The 2017 edition of Snowboy Productions’ Holy Bowly at Sunshine Village, AB, was a stage for any style and a catalyst for inspiration. The layout was tight, a pinball machine of rad that invited exploration, rewarded creativity, and let riders push to whatever technicality best suited their snowboarding. As Jesse Burtner said, “I could ride, hike, and film this thing every day for a year and be happy.”
In the weeks leading up to the Bowly, Snowboy’s honcho Krush Kulesza reached deep into the snowboard network to ensure those in attendance represented a vast spectrum of styles, influences, and generations. Legends like DCP and Andrew Hardingham traded laps with up-and-comers like Nick Elliott and the Westbury brothers, while a multi-faceted riding of Japanese rippers like Naoto Morota played off pop-up sessions with dudes like Sean Genovese. Pete Saari explored the bowl with Blair Habenicht and Tucker Andrews, and a whirlwind four-pack consisting of Ben Bilocq, Louif Paradis, Phil Jacques and Jake Kuzyk ran show-stopping trains. Select shop owners and staff—people like Warren Currie and Adam Balon who have made significant contributions to their local snowboard scenes—dipped in and out of the bowl, and contest crusher Jamie Anderson dropped alongside soul-turn specialist Alex Yoder.
On the nexus of riders, Krush said, “I remember the second year of Bowly, in Japan, I was watching Jamie Lynn watch A. Lo’s [Alex Lopez] line, and then watching a Japanese rider’s line. He was really intent, paying close attention. Everyone here has amazing style already—that’s why they were invited—and my favorite thing about Bowly is that all of these riders with such distinct styles can just feed off each other without stipulations. There aren’t any other avenues where you watch Ted Borland and Chris Roach riding together and comparing butter notes. I honestly think that style progresses at Holy Bowly.”
Riding the Holy Bowly begins with feel—your first lines are improvisational. Hits are opportunistic rather than planned, and you marvel at the foresight that saw Krush, his crew at Snowboy, Sunshine Village staff, and the master park builders at Arena Snowparks (headed by Steve Petrie and Lucas Ouellette) place that next boob, hip, or berm right along your line. Some riders sort it quicker than others—they open gaps, set the ruts that others will follow as they get the balls to step to the Bowly’s potential. By mid-day on the first day, Andrew Burns had towed into a top-section volcano-gap, Ryan Patterson had sorted a cross-court boob-to-boob, and Matt Wainhouse (among others) had taken some vicious knuckles trying an island-gap Mark Sollors would eventually make with day six’s faster snow. What seems insane on day one becomes attainable as the week goes on, as your legs tune to steep take-offs and tight landings and your riding adapts to the course. By the end of the week, head-turners are true bangers, by anybody’s standards. Stefan Krumm’s gap over the step-up step-down volcano dubbed ‘Ben’s [Suurallik] Butthole’ comes to mind—the PNW ripper had been making his mark all week with speed lines and instinctive flow, and his Saturday sender locked him in as a Bowly standout.
Though weather was slightly challenging through the week, with window-shopping the norm until day six, every day was good. And, when light kissed the course on Friday evening, in the last hours of the private session, Krush held us at the top of the bowl. Just before, he’d been standing mid-course watching rider after rider flow through the bowl with the familiarity of a week’s experience, seen the build that capped off his twentieth year of Snowboy Productions being ridden as it should be and bringing joy to his favorite snowboarders. His voice welled with emotion at the hold, as he started into a tribute to Noah Salasnek. Krush’s words were poignant, referencing Noah’s influence on the event through videos like TB2, and thanking him for his inspiration. Krush brought us to a place of solemnity, before proposing a party lap for Noah. “Tweak extra hard on this one,” he said. And we did.
So the Holy Bowly is in the books, though the course is open to the public for a few more days. Rumor has it the Bowly will return to its homeland of Japan next year—riders were already making travel plans as they packed their things in Banff. The Road to Holy Bowly never ends—you’re on it right now, every time you take a step towards the rad.
Thanks to Krush Kulesza, Snowboy Productions, Lib Technologies, Sunshine Village, Monster Energy, and Arena Snowparks for making it happen. See you on the road.