© Matt Bruhns
Bronco Natural Selection Tour just evolved backcountry snowboarding again
After the freestyle-focused Jackson Hole, Baldface Valhalla saw new judging, new riding and new winners at the second stop of Natural Selection Tour.
If the first hit in Jackson Hole exemplified a freestyle-focused, cheese-wedge session, then the second stop of Natural Selection Tour at Baldface Valhalla gave a glimpse into a pillow-lined, off-grid backcountry film trip, boosted by camaraderie and community. Two very different sides of backcountry snowboarding, both captured perfectly by the breakthrough Natural Selection Tour.
An all-Canadian cast of backcountry chargers descended the featured-packed terrain of Baldface Valhalla earlier this month, with the goal of capturing the best single top-to-bottom line and complimentary video part. These two components were ranked according to risk, flow, creativity and control, and winners secured a ticket to the third and final stop at Tordrillo Mountain Lodge in Alaska on March 20-27.
With the likes of Craig McMorris, Marie-France Roy, Chris Rasman and Robin Van Gyn in the mix, competition was stiff and the stakes amounted to a chance at 2021 Natural Selection glory. Here's what went down.
Watch the entire show from stop two of Natural Selection Tour below:
Bronco Natural Selection Tour showcase
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Downtime turned crunch time
As 2020-21 narratives continued on, the spectacle experienced an unprecedented temperature spike off the bat, forcing the week-long celebration of Canadian snowboarding into a jam-packed one-and-a-half days of crunch-time snowboarding.
"There was a real run-and-gun feeling amongst the whole crew," said Chris Rasman, who raced to film all three top-to-bottom runs on the first day and make the most of a four-hour filming window the following morning. "We all scoured the course to find quick hits and collect as much footage as possible before the snow got too wet. It was wild."
Rasman and Van Gyn take top honours
Rasman, a veteran of the infamous Whistler-based Manboys crew, wasn't fazed by the added pressure of the short window. His superior board control and effortless style radiated through his top-to-bottom line and video part, earning him the victory in the men's division. His standout line started with a lofty Switch Frontside 540 into a steep chute, which he linked into a textbook Miller Flip over a pillow below.
Rasman will now meet 20-time X Games medallist Mark McMorris, Norwegian backcountry prodigy Mikkel Bang and Ben Ferguson (aka your favourite snowboarder’s favourite snowboarder) on the iconic steep spines of the Tordrillo Range. With a heavy-hitting line-up of this calibre, the indisputable best all-round men's snowboarder is set to be named.
In the women's division, Robin Van Gyn's unplanned approach to the Baldface terrain landed her at the top the field. Originally, she intended to ride the same line as fellow Full Moon star Leanne Pelosi, but when the seeding didn't go her away and she lost priority over the sought-after line to Pelosi, she was forced into the unknown.
"Every line on the course was claimed, so I was forced far out onto the face's shoulder, because obviously I didn't want to poach anyone else's line," she explained. "I ended up finding a run with good top-to-bottom flow, good snow and had as much fun as possible while riding it."
Van Gyn is now set for a rematch with up-and-coming slopestyle force Zoi Sadowski-Synnott on the Tordrillo Range. In Jackson Hole, Van Gyn fell to eventual winner Sadowski-Synnott in the quarter-finals, but Van Gyn may have the upper hand this time around, given her wealth of big mountain experience and previous success on Alaska's mind-bending terrain.
"Yes, I may have a lot more Alaska experience, but I'm still scared," said Van Gyn with a smile. "Zoi is such a beast on her snowboard and she continues to improve her backcountry game day-by-day, so I'm not underestimating her capabilities at all."
Missed the action from Jackson Hole? Watch the highlights in the video below:
Day 2 – Jackson Hole
The pressure is on for the Canadian comeback kids
Despite Rasman and Van Gyn's dominating performances at Baldface Valhalla, the duo's progression to Alaska doesn't come without a degree of controversy, since both riders were originally eliminated from the tour in the quarter-finals at the Jackson Hole stop.
Additionally, entry was reserved for an all-Canadian cast at Baldface Valhalla due to travel restrictions, thus denying entry to other international competitors who were eliminated at Jackson Hole.
Robin Van Gyn put it this way: "I'm feeling incredibly lucky to have had another opportunity to compete. It totally worked out for Chris and I, but that doesn't come without an inherent awkwardness, given that our international friends couldn't compete. That being said, the world is weird right now and that's just the way it happened. I'm over the moon to experience the Tords."