an event. Check out the video below for some of the big air and bronco riding action that went down on Day 2.

YEEEEHHHAAAAWWWW! photo: Dan Abrams

Results

Women

1) Leah Evans

2) Izzy Lynch

3) Zoya Lynch

4) Brenna Donaldson

Men

1) Alex Wall

2) Stu Bilodeau

3) Austin Ross

4) Michael Brush

5) Chris Tatsuno

6) Ryan Sullivan

7) Aaron Schmidt (tied)

7) Ben Ogilvie (tied)

7) Pierrot Bernier (tied)

8) Carter McMillan (tied)

8) Richard Small (tied)

9) Sean Cochrane

10) Nathan Wood (tied)

10) Pete Hodgson (tied)

 


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