Photo and Video Feature

Natural Selection Tour 2024

Manifesting Stardust for All Of Us

“One of us! One of us! One of us!”

The chant came from the Red Bull Athlete Zone: a couple of benches carved from the snow with hot tea and snacks, perched in a stand of mossy evergreens deep in the Selkirk Tangiers tenure. The venue for the 2024 Natural Selection Tour finals—a 1,600 vertical foot alpine bowl called Mosquito—lay above, unseen.

The Mosquito venue for finals day at Selkirk Tangiers, seen on approach. Photo: Colin Wiseman / Natural Selection

Travis Rice approached the group welcoming him in: Austen Sweetin, Jamie Anderson, Sage Kotsenburg, Jared Elston, Hailey Langland, Torgeir Bergrem and Torstein Horgmo. They had all won their showdowns at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, BC’s Montana Bowl backcountry venue the day prior. But today they’d been bounced from the head-to-head, best of two runs bracket on finals day. Now, Travis had just lost to Nils Mindnich in the semifinals. He wouldn’t be winning this thing, but he was smiling broadly.

“One of us! One of us!”

Mikey Cicarelli (left) and Jamie Anderson (right) on finals day. Photos: Daniel Stewart / Natural Selection

Someone handed him a beer. This subalpine celebration was far from over. Marion Haerty and Mary Rand were about to drop for the first of their final two runs, and Mikey Cicarelli and Nils would soon catch a heli to the top for their own showdown.

“One of us!”

Plenty of options: Sage Kotsenburg and Mark McMorris assess their options in Montana Bowl, just outside the boundaries of Revelstoke Mountain Resort. Photo: Colin Wiseman / Natural Selection

Us: a dozen of the best backcountry snowboarders in the world and a small handful of media and production crew that were the only live witnesses today. Several competitors were calling it their best runs of the year. They’d finish the contest before a mid-March warm spell fully thawed the alpine. Those who hadn’t advanced were still incredibly happy to be here.

So, how did we get here?

A Natural Selection Tour veteran and former event winner, Hana Beaman opened up the east side of the Revelstoke Mountain Resort venue. Although she didn’t advance to finals, this stomp was a highlight of the day. “There are so many options it’s hard to choose,” she said the day prior. This line was a solid choice. Photo: Colin Wiseman / Natural Selection

Marion Haerty’s technical approach (left) and Mary Rand’s freestyle flow (right) displayed how the Montana Bowl venue at Revelstoke Mountain Resort allowed for creative interpretation and a variety of styles. The two would meet in the finals at Selkirk Tangiers. Photos: Colin Wiseman / Natural Selection

It began at Jackson Hole, WY then Baldface Lodge, BC, with Supernatural and Ultra Natural (if you want the deeper backstory on the Natural Selection Tour, click here). Then there was last year’s anxiety-inducing venue provided by Selkirk Tangiers. And now, what feels like a more sustainable, ongoing locale for the Natural Selection Tour’s two-stop crescendo in Revy.

The lead-up to the contest felt notably relaxed compared to prior years. Travis, from the comfort of a luxury mansion (day rental) near Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s base area, was fired up, though—the logistics of running such an event are never-ending.

Travis Rice on contest day at the 2024 Natural Selection Tour at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. Photo: Chad Chomlack / Natural Selection

Still, he took the time to speak at length on the origin story of the RMR venue:

“We’re about three years into this [Montana Bowl] venue, and it’s only about 40 percent done. We first rode it during filming for The Art of Flight [2011]—we were living at the Sutton Hotel, with [Scotty] Lago, Nicolas [Mueller], and Lando [Mark Landvik] here for part of the time. There was a catski operation that used to run out there and we were filming from one ridge and riding an opposing ridge, and every day we would meet under these crazy pillow lines. After many days of being out there, near the end of the day, I tried to ride this line—made it to the last pillow, then buttslapped, so we never used the shot. But it was so crazy that I named the line ‘Bar Fight.’

Fast forward to two years ago, we were looking around at potential venues. When you’re going to step into a community and alter anything, when you’re going to close it down for a bit, there’s a lot to take into consideration. There were several event venues on resort that I think would work but, man, they’re high traffic areas. They’re places where the locals have been going for years—you don’t want to mess with that. How can we offer value and open up something that isn’t being ridden? This face, with Bar Fight in the center, had a bunch of downed timber, and avalanche paths, with a huge, unrideable cliff in the middle. I’m not saying no one rode it, but it was definitely not the first place anyone was going out.

I went up there with Mike Verwey [RMR’s General Manager] to scale this sketchy cliff zone in the summer. I hadn’t known Mike before and I was like, ‘This is gonna go one of two ways. Either they’re gonna think we’re fucking crazy and that this is a terrible idea, or maybe they’ll see the light.”

Mike saw the light. It helped that RMR has plans for a new lift that will bring patrons to the bottom of the venue. Dustin Craven, who lives in Revelstoke and is known as one of the best pillow riders on Tour, was down to take on the laborious project of getting the venue in shape. Dustin, Travis says, “Brought it to fruition this summer with Mateo Messetti and an A-class team of people. Rick Ross was up here for a bunch, too.”

