Day 1 of the Yeti Natural Selection went down on the first day of the contest window at Jackson Hole. On Tuesday, January 25th, 24 riders dropped in on the rider’s right side of the course, finding lines and hitting features in the first stop of the second-year evolution of the Natural Selection Tour.
Conditions were sporty at Jackson for the first day of competition; the month of January has been pretty dry in the Tetons and while there was a coating of soft snow, it was a different scenario than 2021’s waist-deep powder. This, of course, is an inherent part of Natural Selection: navigating the canvas that Mother Nature provides and finding the way to work within the bounds she has set. This is a part of snowboarding for all of us, working with the snow and weather that are provided on a given day. It’s truly a part of embracing spending time in the mountains in the winter.
Major respect to all of the riders who rode in men’s qualifiers and women’s quarterfinals; their ability to embrace the conditions, navigate the course, and find creativity among the features was undoubtedly impressive. The riding was exciting, gnarly, and creative–all of the things that we have come to expect from and value about from Natural Selection.
Going into Day 1 of competition, the head-to-head match-ups were the stuff of fantasy leagues. On the men’s side in heat one: Dustin Craven verses Danny Davis; Chris Rasman verses Jared Elston; Travis Rice verses Kevin Backstrom; Sebbe De Buck verses Torstein Horgmo. In heat two: Mikkel Bang verses Arthur Longo; Blake Paul verses Torstein Horgmo; Gabe Ferguson verses Sage Kotsenburg; Ben Ferguson verses Austen Sweetin. Tie-breakers between Travis and Kevin and Gabe and Sage closed out both rounds of the men’s qualifiers, keeping everyone on their toes to the last minute of each heat.
“Today was a sporty day of competition,” said Travis in the official NST release. “I kind of had an improvement through each run, it could have gone either way getting the tiebreak against Kevin Backstrom. I mean his run that I barely beat him on was pretty phenomenal—taking the right Lando’s hip as deep as possible and the front seven tail on the Great Wall, that would have been the ender of a video part. I managed to put down a pretty complicated run and landed everything and I’m thrilled to get to finals day.”
On the women’s side, the match-ups were all-time. Marie-France Roy verses Elena Hight. Spencer O’Brien verses Hana Beaman. Stefi Luxton verses Robin Van Gyn (Leanne Pelosi elected not to compete and wildcard Stefi Luxton joined the fray). Cheryl Maas verses Marion Hearty. The women showed up, and in the end, the four riders that advanced to quarterfinals all had competed at Jackson in 2021–perhaps that little bit of extra knowledge and experience provided a bit of an edge.
“Today the snow was really tricky,” said Marion. “So I tried to stay focused and able to get legs of steel instead of style. It was kind of Freeride World Tour conditions today so it was perfect for me. I was really surprised to get the highest score today, so I’m really happy.” Marion’s confidence in the conditions was clear during her runs.
On Day 2 for women’s quarterfinals, Hana Beaman will go head-to-head with Elena Hight and Robin Van Gyn will face Marion Hearty.
For Day 2, the remaining twelve riders will ride the rider’s left side of the course, which is more north-facing and should be holding better snow conditions for finals. As the crew navigated already through the gnarlier snow day with aplomb, finals day should be really good.
Here are the seeding brackets heading into Day 2, which goes down at 9:30am on Friday, January 28th. Stay tuned to @naturalselection on Instagram for more and watch the broadcast live on Naturalselectiontour.com.