© Tom Monterosso/Natural Selection Tour
The YETI Natural Selection snowboarding in Revelstoke broke the internet
The top 12 riders from last week’s Duels commenced battle at the Natural Selection Tour event in Revelstoke, Canada, and Travis Rice and Zoi Sadowski-Synnott got the wins.
If Natural Selection Tour Duels showcased rider creativity in some of the world's most iconic backcountry venues, then the second stage of YETI Natural Selection Tour in Revelstoke, Canada, portrayed a session designed to test situational awareness and navigation skills through massive, pillow-lined terrain. Two different sides of backcountry snowboarding, both captured perfectly by the prestigious 2023 Natural Selection Tour.
Stage 2 saw the remaining 12 snowboarders battle it out in British Columbia’s Selkirk Range, with the goal of landing the best single top-to-bottom line throughout a series of match-ups earning points towards the overall title.
With the likes of backcountry veteran Travis Rice, competition prodigy Ben Ferguson and young guns Hailey Langland and Jared Elston going head-to-head in some of the world’s heaviest terrain, the risk was high, and the riding hit unimaginable levels.
Relive all the action in the player below.
5 h 1 min
Natural Selection Tour Revelstoke: Event replay
Watch the top 12 riders from the Duels compete at Stage 2 of Travis Rice’s Natural Selection Tour.
The quarter-final round opened with arguably the most-anticipated match-up of the day as 2022 Tour Champion Rice took on backcountry newcomer Ferguson. Eventually, the veteran Rice triumphed, navigating his second run and landing a massive frontside 360 to secure the victory.
Other early highlights saw Revelstoke's own Dustin Craven eliminate Mikel Bang after changing down one of the most exposed lines of the day. Craven and Rice were joined by Jared Elston and Blake Paul in the men’s semi-finals, while Sadowski-Synnot and Elena Hight secured spots in the women’s final.
The energy was high as Rice and Craven prepared to start round two. Each rider teed up heroic lines through the guts of the face, but Rice turned up the heat to narrowly take the win after stomping a mid-lap backflip. Elston and Paul took a different approach in their semi-final as they prioritised speed, transition and style. After two closely scored runs, the judges selected Paul to face Rice in the men’s final.
In the women’s finale, 33-year-old Hight went up against 22-year-old Sadowski-Synnott in a battle between generational talents. Despite Hight’s larger choice of terrain, Sadowski-Synnott’s freestyle prowess shone through in a winning run to claim top honours.
The men’s finals gave way to an unexpected battle of Jackson, Wyoming. Run one saw 40-year-old Rice land the line of the day after dropping over a hundred feet down a blind pillow stack into a tight gulley below. This mind-blowing performance was enough to defeat Paul and earn the YETI Natural Selection Tour Revelstoke title.
The field of 12 riders will now meet for Stage 3 in Valdez, Alaska, during a window set between March 24 and April 1.
Continue scrolling to see what went down at Natural Selection Tour Duels and get up to speed on the history, format and hype surrounding Travis Rice’s revolutionary snowboarding competition.
To kick off the 2023 edition of Natural Selection Tour, the newly introduced Duels format hosted head-on match-ups in a range of iconic backcountry venues across North America.
Here, 12 defending riders – qualified by their performance on the Tour in 2022 or by backcountry seniority– met their challengers and battled it out in a location of the defender's choice. The winner from each Duel advanced to compete in Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada, and in Valdez, Alaska, USA.
Here's what went down at each individual Duel:
1. The most decorated athlete in snowboarding history, Mark McMorris, defeated former slopestyle specialist turned backcountry charger Mikey Ciccarelli in a freestyle-focused cheese wedge session in Northern British Columbia.
2. Tour mastermind Travis Rice defeated slopestyle prodigy Red Gerard on the steep tree-line spines near Jackson, Wyoming.
3. Style master Hailey Langland defeated iconic Canadian backcountry charger Leanne Pelosi on a featured-packed face outside of Whistler, British Columbia.
4. Ben Ferguson defeated Freeride World Tour Champ Nils Mindnich in one of the tightest match-ups of the Stage, hosted outside of Whistler, British Columbia.
5. Jackson local Blake Paul defeated Southern California's Brock Crouch in a mini putt zone outside of Jackson, Wyoming.
6. Backcountry veteran Kimmy Fasani defeated Canadian street icon Darrah Reid-McLean in a deep, flowy session outside of Mammoth, California.
7. Last year's dark horse Jared Elston defeated Austrian icon Gigi Ruf outside of Jackson, Wyoming.
8. Generational talent Zoi Sadowski-Synnott defeated Mount Baker local Marissa Krawczak in Northern British Columbia.
9. Canadian charger Dustin Craven defeated long-time Austrian pro Werni Stock in the Revelstoke backcountry.
10. Fan-favourite Torstein Horgmo defeated powder hound John Jackson in the Colorado Rockies.
11. Trailblazer Elena Hight defeated Finnish slopestyle specialist Enni Rukajarvi outside of Lake Tahoe, California.
12. In a Norwegian head-to-head, veteran Mikkel Bang's timeless style and innovation helped him to overcome newcomer Ulrik Badertscher in Whistler, British Columbia.
The series of mega sessions were dominated by the defending riders. Maybe due to home advantage, as defending riders had the ability to select the backcountry venue, or perhaps due to experience gained from competing in years prior. Either way, the veterans rose to the occasion.
