Lentz & Sivell reign supreme; recapping 2015 Wrangle the Chute at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

Lentz & Sivell reign supreme; recapping 2015 Wrangle the Chute at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

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I’d heard stories about Wrangle the Chute beginning a few years back. Kicking Horse Mountain Resort (KHMR), outside of Golden, BC, is said to be home to some of the steepest inbounds terrain in North America, and “Wrangle” was the resort’s annual hoedown, a “cowboy contest” that, as one reporter put it, felt more like a “laid-back mountain family reunion than a highly competitive happening.” Yet, the level of skiing was said to be outstanding; the event helped propel names like Logan Pehota, Dylan Siggers and Dave Treadway to the spotlight.

When the opportunity presented itself to cover Wrangle this season, I was quick to make the arrangements. I was excited to partake in what sounded like a first-class on-hill rager, and I was equally thrilled to experience skiing at Kicking Horse for the first time.

I arrived here on Thursday, March 26, (it’s three hours from Calgary by car) and I spent the day skiing with KHMR’s Andy Brown and Drew Wittstock, Golden local and esteemed coach of the Rocky Mountain Freeriders. I very much enjoyed my first taste of the challenging terrain, and despite the unusual, lackluster snow-year pervading Western Canada, we found decent pow on some of the North-facing slopes. I put my imagination to work and I thought of what it might be like to shred here in a typical year; the resort receives 295″ of snow at the mountain summit annually on average.

It didn’t take long before I was familiar with the lay of the land: to the far skier’s right lies the Terminator 2 Ridge (inbounds, hike-to), and moving across the hill you’ll see Terminator 1 Ridge (inbounds, hike-to, and home to the Wrangle venue this year), CPR Ridge and Redemption Ridge to the far skier’s left. The terrain within the four prominent ridges will test even the hardest of rippers, with cliffs and chutes abounding. In fact, there are 85 inbounds chutes. Much of the terrain (4,200 ft of vert) funnels to the gondola at the base of the resort. It’s not uncommon to experience a bit of leg burn while you’re ripping badass laps from from T-2-B. Hurts so good!

The resort certainly breeds strong, talented skiers and a handful of ‘em were slated to strut their stuff in the contest. And while Wrangle the Chute has been more of a locals’ affair in its seven-year history, 2015 would be marked by an exciting change—one that would lure competitors from across Canada, the U.S. and abroad.

“The unprecedented momentum we created over the past six editions provided us with the maturity to hold a world-class 4-Star FWQ event.”

It was announced early this year that for the first time, Wrangle The Chute would be recognized as an IFSA/FWQ 4-Star event. It’s currently Canada’s only 4-Star Freeride World Qualifier and it’s also the last 4-Star event on the North American circuit for 2015. (Previous events were held at Taos, NM and Crested Butte, CO. A stop at Crystal Mountain, WA was cancelled due to less than desirable conditions.) With coveted FWQ points on the line, 100+ skiers and snowboarders registered for Wrangle this year, with over half the field representing the U.S.

Maxime “Max” Cretin, Director of Business Development and Guest Experience for KHMR tells us, “Joining the IFSA/FWQ series definitely changed the game, bringing Wrangle the Chute to the next level, while putting Kicking Horse Mountain Resort on the map. Along with the unconditional support of Helly Hansen Canada, our event has become a cornerstone within the North American freeride community.”

“Being sanctioned by a governing body resulted in more credibility and increased marketing and media reach, especially within the U.S. skier markets,” Cretin adds. “The unprecedented momentum we created over the past six editions provided us with the maturity to hold a world-class 4-Star FWQ event. I was very excited with the final roster, as our vision towards tapping into the U.S. rider pool came true, with approximately 50-percent of the athletes coming from eight different U.S. states.”

Day one of competition was slated to go down in the Super Bowl, on the south facing portion of Terminator 1 (T1). On account of variable snow conditions, it was decided that the contest would instead be hosted on the north side of T1, in the zones known as Truth and Dare. This was by no means a downgrade; in speaking with a handful of athletes following an on-course inspection, the consensus was: steep and challenging, with plenty of route-options.

