Natural Selection Tour Snowboarders Preview ‘Iraqi’ Backcountry Center For Revelstoke Stop

“Confrontational.” “Challenging.” “Technical.” “Dangerous.” “Psycho.” “Organized.” “Cut.”

These are the words that the 12 snowboarders who will compete in the second stage of the Natural Selection Tour 2023 will be used to describe this year’s center, located in the Heli Ski Selkirk-Tangiers property in the backcountry about 20 kilometers more beyond Revelstoke Mountain Resort in British Columbia.

Revelstoke boasts the steepest (5,620 feet) in North America, but if you think resort terrain is challenging, check out what these riders will be tackling on Monday. (The tournament has a weather window between March 4-11, and the call was made at 4 pm on Sunday, March 5, to go on Monday, March 6.)

Now in its third year, the Natural Selection Tour has changed its format slightly for 2023.

Instead of three separate stages and the end of the route, this year, the first part of the competition was held through 12 “DUELS,” featuring a challenge rider and a defending rider (someone returning to the Tour or a rider with the largest backcountry experience ever) filming a day of riding one-on-one, with the judges evaluating the entire footage and selecting one rider to advance to Revelstoke.

The Revelstoke stage is not an elimination event; all 12 riders will move on to the final leg of the 2023 Tour in Alaska. But how a rider performs in Revelstoke could make all the difference when the overall men’s and women’s 2023 champions are decided.

On this face, which can only be reached by helicopter, the name of the game – at least for the time being – may be staying put.

“I am delighted to be able to say that this is undoubtedly the most complex, the most challenging and, not that we are looking for it, but probably by default the most dangerous venue that we have chosen,” Natural Selection Tour creator Travis Rice told me the night before the tournament.

Previous stages of the Tour have been held in the backcountry outside of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, at Baldface Lodge in British Columbia and in Alaska. The Tour, which marries freestyle riding (think traditional Olympic-style competitions) with big mountain freeriding, often marries elements built on previous venues, such as ramps and jumps.

The Revelstoke location, however, is the last in a natural high mountain terrain – no human intervention required here.

Even among these who’s who of professional snowboarders – 2022 Natural Selection Tour overall men’s champion Rice; 2022 women’s champion Elena Hight; 2021 men’s champion Mikkel Bang; backcountry pioneer Kimmy Fasani; Olympic swimmers Zoi Sadowski-Synnott and Hailey Langland; halfpipe medalist turned mountain movie star Ben Ferguson; Jackson Hole’s “Backcountry Prince” Blake Paul; Jared “Big Air Jare” Elston; Revelstoke’s own Dustin Craven; slopestyle and big air technician Torstein Horgmo and 2023 contender Mikey Ciccarelli (riding in place of an injured Mark McMorris)—there’s no shortage of concerns about the venue.

Each individual rider expressed excitement to access such a remote part of the BC backcountry and tackle such a unique course … but perhaps all their combined experience has not yet fully prepared them for this face that Rice makes described as a “beast.”

“I’m really excited about this course,” Hight said. “I think there is so much creativity to be gained from it. I think it will really push my personal limits and the limits of all the riders.”

That’s where she got now, after a scout day on Saturday and some time to study all the lines she could. Her gut reaction when she first saw the venue, though?

“I was like, this face is psycho and I don’t know how we’re going to get through it,” Hight said with a laugh. “But at the same time, with a lot of big faces, there’s only so many options and then your mind goes crazy, so after you’ve had a few days to sort it out I’m sure people have gone tackle their favorite areas. “

As the defending women’s champion on Tour, Hight also admits there is a little extra pressure on him to do well at Revelstoke. “I’m really excited and nervous in equal measure,” she said.

Horgmo had a similar feeling when he first saw the face and the many options it offers, and he had a specific term for it: “brain hurricane.”

“I knew it was going over, and then when we first got down there and had to watch it, I tried to stay calm, because I knew we were going to get so much data and drone get. footage to include,” Horgmo said. He said the early scouting was like a “game of elimination,” just narrowing down his potential lines by looking at everything he’s not considering.

