AB: Ride The Wild West

Once you’ve caught your breath from the Shred-insanity that is Banff Sunshine’s Delirium Dive, your options are:

A.) Hit the dive again, only this time even harder.

B.) Venture West, for a bullish ride in Sunshine’s Wild West.

My vote, almost always is to venture west.

located off of Goat’s Eye Express at Banff Sunshine Village; The Wild West, like Delirium Dive, is an extreme freeride ski and snowboard zone. In order to gain entrance into the highly coveted terrain, skiers and snowboarders are required to ride with a buddy, to have avalanche gear (beacon, probe, shovel, pack), and know how to use the gear.

Unlike The Dive, The Wild West is something of a slow burn. The first time I Road the west I found myself comparing my situation to that of a frog in warm water set to boil.

At first, you’re ushered into a powder utopia. The perfect snow on a rolling slope, temps and teases you.

“Eureka,” you scream with the realization that you’ve hit the powder gold mine.

As the perfect slope narrows into the five chokes that make up the Wild West, you’re legs will quiver as your faced with the stark cognizance that your discovery is more fools mission, than dreamy pow fields.

Brace yourself. As you venture down the most technical ski terrain in the Canadian Rockies. Mavericks of Banff’s early days are the namesakes for each of the five Chutes within the Wild West. The names chosen represent the wickedness of the Wild West and the savage nature needed to survive and thrive in the early era of the Canadian Rockies.

For first timers, I recommend starting easy with Wheeler’s or Peyto’s.

Arthur Wheeler was a Irish immigrant, who’s life work was to survey the Canadian Rockies including the Sunshine mountains.

Bill Peyto was the original mountain man, and Banff’s first Park warden. You could say, he’s a “big deal” as his image to this day still greets you as you enter the town of Banff. Perhaps what he’s most infamous for is setting free a cougar in a bar full of minors.

Now don’t kid yourself, there is nothing facile about Wheeler’s or Peyto’s. The bridge is narrow, rocky, the chute is tight, and you will be faced with manditory air. Both Wheeler’s and Peyto’s will push you out of your comfort zone. Enjoy the feeling of your heart pumping, as you ski past your fears and discover new strengths within.

If you’re up for the challenge, next time you find yourself in Banff, you have to ski Sunshine and check the status of the Wild West and make a date with the extreme freeride zone. Ski how the west is RODE.