words and photos: Mary Walsh
This year marked the fifth time that Snowboy Productions head honcho Krush Kulesza has brought to life, Holy Bowly, the in bounds park chimera of the carving collective to life via snowcat, rake, and shovel. The four previous editions of Bowly, two in Japan and two in the US, fostered a faithful following. Dozens of snowboarders for whom the skatepark-inspired snowboard park was an apex in a season already loaded with peaks have migrated to Bowly every winter and for the 2017 edition of this week-long celebration of carving creativity, Krush collaborated with Sunshine Village and Arena Snowparks to bring Holy Bowl-eh to Canada.
“Coming to Holy Bowly is a no-brainer. It's all a type of terrain I like to ride that you can't access anywhere else. Aside from that, the people that come to it, I've known them for decades now, and anything Krush puts his name on is going to be a good time. Another thing is that I'm a little bit past the point where I like to scare myself a lot and at Holy Bowly you can really play it at whatever level you want. If I did want to scare myself, I'm sure I could find it, but I can also find a lot of stuff to enjoy snowboarding on.” – Scott Stevens
In mid-April, despite the advent of springtime in most regions, the mountains of Alberta are still very much in mid-winter dress. As Bowl-eh kicked off on April 17th, Banff National Park, loaded with sharply cut Canadian Rockies, was white, both on the ground and in the sky. Fresh snow fell almost daily, though the warmer temps kept things soft. For those that chase storm systems, the high alpine of Sunshine was a welcome extension of winter. And so, for six days, a group of invited riders dropped into the half-a-kilometer-long course on repeat from open 'till close, each time discovering new transfers, new gaps, new lines to float over. Scott Stevens, Jake Kuzyk, Phil Jacques, Forest Bailey, Austin Hironaka, Jesse Burtner, Zebbe Landmark, JRob, Finn and JJ Westbury, Zak Hale, Chris Grenier, Louif Paradis, Timmy Sullivan, Sean Genovese, Jeff Keenan, Matt Wainhouse, Cooper Whittier, Milo Malkoski, Tim Humphreys, Dylan Thompson, Max Warbington, Gus Warbington, Jacob Krugmire, Nirvana Ortanez, Stephanie Haines, Darrah Reid-McLean, Amanda Hankison, Naoya Wade, Naoto Morota, Mikey Rencz, Andrew Burns, Chris Beresford, Ted Borland, Ian Keay, Matteo Soltane, Miles Falcon, Jamie Lynn and countless other rippers—the list goes on, but the important thing is the rarity of a gathering with both legends and up and comers, the established and the hungry, inclusive of a variety of styles both low to the ground and high overhead, all dropping in alongside one another regardless of whether there's a window of sun or dumping snow. To say that Holy Bowly is it an uncommon event doesn't do the gathering justice, but it is the most succinct way to put it: Holy Bowly is unique.
“Why do I go to Holy Bowly? Mainly the fact that I literally didn’t talk to anyone, but I knew all the friends were going, like meeting at the local skatepark, but it was 700 miles away.” – Chris Beresford
And so, over the course of the week, trains of crews threaded their way down between the berms. Small sessions coagulated when visibility was low and everyone hiked. Every day, the routine was the same. Load the gondola at the base of Sunshine with packs and shovels. Head above treeline to the open expanse where the Bowl-eh course rose from the ground in fresh white mounds, bumps, and bowls. Then spend the next few hours tacking the transition with lines. Find new ones, check out familiar ones, and by the end of the day, feel stoked that there's so much more to suss out and shred. Shoulder shovels and group-groom the set up in preparation for the migration up the gondola and back through the park the following day. A familiar pattern for a creatively complex week of snowboarding. At Bowl-eh, as the weather moved in and out, the riding remained. Sessions materialized with a palpable electricity as a litany of riders put their stamp on the QP, the hip, Titty City, and the massive skim-able whales in the middle of the set up. Engrossed in the week-log routine that was different with every lap. Massive thanks to Krush at Snowboy, Kendra and the crew at Sunshine, Arena Snowparks, Lib Technologies, Monster Energy, all the diggers who spent days creating the biggest Bowly set up to date, and of course, everyone who arrived in Alberta to spend the week riding together. Above, a super gallery of photos from the week of Holy Bowl-eh–still just a sample of what went down on hill, but enough to stoked the fire already for next year.
“The reason I want to be at the Holy Bowly every year is because it’s seriously the best gathering for spring ripping. It’s been said a lot but it’s the perfect set up for the creativity in snowboarding to shine in full blast. Everyone snowboards at the Bowly differently and it truly shows because of the way it’s formed. I feel super lucky every time I shred a run on that course. :) Thanks, Krush, and everyone who makes it a reality!!” – Tucker Andrews