The 23/24 Natural Selection Tour is officially off to the races, and things seem to be fully underway, despite a slower-than-usual start to winter in nearly every mountainous region on earth. Save for Japan, it’s been low tide pretty much everywhere until a few weeks ago when it seems that Old Man Winter finally woke up. Despite this minor setback, by all accounts, NST is in the throes of producing their qualifying series, dubbed DUELS, and contrary to what most of winter looked like in many parts of the world, one region where a DUEL went down seemed to have had good conditions, so let’s check in on what we’ve gathered on intel from this year’s Natural Selection DUELS.
Japan: It has been confirmed by sources that the NST DUEL in Japan did, in fact, go down and rumor has it that it went pretty well. The riders were Japan’s Raibu Katayama going head-to-head against Norway’s Torgeir Bergrem. We’re hearing that the terrain they chose to ride was in and around the Myoko region and according to all the clips we saw on social media, Japan looked like it was holding heavy. We’re really looking forward to Raibu or Torgeir moving on to Revelstoke, as both riders are as exciting to watch ride as any out there.
Andermatt, Switzerland: This is where things got interesting. Initially, this was one of the most hotly-anticipated DUELS that were announced, with France’s Arthur Longo battling Sweden’s Kevin Backstrom. Unfortunately, Arthur Longo got injured (and we wish him a speedy recovery), and it seems like NST found Longo’s alternate in Backstrom’s good friend Sebbe DeBuck. The Belgian got tapped in last-minute to fly to Switzerland to take on Kevin Backstrom for a chance to qualify to the Revelstoke event, which left us wondering if Sebbe has the advantage of coming in late and just kinda dropping, rather than having the weight of a DUEL resting on your shoulders for months leading up to it. Either way, Sebbe is a pretty mellow dude and Backstrom is an absolute beast and the way we see it, it’s anyone’s game. According to social media, they are in Andermatt as we type this, locating terrain and getting ready to do the damn thing.
Crested Butte, Colorado: The first female DUEL will be Jamie Anderson versus Emma Crosby in what’s shaping up to be the quintessential “legend vs. rookie” matchup in DUELS. Jamie’s dominance in competitive snowboarding is matched by none other than riders like Shaun White, Mark McMorris, Kelly Clark and the like, while Emma comes into the DUEL as snowboarding’s next big thing, and this is shaping up to be a full on shootout in the Wild West. Crested Butte has some gnarly terrain and we’re getting excited to see what features the gals decide to DUEL on, as the weather window opens next Monday, February 5th.
Scarp Ridge Lodge, Crested Butte, Colorado: Austen Sweetin vs. Red Gerard. Yeah, you read that right. Eleven Experiences and Irwin Lodge are hosting two of the best in the world at what they do in this snowcat-access DUEL just outside of Crested Butte, Colorado. Keep in mind that Red is fresh off his first-ever X Games gold in Slopestyle but Sweetin is fresh off a plane from Japan with his pow legs fully under him. Similar to the Crested Butte Mountain Resort DUEL, the weather window opens next Monday, February 5th.
Durango, Colorado: This is one of the most intriguing DUELS of the bunch, where Vermont’s Nils Mindnich will be taking on France’s Victor Daviet in Durango, Colorado, in and around the Purgatory area. Similar styles and ideologies in their riding is what will make this match-up so interesting and the fact that these are two of the most consistent backcountry riders alive. We’re excited to see what kind of terrain the greater Durango area has to offer the NST squad and we’re certainly hoping for a storm system or two to hit the area to ensure deep snow, which is where both of these riders excel. This DUEL will be happening int he exact same timeframe as Crested Butte and Scarp Ridge, so is it safe to say that Colorado is the hub of the snowboard world once again for the month of February?
Red Mountain, British Columbia: In the final DUEL of the NST season, and the last qualifying event of the Tour, Rhode Island’s Mary Rand will be facing off with British Columbia’s Spencer O’Brien. These two are at the absolute top of their game and Red Mountain is going to be a really rad place to host an event that will be taking place immediately after the Colorado DUELS wrap. Both of their power and style in big mountain terrain makes this a good match-up and we’re excited to see who comes out on top and makes their way to Revelstoke. The weather window for Red Mountain opens on February 12th and closes on the 19th. That’s a quick turnaround for the rider who advances, as the live Revelstoke event kicks off on March 10th just a few clicks up the road from Red,
You can watch all of the Natural Selection Tour DUELS exclusively on Red Bull TV, dropping February 27th.