Don’t try this at home boys…
The first female up many of Revelstoke’s famed chutes, including The Monster, puts into words what it’s actually like to go up several of the oft-talked about—but less frequently claimed—big pulls.
by Megan Render
So I must first start this article with a small disclaimer, as I have heard so many times people say, “Well give me her sled and I could climb those too…” Contrary to popular belief, chute climbing does require some skill. It’s not always pin it to win it (unless I read the Operator’s Manual wrong on my Nytro, hmmm). Hillclimbers also take all the safety precautions that we can. There is always someone at the top and bottom of the chutes, there is never more than one sled at a time climbing, and we ALWAYS are aware of the avalanche conditions and how they could affect the chutes. We all ride with the proper avy gear (airbags, beacons, probes and shovels) and we have taken the avy courses. Please people, if you’re going to try climbing these, don’t just rush out buy a powerful sled and take a stab at them because there are consequences and just because a “girl” can do them doesn’t make them easy… with that being said, let’s talk chutes!
My first ever chute climb was in Turtle in one of the fingers called the Training Chute. It’s a good one to “train” on for sure as it’s a long, straight pull for the majority of the climb. The top of the chute becomes more difficult as it gets pretty steep, and you either have to take a right or a left around a rock at the top. But for the most part if you have enough horsepower or good enough snow conditions, it’s a good one to poke at. There is a large face above it though, so make sure if you are trying it that you are aware of the conditions.
From there I gained some climbing confidence and headed over to Boulder to try some of the chutes there. I was going to attempt the Boulder “Training Chute”, however after seeing a veteran climber roll down it I figured I would save it for later! We headed over to the Airport bowl, which is located to the far right of the Superbowl where there are several little pokes to conquer. I’m not sure on the naming of these ones but I think it goes Redemption then chute #2, #3 etc… I had dropped down into the Airport and instantly eyed up the #2 chute, but Krazy Canadian was there filming his climbs, so I felt a bit out of place. But hey, I needed to start somewhere so I gave her a go! For this chute you need to come into it from the left side and do a bit of sidehilling, then you hit the face and stick to the middle. There is, however, sometimes a bump near the top that you need to veer around either to the left or the right. I have climbed this one a couple times since and had good luck, so on an easy-to-hard scale it’s one of the easier ones for me.
Next up was the #3. It’s a very off-camber climb that if you don’t pick your line wisely, it can easily end up in a crash down the hill. This one I totally did not go into right. I came into it way too high to the left, which pushed me far right into a steep wall. I somehow was able to power through the wall, but I tell you I was nervous. It was pushing me really far right but with a last minute hard left turn was I able to save my sled from a very big, non-forgiving drop.
Next came the chute that really gave me the confidence to say, “I CAN do this chute climbing thing.” It happened at Yamafest 2010. We had all gathered in the Bull Pen, which is located across from the Sugar Bowl. The Mickus were there and started to hit the 90, and there was Swenny Street to the left looking all smooth and tasty. I started discussing with the boys in my group whether or not I should attempt it. Jim Clipperton and I eyed it up for a minute or two then I figured, hey, why not? I will either make it or not! So I took a couple test runs, then lined up to the chute. Let me tell you, my stomach was flip-flopping, my heart was racing, and I am actually surprised that I didn’t pass out—I was a wreck! I somehow convinced my thumb to hit that throttle and up I went.
Now Swenny is not easy, you need to stay in the gut, otherwise your sled will get tossed around and your chances of making it dwindle. There is a very steep wall to the right of the gut and it’s not the preferred line. Once you make it to the mouth of the chute, stay in the middle. When I climb it now, I take a left after the mouth and sweep up to the high left side, then do a right sidehill at the top and crest out on the right side of the trees… It sounds easy if you say it fast! There is enough room to fit between the trees at the top but it’s tight. There is also a way out to the left of the trees but the right seemed to work for me! On that day, I had an instant smile at the top. Never had I felt a rush like that before in my life—I was on cloud nine and even needed a bit to realize it adh actually happened. I may have screamed at the top of my lungs over and over so loud the skiers could probably hear it across the valley.