Come contest time, I planted myself among a group of rowdy locals on the south side of the CPR ridge, opposite of the contest venue. Conditions: bluebird and warm. The surrounding mountains provided a stunning backdrop. Beers and canned Caesars were flowing freely by mid-morning, and spectators were in constant danger of receiving a snowball to the back of the head. The group shared tales of Wrangle events of yore, and laughter filled the air. And throughout the competition, massive cheers erupted in appreciation of excellent skiing and/or gut-wrenching spills.

Listen: Spectators cheer on competitors from across the valley.

Regarding the skiing…

On the ladies’ side of things, it was Canada’s own Kylie Sivell who impressed the judges and the Peanut Gallery with a fast, strong performance in the top portion of Dare, accompanied by a few solid airs and a Kossak into the finish corral for bonus style points. Sivell was awarded 31.57 points, and would head into Saturday’s final as the top qualifier.

Among the boys, we saw top-notch skiing from dozens of competitors. Some of the notes I plugged into my iPhone that day read:

“Casey Riva, sick top section. Airing on the traverse. Nice air in the mid-section, landed at mach-loony speed. Threaded trees at the bottom. So fast. Plenty of oohs and ahhs from the crowd.”

“Eric Lee O’Brien. Omg!!!! Crazy top. Double stager. Huge. Landed so fast. Massive air in the middle. 3 down below. Crowd is the loudest it’s been. Someone behind me said, ‘How can you ski this course any better than that?’”

“Absolute crush fest for Trace Cooke. Creative approach up top with three airs. Nice 360 up top, and a deep air at mid-course. Air down below, too. Boom!”

“A spectator said of Chanc Deschamps-Prescott, ‘This guy has entered full beast mode,’ as he sent a massive 360 up top, and followed up with a solid air near the bottom of the venue.”

“Shoutouts go to Drew Hartley with a solid tomahawk, and Kyler Tritter with an ultra-high-speed tomahawk.”

It was Utah’s Martin Lentz who took top spot on the day, earning a commanding 36.07, ahead of second place finisher Alex Blais, who earned a score of 34.93. Cooke’s 33.83 would hold for third.

For a time, I sat with über-pros Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, Nick McNutt, Dana Flahr and Dylan Hood on the spectators’ ridge. The crew had been skiing in the nearby backcountry and took some time off to soak up the Wrangle action. Between the competitors’ runs, the boys spoke of the local Wolf Den restaurant and the “T4 Burger” that’s loaded with four massive patties, plus some other deep fried offerings. They’d been frequenting the spot, and were set to return following the contest.

Come day two, we were once again graced with decent weather; the wind blew fairly strong atop the ridges, but visibility was on-point, ensuring riders could “get sendy” with confidence.

For the ladies, we saw strong performances from Jackson Hole’s Hadley Hammer, who skied with speed and control, and roped two airs into the mix. Hammer bagged a cumulative score of 62 across the two days of competition—good for third place overall.

Canadian Lauren Cameron skied her way to a second place finish (63.93) with a few small airs and a smart, clean approach to her run.

And repeating her success of the previous day, Ms. Sivell earned another top-score for a cumulative 65.00. Sivell skied fast, and included three airs en route to the top of the podium.

“I’ve never skied a venue where all of the landings are so good,” Sivell told me. “Every landing was steep and good to go. It was sick.”

“Everybody is stepping it up,” Sivell said of her fellow female competitors. “Everybody sees the same mountain but everybody sees a different line and a different way to hit things. I’m so impressed by everyone. It’s just, very organic… so cool.”

In regards to feeling the pressure of owning the top spot after day 1, Sivell explained, “I just turned on my music and tried to treat it like any other run. I knew that if I came in with the mentality of holding onto first then I would probably eat s#it, so I just tried to mellow out in my thoughts. It’s definitely a bit intimidating being in first place, knowing that everybody is gunning for you.”

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