Red Gerard, heavy hack at the bottom of Montana Bowl. Photo: Colin Wiseman / Natural Selection

Nils Mindnich stepping to perhaps the most technical pillow line of the day on one of the last runs of the day at Montana Bowl. This would earn him a spot in the finals. Photos: Colin Wiseman / Natural Selection

On the morning of the Montana Bowl livestream, I rode the lift at 8 a.m. with Rick. Low clouds hung overhead with a sliver of blue illuminating the peaks across the Mackenzie River to the west. Rick seemed pretty chilled out, but maybe he was just exhausted from two weeks of venue prep. I asked him about his summer, and he said it was great: “Doing fun, sketchy shit in the woods.”

Austen Sweetin enjoying a slice of enhanced terrain in the Revelstoke Mountain Resort backcountry. Photo: Colin Wiseman / Natural Selection

A high-speed groomer with a few inches of fresh then a little traverse delivered us to the venue: over 40 humanmade features dotted the slope, ranging from mild to medium, with those aforementioned cliffs and pillows dominating the middle. A nice amphitheater to watch it all go down. Torstein Horgmo would drop first, and Travis would drop last. “I definitely did not anticipate dropping last going into the draw,” Travis said, “but if I’m dropping last and laughing about it, how good is our venue?”

You know Dustin Craven had been eyeing this zone since his summer of work getting Montana Bowl prepped for the 2024 Natural Selection Tour. Photo: Tyler Ravelle / Natural Selection

We don’t need to get into the minutiae of what went down—I’ll just say that the snow was great, ski patrol did an admirable job of controlling the course without ruining it after heavy snowfall, and everybody rode strong, 24 riders finding flow for two runs apiece. There were a couple judging controversies, as there always is, but I’ll let you watch the replay (if you haven’t already) and make your own calls on that. At the end of the day, the skies fully cleared. The mood as this collective of snowboarders hiked out the cat track into the setting sun was celebratory—it felt like one of the best days of competitive snowboarding I’d ever witnessed. The next morning, those who had made it through would head to the alpine environs of Mosquito.

Up at Mosquito, as the finalists prepared to drop, it was starting to feel like a party. Those of “Us” who had bowed out of the contest were loose, still buzzing from their runs. Despite a persistent weak layer in the Monashees, the Selkirks Tangiers guides had done some venue prep, and the riders dropped into deep snow without a hitch. Torstein, after arriving in the finish corral, described it as such: “Those crystals on the ridge were manifested stardust. I don’t know how I got so lucky to drop first.”

Following Marion Haerty’s first run, she said, “I’m not in a competition, I’m in a video part.”

Marion Haerty mashing pillows on finals day. Photo: Daniel Stewart / Natural Selection

Mikey Cicarelli spinning his way to a finals showdown with Nils Mindnich. Photo: Chad Chomlack / Natural Selection

That feeling served Marion well—as you probably know by now, she took the win over Mary Rand in the finals. Mikey Cicarelli, who fueled himself on a single meat stick and a lot of snow, prevailed over Nils in the final matchup. As we waited for an Astar helicopter to whisk the two winners down to Selkirk Tangiers Albert Canyon heliport, Marion professed that she could have rode better, while Mikey still seemed in shock over “somehow taking out his hero,” Torstein, and a slew of others. At the heliport, two new Rivian electric trucks awaited the winners—valued over $100,000 apiece, maybe the richest prize in snowboarding, ever?

“I want the red one,” Marion said before touching down. Mikey couldn’t argue with that. He’d be alright with the green vehicle. For the moment, he was choking back tears.

Nils Mindnich threw down a litany of switch tricks on finals day. Here, he keeps it simple out the bottom. Photo: Chad Chomlack / Natural Selection

Travis, for his part, wound up in third place, as did Jamie Anderson. They were both happy with the result. In fact, everyone seemed happy—relaxed, even. A prolonged celebration and awards ceremony there on the helipad felt intimate, far from the spectacle of an X Games or US Open of the past, yet somehow just as weighty, if not more—here stood backcountry freestyle’s heaviest riders alongside a cadre of industry vets who enable their dreams.

Marion Haerty and Mikey Cicarelli en-route to their new Rivians. Photo: Colin Wiseman / Natural Selection

Could that have been the best day of competitive snowboarding ever? If you believe freeriding is the answer, then the answer is yes. It seems the Natural Selection Tour, now four years deep, has found their place here in Revelstoke—they’ve got an array of supportive partners (Travis was quick to heap praise upon all of them), and access to a perfect mix of terrain for interpretation, expression, and world-class freeriding.

Although competition and backcountry freestyle snowboarding have never been an easy pairing, I would venture that the Natural Selection Tour, in its Revelstoke-based rendition, has found an exquisite balance. Now, competitive backcountry freestyle is undoubtedly worth celebrating, for all of us.

The finalists after the contest. Left to right: Jamie Anderson, Travis Rice, Hailey Langland, Mikey Cicarelli, Marion Haerty, Torgeir Bergram, Nils Mindnich, Jared ELston, Austen Sweetin, Sage Kotsenburg, Mary Rand. Photo: Colin Wiseman / Natural Selection

If you didn’t see it yet, you’re gonna want to catch the full Natural Selection Tour 2024 replay on Red Bull TV.


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