Snowboarding Gear Picks from Natural Selection’s Top Riders
The first stop of the Natural Selection Tour at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort introduced viewers and the competing riders to a new, hybrid freestyle-freeriding event. This event was the brainchild of Travis Rice, one of the most influential snowboarders in the world. The course required riders to navigate down a steep face, through deep snow, while also executing freestyle tricks off massive jumps and natural features. The final day of the event, only just completed last week, is already considered legendary among snowboarders. Here, a selection of riders share their chosen gear for taking on this untamed terrain.
The Natural Selection Tour Rider Vest is one item that absolutely stood out from the standard competitor bibs. These same vests are available for sale on the Natural Selection site. The slim vests seems to be modeled after a similar functional backcountry vest worn and popularized by local Jackson Hole snowboard legend Bryan Iguchi. If you like the look of the vest, but also want functionality, the Volcom Bryan Iguchi Slack Vest is a fitted vest that can stow all your backcountry avalanche safety gear including a probe sleeve, shovel handle pocket, and interior blade pocket, as well as external snowboard/ski straps and a radio chest pocket.
At 38, Rice has more accolades to his name than we can fit in this setup. He’s the architect of the Natural Selection Snowboard Tour and a professional snowboarder going on 20 years. Most notably, Rice is still in his prime, pioneering big-mountain freestyle snowboarding both as a rider, filming notable video parts deep in the backcountry of Canada and high on the Alaskan peaks, and as a leader that the entire sport looks to for the future. Rice succumbed to overall event winner Mark McMorris in the quarterfinals, but not without a glory moment stomping a massive double backflip (above).
Rice says, “I literally spent two years with the Lib Tech design team creating this board for this style of riding. I started with the Orca, a snowboard that Lib Tech and I had developed a few years ago and took all the learnings from it and re-engineered the tail so it’s the best of both worlds! It feels like a strictly direction board going forward, yet is an absolute boss on resort and in pow when you want to ride and land switch! Best board ever!”
Kotsenburg made a name for himself earning an Olympic gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games in slopestyle. His animated personality made him a household name on the interview circuit. Instead of running to the spotlight, he opted to switch gears and run for the mountains, adding to his legacy with a string of noteworthy backcountry film projects showcasing his freestyle moves in big mountain environs. On Day Two of the Natural Selection at Jackson Hole, Kotsenburg was taken out by the second-place overall finisher Ben Ferguson in quarterfinals. He put up a great showing throwing down a huge Cab 900—potentially the trick of the day.
Kotsenburg says, “I chose to ride this board at the Natural Selection in Jackson because it can handle big features and deep snow with ease.”
Gigi Rüf Rüf was the first rider to drop-in at the first stop of the Natural Selection at Jackson Hole. He had the enviable, although challenging, task of putting the first tracks down the competition course. The Austrian rider has competed at all three iterations of this event in the past and has stood on the podium twice. In 2012, Rüf took home third place while in 2013, he took home the win.
Rüf says, “This is my go-to board and the original Slash craft I created through my own brand—Slash by GiGi. The ATV is a lightweight, reactive and mighty directional twin that delivers a tough, attuned feel.”
Blake Paul has been dubbed “the backcountry prince” by his peers thanks to his breezy, light-footed riding style. The Jackson, Wyoming native grew up riding at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort where he has refined the freestyle, all-mountain riding-style he’s now known for. Paul had a great showing at Natural Selection, making it all the way to the semifinal bracket, only to be eliminated against second-place finisher Ben Ferguson.
Paul says, “I’ve been riding and developing the Hyper for about five years now. Although it has a directional look and shape, the board performs well across all terrain. It has the ability to float and turn on a dime, as well as hit some of the bigger gaps into small landings at the Natural Selection. It’s responsive and playful which helps keeps snowboarding fun no matter the conditions or what the course has to offer.”
Eric Jackson aka “EJack” is based in Washington, near Mount Baker Ski Resort. The younger brother of professional snowboarder John Jackson, has made a name for himself filming backcountry snowboard video parts for the better part of the last decade. He draws on man strength and technical skill to stomp huge airs and ride clean lines.
Jackson says, “I ride the Ejack Knife because it an all mountain ripper! It has a powerful camber profile that floats in powder, supports you when you need it and attacks whatever you point it at.”
Canadian rider Mark McMorris is one of the winningest competitive snowboarders of all time with 17 X Games medals, two Olympic medals and four Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships. Add to that tally his overall win at the debut Natural Selection Tour at Jackson Hole. While McMorris made his name dominating slopestyle, he’s shown that he’s a major threat in the backcountry, as displayed in the new Burton One World movie. McMorris built on his runs throughout the finals day, which culminated with a pair of perfect top-to-bottom hammers (the second shown above) replete with a Double Wildcat, Cab 900, enviable powder turns, and, of course, a method salute.
McMorris says, “I chose to ride the Hometown Hero due to the fact that I had been in Alaska riding it last spring. I feel comfortable riding the board in all conditions. It’s a shape that complements freestyle as well as big-mountain riding.”