Imagine your dream snowboarding contest… Welcome to Natural Selection Tour
With three iconic stops and 24 elite snowboarders, Travis Rice's Natural Selection Tour might just be the best-ever snowboarding concept. Get to know the contest here.
Take a cross-section of the best snowboarders in the world – from legends and freeriders to film icons and contest stars – and have them battle it out on a powder-filled and feature-enhanced mountains in the USA and Canada in a head-to-head format with full send-it mode engaged.
Is that not the best idea for a snowboard contest, ever? Well, it’s the brainchild of Travis Rice, it’s a reality and it’s happening in 2021. Welcome to Natural Selection Tour.
24 riders, three tour stops, one champion
Natural Selection Tour is all about progression: from the carefully selected riders to the judging format and to the tour destinations themselves. The first tour stop will be held between February 3-9 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, over two days. Best of all, the whole contest will be broadcast live on Red Bull TV.
The second round will be held at Baldface Lodge, in British Columbia, Canada, during the first week of March, before it all wraps up at Tordrillo Mountain Lodge in Alaska from March 20-27.
One champion: a snowboarder to rule them all?
Over the years, snowboarding has become increasingly specialised – fragmented, even. These days, halfpipe pros don’t do slopestyle, freeriders don’t do freestyle and video stars don’t do contests. So while it’s relatively straightforward to nominate a rider as the ‘best’ in their respective categories, there’s been no way to establish who is the best snowboarder overall.
What does ‘best’ even mean, anyway? Well, here’s a definition to chew over: via the seamless integration of freestyle and freeride techniques, the best snowboarder in the world demonstrates total mastery of progressive natural terrain.
So, if you’re the most extreme freerider in the world, but you can’t stomp a stylish trick… you’re not the best. If you’ve won every freestyle contest but can’t navigate an exposed Alaskan face… you’re not the best. If you put out epic backcountry film parts but can’t prove it in front of the judges… you’re not the best. Every rider coming to Jackson Hole in February has been invited for a reason.
"This is a tour that will ultimately crown the best all-mountain freestyle rider on the planet," says Travis Rice of his event.
Three tour stops
The tour starts in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Besides being Travis Rice’s home mountain, it’s one of the steepest, deepest and most iconic mountains in the lower 48 states. Of the three stops, Jackson has probably the most dynamic and playful terrain – and may favour the freestyle-oriented riders.
Next up is Baldface, in British Columbia, Canada. A cat-skiing lodge outside Nelson, this was the host resort of the best-known incarnations of the Never Summer concept – the 2012 Super Natural and 2013 Ultra Natural events. Held on steep, pillow-lined and feature-packed terrain, Baldface represents an even playing field for freestylers and freeriders alike.
The tour concludes in the spiritual home of big mountain freestyle – Alaska. The Tordrillo Range has some of the most epic terrain in the world and it’s a location that Travis has visited and re-visited throughout his career. To win here, a rider will need excellent line selection, speed control – and nerves of steel.
24 incredible riders
24 riders: eight women and 16 men, each with an incredible skillset, each with unique attributes that might give them the edge needed to triumph in Jackson Hole.
Austrian Gigi Rüf is the most experienced in the field, and apart from Travis is the only rider who has competed in all three previous Natural contests, winning the Ultra Natural in 2013.
Slopestyle superstar Mark McMorris was also there in 2013, back when his backcountry riding was still a work in progress. Since then, Mark has evolved into one of the best powder riders on the planet: combine this with a total mastery of technical freestyle and Mark has to be a contender.
Or will the overall title go to Victor de le Rue, 2019 Freeride World Tour champion, and one of the most extreme snowboarders on the planet?
The return of a new kind of contest
The story of Natural Selection Tour goes all the way back to 2008, when Travis Rice invited a selection of pro snowboarders to join him at his home mountain of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Now Natural Selection is returning to Jackson Hole with the same fundamental values. But this time around the whole thing will be broadcast live on Red Bull TV.
A progressive celebration of snowboarding
Without fresh falls of fresh snow each winter, events like Natural Selection wouldn't exist. With that in mind, the organisers of Natural Selection have curated a speaker series presented by Yeti, Backcountry, Red Bull and Conservation International that will be live-stream from Jackson’s Center for the Arts from February 4-6.