New Riders, New Format for Natural Selection 2023

Here we are, on the precipice of 2023 and a new year full of opportunities, aspirations, and the third iteration of the Natural Selection Tour. Since Elena Hight and Travis Rice clinched the Tour titles last March in Alaska, NST has shaken up the proverbial snowglobe for this season, introducing 13 new riders to the roster and an entirely new format for the first round of competition, bringing back the Duels from NST 2022 stop 2 at Baldface, but in a far more consequential way than before.

Here’s what we know as of December 27th.

11 riders from 2022 are returning for 2023. Each season, the top half of the field on both the men’s and women’s side are invited back to compete, which means that making it to finals day in Jackson last year secured your invite for the 2023 Tour. A few of the riders that were invited back are taking a year off due to filming, injury rehab, etc. Here’s the 2023 returning roster (in no particular order other than 2022 overall champions listed first):

WOMEN
Elena Hight
Marion Haerty
Zoi Sadowski-Synnott

MEN
Travis Rice
Mikkel Bang
Ben Ferguson
Blake Paul
Jared Elston
Dustin Craven
Mark McMorris
Torstein Horgmo

So that means that for 2023 there were 5 spots open on the women’s side and 8 on the men’s side. There are three riders still to be announced over the next three days via @naturalselection. Here are the new additions to this year’s Tour as of today:

WOMEN
Darrah Reid-McLean
Kimmy Fasani
Hailey Langland
Marissa Krawczak (announced 12.28.22)
Enni Rukajarvi (announced 12.30.22)

MEN
Nils Mindnich
Gigi Rüf
Werni Stock
Ulrik Badertscher
Red Gerard
Mikey Ciccarelli
John Jackson
Brock Crouch (announced 12.29.22)

The line-ups are exciting, to say the least. On the women’s side, Hailey will have an opportunity for a rebate after competing with a broken wing in 2021. Kimmy is returning to snow after overcoming breast cancer earlier this year (!!!), and Darrah is coming off her strongest video part to date from last season as she enters the competition. [updated 12.30.22] The final two new additions that were just announced are Marissa Krawczak and Enni Rukajarvi. Marissa is the latest rider from Bend, Oregon to join the Tour, which bodes well for her if we go by the performances of her fellow Mt. Bachelor locals. Enni is also an exciting addition to the line up because, while she is known for her prowess in the slopestyle scene, she has taken her riding to the backcountry in a few occasions that are head-turning.

On the men’s side, Nils and Gigi are crowd favorites from 2021 that are returning. Nils, if you remember, had the second highest score of day 1 in his head-to-head with Pat Moore, but in a competition where the score only matters in each specific match up, he was eliminated and we’ve been waiting patiently for his return to the Tour. Gigi opened up Natural Selection in 2021 to cheers and his finesse is always a sight to witness, so stoked to have him back in the mix. Werni Stock is another returner from the Tour’s first season. He was the standout at the test event in 2020, but wasn’t able to put things down in Jackson the following year, so it’s likely he’s coming back really motivated this season. Should be exciting.

The new additions to the event, Red, Mikey, John J., and Ulrik represent a heavy new guard that could very much shake up the standings. The final rider added to this year’s Tour is Brock Crouch, who is a fitting final cap to this year’s group.

Over the past two years, it’s been anyone’s guess who comes out on top in each head-to-head; backcountry experience, nerves of steel from the traditional contest circuit, route-finding wisdom, the ability to go from cheese wedges to technical steeps and back again–it all comes into play at different times for different folks, and now this year, the Duels adds another element to the competition.

Natural Selection Duels are the first event of the Tour, a new format similar–but of course more consequential–to what we saw during the down days at Baldface last year. Here is the official word from NST:

The 2023 Natural Selection Tour season kicks off in February 2023 at rider-selected freeriding venues worldwide for Natural Selection DUELS. DUELS will showcase varied terrain, as the riders pre-qualified from the 2022 season including Olympians, big mountain icons and rising stars go head-to-head with the invited riders from across the global snowboarding spectrum. The fully edited and judge-scored runs from each DUEL will be broadcast first and exclusively on Red Bull TV.

The Duels format really changes the calculus of the first “stop” of the Tour, with riders able to pick their own terrain for their matches. It is going to be really interesting to watch the variety of locations and see how this plays to different skillsets or if the backcountry abilities of this group transcend specific terrain, as the variety of locations has cultivated a prerequisite for adaptation the past two years in the three-stop head-to-head format. Randomized match-ups will be announced in early January and we’re very excited to see the brackets.

Similar to the previous two years, the top half of the field will advance to the next two stops of the Tour, the Yeti Natural Selection Revelstoke and Natural Selecton Alaska. Excitingly, both of these stops will be broadcast live. Here’s more info from NST:

The eight men and four women to come out on top of Natural Selection DUELS will converge for the YETI Natural Selection Revelstoke based out of Revelstoke Mountain Resort. Live-streamed globally within the contest window, March 4 through 11, Mother Nature picks the day when riders will compete in brackets ending in a crowning of a winner in a dynamic venue within the Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing tenure. Known for diverse, big mountain terrain, Revelstoke is a natural fit for the event with high quality, light snow and consistent, reliable snowfall. The Tour will also highlight and celebrate the authentic spirit of the Revelstoke mountain community with events supported by Tourism Revelstoke and the Province of British Columbia.

All 12 riders, who compete 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. During the window from March 25 through April 1, riders go head-to-head on the iconic steeps and spines of Alaska’s Chugach Mountain Range. Look for riders from every aspect of snowboarding to put together film part worthy runs in one take in an effort to make the final and claim the crown in Alaska.

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. The second and third Tour stops will run within seven-day weather windows to ensure that the snow is in prime condition. 

2023 Natural Selection Tour Dates:

  • Natural Selection DUELS – February 2023
  • YETI Natural Selection Revelstoke* – LIVE! March 4 – 11, 2023
  • Natural Selection Alaska* – March 25 – April 1, 2023

*competition to run on one day, when Mother Nature calls it, during seven-day contest window

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