Travis Rice And Zoi Sadowski-Synnott Win Natural Selection in Revelstoke!
On to AK!
words: Snowboard Magazine
The second stop is officially done for the 2023 Natural Selection Tour and the only thing that is left is AK. Zoi and Travis ended the day at the top of the bracket with some memorable performances from every rider involved. Ben Ferguson went out on a cliff early in the day which signaled to everyone that this contest was very different from everything we have seen before. Travis shocked the announcers and viewers alike with how smooth he approached the never-before-ridden zone. Zoi brought her freestyle background to the new course and Elena showed why she had two big mountain covers this past year. Dustin Craven hit pillows that Eddie Wall questioned as possible and Jared Elston knifed down a line that was just a few feet from a massive drop that was highlighted by the drone flying right behind his head… and that was all in the first drops.
All in all, everyone rode away safe and we got to see one of the most intense courses ever used for a snowboard contest, a solid start to the week. Full breakdown from Natural Selection below.
From Natural Selection:
Revelstoke, BC (March 6, 2023)–A truly historic day of snowboarding competition at the YETI Natural Selection Revelstoke held in the most dynamic and challenging terrain in snowboard competition history wraps with Travis Rice (USA) and Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (NZL) finishing on top. The four-hour event starred twelve of the world’s best snowboarders in head-to-head competition on a “psycho” face dubbed “Boulder Park,” located in the Selkirk Mountains, 15 miles from Revelstoke, BC.
Today’s event also marks a first for snow sports competition, as the Natural Selection Tour successfully streamed LIVE with a fully-produced competition using Remote Integration Model (REMI). The team that developed the EMMY-nominated racing-drone follow camera angle, beamed live camera angles from the deep backcountry venue to a studio in Santa Monica and then out to the world in under a minute evolving the winter sports viewing experience, once again.
The day kicked off with a helicopter bump from Revelstoke to the massive, as-yet unridden 40-45 degree face, stretching 1,800 vertical feet, and spanning four-times the width of any previous Natural Selection live event venue. This feature-packed terrain required riders to skillfully navigate consequential cliffs, massive pillow lines, chutes, trees and deep, deep powder in every run. Event commentator Todd Richards summarized the challenge riders were up against with this technical course, “It really comes down to line choice today. The course itself is really the biggest competitor they will face.” In short: stay on your line and stay on your feet.
First up were the eight men going head-to-head in the quarterfinals with Travis Rice the first (and last) rider to drop for the day up against Ben Ferguson (USA). Rice opened up the course charging right into the guts of it and setting the tone, navigating into a huge pillow line, and only improving on his second run to overtake Ferguson, who found himself negotiating through a no-fall zone. Dustin Craven (CAN), a Revelstoke local, advanced over Mikkel Bang (NOR) with a high score on his first run, blasting down a house-sized pillow line without hesitation. The youngest men’s competitor, Jared Elston (USA) narrowly overtook Torstein Horgmo (NOR) dropping a pair of 360s and then toying with some absolutely terrifying exposure through a heavily-featured section. And Wyoming’s Blake Paul (USA) advanced over Mikey Ciccarelli with a clean, finessed run making it look all too easy.
This led to a highly-contested semi-finals, with Craven leading Rice and Elston ahead of Paul after the first round, each separated by one point. But those leads were not to last as Rice shifted into overdrive on his second run to advance over Craven hammering through a new feature-packed zone with speed. Paul likewise put down a solid top-to-bottom run to advance over Elston.
And so it was Travis Rice versus Blake Paul in an old-fashioned high noon shootout between the Wyoming-born and bred riders. It was at this point that Mark McMorris called it from the studio, “It’s Travis’ event to lose,” he observed, “No one has more experience in this terrain than Travis—everyone else is just nipping at his heels.” How right he was. Rice immediately broke off the leash and put down the run of the day dropping into an absolute beast of a face and breaking into the 90s with a 90.8 and the high score of the day. Paul found flowing lines incorporating all the right moves including a back 720, the highest spin of the day, but it wasn’t enough to beat out Rice who took his final victory lap, his sixth run of the day, through an uncharted zone, blowing minds again as he linked up an endless pillow line that he had committed to memory only moments earlier.
Rice said “Walking away with a W on this type of terrain with the riders who were here today like Dustin Craven who’s easily one of the most technical riders in just berserker complicated terrain like this. Being able to get past him, being able to get past Ben Ferguson today, who you know is probably the last person I wanted to go against in this event. And then my good buddy Blake Paul—us being able to share a final together was special. It feels incredible!” Of his technical winning run, Rice says, “Rolling into a line like that, no matter how much you have it planned or how much research you’ve done on it, it’s still like 50-50 that it’s gonna work out. It took everything I got.”
