Poaching the Red Bull Ultra Natural
Words by Chad Otterstrom
Photos by Jeff Brockmeyer
This whole story begins about a year and a half ago when I decided to head up to Nelson, BC on a solo mission to ride Whitewater Resort on a sort of snowboard vacation. I had just watched the Absinthe movie Twelve and saw Gigi’s part was pretty much all filmed on that hill.
Besides ridding Big White, Interior BC is one place I’ve never snowboarded and always wanted to. Instead, I always ended up in Whistler lurking around. About a month after I planned the trip I realized the contest was close to Nelson and I was going to be there at the same time. My immediate plan was to get a 6-pack, a lawn chair and post up at the bottom to watch the show. After a little research and asking around, I found out that you have to fly into Baldface where the contest was being held.
That shutdown my plans, but not my trip. After a couple months of spraying about the trip, my two friends Jake Black and Jeff Brockmeyer thought it sounded like a good time and hopped in the van with me. I had met this kid going to school in Boulder as well. That said, he had a cabin we could stay at when we got into Nelson, so everything sounded sweet. We got to Nelson and the cabin fell through right away. I was fine, my van was all setup for living, but Jake and Jeff had nowhere to stay.
We started hitting up all the RV lots and asking them if we could camp. Most of them were summertime only so it was a hard sell. Finally, the last lot we went to, an old lady living in the RV park was down. Twenty dollars a night and we were camping with electrical outlets and high-speed internet. We ended up winter camping in the lot for the next two weeks, riding Whitewater when it was good, hiking Kootenay Pass and partying in Nelson when we were tired or snapping from living 100 feet from a used car parking lot.
About two weeks into the trip we were up on Kootenay and our friend Matt, with the cabin that fell through, invited a couple of his friends to hike with us. Turns out they were all awesome. We built a hip while they hiked a couple laps. At the end of the day they invited us to sleep in their basement. I was fine living in my van, but Jake and Jeff couldn’t be happier.
We spent the next ten days hanging with these guys: Peter, Luke and Tyler. They were just snowboard bums going to school in Nelson, living it up. That basically ended the month long trip. We left and all we could talk about was going back the next year. The dream of watching the Ultra Natural had faded, thinking it was impossible to get to. Especially knowing they announce when the contest is being run the day of.
A month before this year’s trip I talked to DCP who told me that a few people had skinned into the contest the year before. I hit up our Canadian bros from the previous year, told them our plan and to ask around so we could figure out how to hike in the morning of the event. They did and it turned out that you need a sled for the first 3 miles and then it’s an hour hike, plus a 2 mile traverse on the sleds once you push trough the trees at the top. It all sounded great except we weren’t bringing our sleds up there. This year we started the trip in Washington, rode Baker and Stevens for a couple days then headed up to Eagle Pass Heli for a couple days of vacation boarding. We were pretty warmed up to do anything when we got to Nelson right before the contest.
We showed up the night before it looked like the contest might happen. Turns out Peter’s brother Chuck and his friend Mark were in town with sleds. Along with Peter we had 3 sleds all of a sudden. None of us really wanted to ask them to double us up, but they said they would at least double us to where the trail ended and they had to break trail through the woods.The plan was set, it looked like it might actually happen. We all went to sleep on their basement floor that night, unsure of what the morning would bring. I knew someone would post the contest on Instagram if it was going down.