One of the most humbling things to come out of this climb was the renaming of the chute. Randy Swenson (Swenny) renamed the chute to Megs Street and has been calling it that ever since. The name even made it into the Sledder Mag Ride Guide, so I guess it’s official now!
Then came the chute I had dreamed about… The Monster. There was a 10 page article on Snowest at the time about who would be the first girl to climb it. That was my goal, and everyday I visualized the chute while driving to work, and each time it gave me butterflies just thinking about it. This chute is no joke—it is long, it changes daily due to weather, and it has a tight exit due to a huge overhang. The entrance to the chute is usually filled with avy debris, which tosses you around and robs precious speed.
Once you make it through the debris, the mouth of the chute tightens up and you’re in the Monster. The gut of the Monster is a curvy S-turn, and most times that’s the line you want to take. After the mouth of the chute you can take a straight right line, but it takes you over steep—and usually very deep—terrain. If you go too far to the left, you’ll be heading toward a rock face which then pushes you to the right, which is a tough save. Stick to the gut, follow the “S”, and you will come up under the cornice and head for the top on the right. The Monster does try to spit you into the trees at the top, so be prepared for a slight left lean. I may have used a tree as traction but hey, I made it! Let the insanely loud cheers and congratulating hugs commence!
After the Monster I set my sights on Messy Chute, which has a fitting name. I have seen a lot of messy climb rolls and stucks in that one. You have to come into the chute on a slight right sidehill, then once you’re in it, it’s tight on both sides with rocks and trees. You need to make a quick left hook after the tight spot and then do a sweeping right turn to make it out the top, again easier said than done. Some chutes give you that instant high and some don’t, but for me this climb made me almost puke and it just didn’t sit well. I have only attempted and climbed it once and I think that’s good enough for me on that one.
The Lake Chute is one that took me a couple of attempts to make. The entrance to the chute is awkward and it’s really hard to get nicely lined up for it. It’s a shorter climb, but steep and deep! The usual line is once again sticking to the gut, but this one has a small gut so it’s hard to do. It has an off-camber entrance that pushes you to the right, which you need to fight. You want to be to the left of a large steep face on the right, then once you pass that you need to hook to the right to avoid a rock wall at the top. My last success I accidently went over the steep face on the right, but I had Pinky pinned from the boulder parking lot… I mean the bottom of the chute… so I actually caught air cresting over the face then landed back in the chute to catwalk out the top… I then acquired the nickname Ms. Clampit cause trust me, she was clamped to the bars!
The last chute I am going to discuss is the 90. This chute took me 7 tries before I made it (5 of those were all in one day—I was persistent). It was the chute I figured I couldn’t make. This chute is named the 90 because of the sharp corner you need to nail right away in the chute. If you mess up on that corner it’s a tough save. The first time I tried it I figured I better make the corner, so I went too slow and got stuck shortly after. There I was, standing in the chute with the wall of snow was almost touching my face. It is almost straight up and down, and I instantly questioned the sense of anyone who climbed this chute and how on earth sleds can make it over this! After rolling several times, I finally nailed the corner and in that instant I knew… everyone says you can feel when you nail the corner and it’s so true. I pinned it after the corner and stuck to the middle of the chute, and with skis in the air I pointed her to the exit. Finally I made it! All my doubts had vanished and I quickly then learned not to give up. Some days you will make it, others you won’t. It’s all part of the chute climbing game.
All of these chutes are hard, some more than others, and while they all require some level of craziness (so I have been told) they also demand respect as well. The conditions in the chutes change daily so be aware before you line up for one. Now the mushy part… I can’t thank my riding group enough for all the love and support they have given me throughout the years, always there for a quick pep talk before the climb or there at the top snapping pics and handing out high fives and hugs after. Without my group none of these climbs would have been possible, and without these climbs I would have never been noticed by my amazing sponsors who also help me continue to push myself within the sport. So thank you Highmark by Snowpulse, 509 and 509ink, FXR, Boost-It, Racers Edge, Powerhouse Customs, Sly Dogs, Sound Obsessions, and OFT.