In the women’s field it was the birthday girl and 2022 TAE Natural Selection Baldface winner Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (NZL) charging top-to-bottom to overtake Hailey Langland (USA) with her first run score of 80. And 2022 Tour Champion Elena Hight (USA) opening up a massive 30-foot triple stack of boulders and cliffs to the bottom to earn her top score of 75 to overtake Kimmy Fasani (USA) in Fasani’s celebrated return to competition. Langland found her footing in her second run, dropping a 360 and hammering down a pillow line, while Fasani navigated into a beautiful flowing chute, but it was Hight and Sadowski-Synnott advancing.
Hight approached the finals with a freeride approach, flowing stylish turns up top into next-level pillow stacks through the lower third. Sadowski-Synnott said, “I knew Elena was gonna do some crazy lines, so I wanted to stick to what I knew and go where the takeoffs were to spin off and try to find little pillow lines that were still untracked and soft and make it to the bottom in one piece.” She did just that, dropping a backflip and hunting down airs as she attacked the now-familiar technical terrain to earn a 79.2, the second-highest score of the day after her 80 in semi-finals, which also earned her the Run Of The Day.
Sadowski-Synnott coming off a series of slopestyle and big air podium finishes this winter says, “I feel super honored and privileged to be able to compete in this competition because it’s the best backcountry riders in the world, riding the best snow in the most psycho terrain. To be part of it is pretty insane. Coming from a slopestyle and big air background, it’s so different but kind of the same in the sense where you’re just trying to ride your best and perform on the day.” She adds, “I haven’t ridden a lot of pillows in my life, so to come here and ride this definitely was a learning curve and I’m super stoked—I feel like I pushed myself and everyone rode some insanely sick lines!”
NST LIVE BROADCAST TECHNOLOGY
The Natural Selection Revelstoke broadcast built on past live events with the added challenge of the remote backcountry location and the Remote Integration Model (REMI). Six cameras including custom-built racing drones and high-definition camera systems beamed from the backcountry venue to a studio nearly 2,000 miles away in Santa Monica and then out to the world on NaturalSelectionTour.com with less than a minute in lag time. “Producing a live show from this incredibly remote of a location with unfathomable logistical challenges would be a huge lift on its own,” said Liam Griffin, COO of the Natural Selection Tour. “Going live with a judged, competitive event on the most technical venue that has ever held a snow sports competition, took a combination of the most dedicated and skilled crew, the latest technology and a little luck to successfully pull off.”
Men’s Sendy Send of the Day: Dustin Craven on his second semi-final run up against Rice dropping through an enormous pillow stack.
Women’s Sendy Send of the Day: Zoi Sadowski-Synnott expertly navigating down a sheer pillow line.
Men’s Run of the Day: Travis Rice’ first finals run earning a 90.8 and the high score of the day.
Women’s Run of the Day: Zoi Sadowski-Synnott in her first run of the day earning a high score of 80.
THE FINAL STAGE: Natural Selection Alaska
All 12 riders competing at the YETI Natural Selection Revelstoke will move on to Natural Selection Alaska in an all-new Natural Selection Tour super final venue outside of Valdez. Riders will go head-to-head on the iconic steeps and spines of Alaska’s Chugach Mountain Range in a quest to claim the Tour crown. The Natural Selection Alaska will broadcast “as live” on NaturalSelectionTour.com in mid-April 2023. A manifestation of snowboarders’ wildest dreams, the Tour’s innovative format reveals riders’ full creative expression and requires a deep knowledge of all-mountain conditions to reign supreme.
Like-minded partners have come together to help develop and support the Natural Selection Tour. YETI is back as the title sponsor of the Revelstoke event. Backcountry returns as the Tour’s outerwear partner with NST Freeride 3L outerwear kits available now. Pacifico, TAE, Burton, Red Bull, Black Rhino, Sendy.io, Kodiak Cakes, Oakley, Wheel Pros, GoPro, Ski-Doo and Dakine are also Tour partners this season. To get involved please contact the Natural Selection Tour’s Partnership Team.
The Industry Alliance marketing platform, where endemic brands are able to directly support the events and their team riders competing on the Natural Selection Tour returns in 2023. The Tour is proud to have Union, BOA, Lib Tech, GNU, Jones, Capita, Arc’teryx, Norrona, Sandinista, Coal, Salomon, Giro, Flatline Van Co, K2, Handout Gloves, Mons Royale, The North Face, Slash and Protect Our Winters on board this season. Alliance members receive brand presence on the live-stream, social media and on-site at events, along with access to content and social assets from the Tour.
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