Watch the video below to see how Travis Rice came through his Duel with Red Gerard.
Travis Rice vs Red Gerard
The pioneer vs the rising star: both Travis and Red possess iron-clad focus and easily adapt to all terrain.
The basis of Natural Selection Tour dates back to 2008 when Rice invited a group of professional snowboarders to join him at his home mountain in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The goal was to create a contest that traded manicured takeoffs and spin-to-win judging for natural raw terrain and creative expression. The core concept returned to the mainstream in 2012 with Red Bull Super Natural and again at the 2013 Red Bull Ultra Natural.
Nearly a decade later, Rice’s innovative dream contest returned for good. Natural Selection Tour 2021 and 2022 concreted the three-staged contest series into snowboard culture, where the sport’s top athletes faced off in a head-to-head format, creating an arena for unlikely match-ups and mind-blowing riding.
At Stage 1, 12 challenging riders compete against defending riders from years prior. Each pairing travel to a backcountry location selected by the defending rider, and the two go head-to-head. Highlights from the session are captured and released here, then judged with an emphasis being placed on new terrain, rider personality and lifestyle, and overall skill. The winner moves on to the next round, the YETI Natural Selection Revelstoke in Canada.
At Stage 2 and Stage 3, the eight qualified men from the previous phase complete two quarter-final runs, where the best run counts. Then the top four riders will compete in head-to-head semi-finals and the top two in the final. The four qualified women will complete two semi-final runs, and the top two scoring riders will head to the final.
Similar to 2022, Natural Selection Tour will be implementing a Triple Crown-style format to crown an overall tour champion. Points will be tallied at the end of each phase, where first place receives one point, second receives two points, and so on. Each phase carries equal weight and the rider with the lowest score at the end of the tour will be named the overall Natural Selection Tour champion.
The Natural Selection Nomination Committee has picked 24 of the trendiest, most legendary snowboarders to compete for the 2023 all-mountain title. Each rider comes equipped with a wealth of experience in their respective field and a unique approach to backcountry snowboarding that could earn them the top spot.
In 2023, riders are split into two categories: defenders and challengers. The defenders are made up of the most successful free riders from previous Natural Selection competitions. This includes reigning champions Travis Rice and Elena Hight, emerging backcountry phenoms Jared Elston and Mark McMorris, as well as seasoned veterans like Torstein Horgmo and Kimmy Fasani. But these favourites will have to overcome heavy-hitting group challengers in order to stand out this season – with the likes of Red Gerard, John Jackson and Darrah Reid-McLean joining the mix.
Here’s the full list of confirmed riders:
Women: Kimmy Fasani (USA), Darrah Reid-McLean (Canada), Elena Hight (USA), Leanne Pelosi (CAN), Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (New Zealand), Enni Rukajarvi (Finland), Marissa Krawczak (USA) and Hayley Langland (USA).
Men: Mikkel Bang (Norway), Ben Ferguson (USA), Blake Paul (USA), Dustin Craven (Canada), Jared Elston (USA), Torstein Horgmo (Norway), Mark McMorris (Canada), John Jackson (USA), Gigi Ruf (Austria), Nils Mindnich (USA), Red Gerard (USA), Mikey Ciccarelli (Canada), Ulrik Badertscher (Norway), Werni Stock (Austria) and Brock Crouch (USA).
Stage 1: Defender's choice
Twenty-two snowboarders (16 men and six women) will battle it out at undisclosed locations across North America in the new Duels format. Defending riders from years prior have the advantage of choosing the location and terrain of the session – adding an element of surprise to the competition.
Stage 2: Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada
The top 12 riders (eight men and four women) from Stage 1 will be invited to travel to a Canadian snowboard Mecca set in British Columbia’s Selkirk Mountains. The Revelstoke region is home to over 2,200 vertical feet [670m] of powder-coated, pillow-lined, 40-degree-plus terrain and hosts the perfect venue for an iconic backcountry showdown.
Here are the highlights from last year's showdown at Baldface Lodge:
Best of Baldface
14 of the world's best freestyle snowboarders gave it their all – catch up with the best of the action here.
Stage 3: Alaska, USA
In the finale, the same riders (eight men and four women) from Stage 2 will head north to push the limits of big mountain freestyle riding in the notorious V Mountain range. This is where the world’s top all-mountain freestyle snowboarders will be crowned.
Professional snowboarding is disciplined. The world’s top slopestyle and halfpipe riders follow the competition scene, while the most influential big mountain riders avoid competitions altogether and drop a season’s worth of video footage each autumn. Specialisations take precedence and riders stick to their strong suit.
Natural Selection Tour has rewritten these rules in an attempt to crown the best all-mountain snowboarder. From Freeride World Tour champions and veteran backcountry specialists to gold medallists, the tour transcends disciplines to hand-pick the most unlikely competitive match-ups.
When someone wins a Natural Selection event, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call that person the best rider in the world
Watch highlights from the 2022 Natural Selection Tour at Jackson Hole:
Day 2 – Jackson Hole
The second day at Travis Rice’s home mountain sees the competitors take on Jackson Hole’s dynamic terrain.
Talk about once-in-a-lifetime battles, right? Now imagine these legendary heats taking place on a powder-filled course and broadcast live on Red Bull TV.
You'll be able to watch highlights of the duels right here, too.
Download the free Red Bull TV app and catch the snowboarding action on all your devices! Get the app here
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