Ferguson, Kotsenburg, Hearty and Sadowski-Synnott impress in Wyoming.
Travis Rice’s Natural Selection Tour got underway on Thursday at snowboarding freeride mecca Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming with the men’s freestylers and women’s backcountry riders impressing on the stunning natural terrain. Here is all you need to know:
– Event founder Rice is joined by the likes of Canadian star Mark McMorris, reigning Olympic Big Air champion Anna Gasser and fellow American Hailey Langland for the first of three stops as the field moves on next to Baldface Lodge’s Scary Cherry in Canada and the finale at Tordrillo Mountain Lodge in Alaska.
– Twenty-four of the best snowboarders in the world are putting fresh tracks down over 16 prime acres featuring 50-plus enhanced and natural features while custom-built, stabilised racing drones help to carry the action from the vast venue, high up exclusively on Red Bull TV.
– 2013 Red Bull Ultra Natural Champion Gigi Rüf led off half of the men’s division in a heated head-to-head format as freestylers had the edge with Ben Ferguson (USA), Sage Kotsenburg (USA), Austen Sweetin (USA) and Blake Paul (USA) putting down exciting runs to advance.
– On the women’s side, backcountry prowess paid off for Hana Beaman (USA), Elena Hight (USA) and Marion Hearty (FRA), while Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (NZL) effortlessly translated her technical freestyle skills into the powder as Beaman earned the Visit Jackson Hole Run of the Day thanks to a huge Wildcat in a dream run.
– The 38-year-old revealed: “The course felt amazing! Whatever concerns I had went away when we watched the first guys drop, it looked dreamy. I was just trying to get a clean run and do a fun trick or two. I was up against Jamie (Anderson) who’s such a boss and coming off X Games domination, again. I figured I was going to lose respectfully or win miraculously, so I might as well have fun and hit the jumps!”
– The men’s field returned to close out this full day of competition and it was McMorris (CAN), Rice (USA), Mikkel Bang (NOR) and Pat Moore (USA) making it through to the quarter-finals with Moore’s huge backside 720 at the top on the very last Thursday run earning him the Visit Jackson Hole Run of the Day.
– Moore, 34, explained: “Just getting an invitation to this contest felt like a win in itself! I just wanted to link some tricks together and put together a run. I knew I was up against Nils (Mindnich), and he’s so good and so consistent, that I just focused on what I could do to put together a good run.”
– Natural Selection Tour organisers have already called Friday as a “NO GO” to allow the course to reset with a storm rolling through the Teton Range of mountains. Finals will run for the day between now and February 9.