“I’ve never driven in or seen terrain like this before, and it’s a comfort to me that we have a lot of snow,” he said with a laugh. “If there was bad weather, it would be scary. So at least it will be soft.”

Indeed, much has been made of the centre’s giant pillows, which are photogenic and could make or break a rider’s run on Monday.

“A component is as dynamic as overhanging pillows because they will break; it’s kind of like a controlled free fall,” Rice said. “People think that a normal pillow line is four or five pillows in a row and you just break your tail down and ride it out. But on the person we have chosen, you will have one in the middle of a vertical face of 600 feet in the middle of the forest. It’s really complicated.”

Elston echoed Rice’s assessment of the pillow portion of the course, noting that consistency will be the key. It’s enough to fight off seven bullets in a row while running, but on this face, “you’ve already put a thousand snows into it,” Elston said. “It’s going to be a test of strength for sure.”

“I’ve been coming out here for years, and I like riding the terrain,” Elston added. “It’s really hard, it takes a long time to learn, but it’s really fun and very rewarding.”

Ferguson has also recently spent time in British Columbia; The province has featured prominently in his recent directorial debuts Fleet Timealthough the terrain in Whistler was not nearly as technical or dangerous as the Tour’s Revelstoke stop.

“At this stage, it’s all about doing these crazy, technical lines, and if you can make it to the bottom, you’re a god,” Ferguson said with a laugh the night before the competition. “Some of these pillow lines that people are going to try tomorrow are probably some of the gnarliest pillow lines that anyone has ever done or anyone has ever tried to make a movie before.”

Speaking of filming, what’s the difference between a cavalier approach to a venue like this for a film and a competition – even though it’s a video-oriented competition, live streaming (with drone angles) on various platforms, including the site Natural Selection Tour and Caffeine website.

“You want to be riding a line up there like you would be riding a movie line for sure; you want it to look beautiful, you want it to look flawless, you want to stay on your feet, you don’t want to drag your hands,” Ferguson said.

“But you’re competing,” he said. “There’s added adrenaline to that. If you were filming, you would test the waters and work into the bigger things. For me, I’m going against Travis Rice in the first round – I think I’ve got to be full of ground right off the bat, pick a big line and hopefully get it and ride away.”

Langland joined Ferguson and crew in Whistler, BC, to film for Fleet Timebut she also agrees that the venue in Revelstoke is a world unto itself.

Just as Ferguson transitioned from the Olympic halfpipe world of snowboarding to freeriding, Langland, while still active in trail riding, is pushing more into big mountain riding, along with Sadowski-Synnott.

Between the two of them, Langland and Sadowski-Synnott have multiple medals of all shades in slope style and large air disciplines. Because of this, they both felt a comfort level in the built aspects of the Jackson Hole stage, knowing when to expect jumps and how to work them into a winning run while considering style, technique and flow. .

“I definitely miss [the freestyle] side of it,” Sadowski-Synnott said. “This course has the most technical line riding and pillows I’ve ever seen and it’s a lot longer and more pillow lines than anything anyone has ever ridden, so it’s going to be pretty psycho.”

The Kiwi, who entered the Jackson Hole stop of the 2021 Tour as a wild card and went on to win that stage, said it is exciting that the venue is undergoing such a big change this year, as there is no advantage for those who may have. he rode in previous years.

Talk like a true competitor.

“Zoi and I are used to showing off a pre-decorated chouse – there’s a slope style bras and jumpers that are glued on every night, so they’re basically perfect, and to show an event that everything is natural and you ride it. as it is, it’s an intimidating thing to think about,” Langland said.

“But me, Zoi, Kimmy and Elena are such strong riders that it will be great fun and a great showcase for women’s back country programming. We are riding on the same front as the guys so there is no skill level separation; we are all equal.”

The Revelstoke leg of the 2023 Natural Selection Tour will go live at 9 a.m. PT on Monday, March 6.

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