You’ve got to hand it to Travis Rice. He may have been criticised in some quarters for the OTT helicopter-porn of much of the Art of Flight (see the article in Whitelines snowboarding magazine, for example) but you have to admire the way he’s constantly striving to innovate and use his unprecedented profile to take snowboarding forward.
Rice’s latest venture is the Red Bull Supernatural event, held this past weekend at Baldface Lodge in Nelson, BC. Rice and his crew picked one steep slope, constructed 80 obstacles on there and invited 18 of the world’s best riders along to session the course in an attempt to find ‘the best all round snowboarder’ as he put it in the official Red Bull press spiel. Those 18 riders include the world’s true heavy hitters, including backcountry purists such as Terje, Nicolas Muller and John Jackson. Check em out.
The idea was to get the riders there for a week-long holding period, wait for the best weather and hold the contest on one day, so really it borrowed heavily from surfing events such as the Eddie Aikau. True, there are some parts of the concept you could criticise – namely building obstacles on a natural run – but you have to say it’s refreshing to see one of snowboarding’s top pros step up and try and bring things forward with a new way of thinking about contests.
We’ve been heavily involved in the debate about the future of snowboarding contests here at ACM, through our regular Shaking Hands With the Devil blog and a recent article for TransWorld Business on the subject. In that last piece, we mentioned a crucial element necessary if snowboarding contests are to make a leap to mainstream on their own terms: a concept the mainstream can easily understand. Whether it turns out this way with Supernatural remains to be seen, but in putting together a course that the riders relate to (and then by inking a deal to show the whole thing on NBC), Rice is at least attempting to deal with those issues on snowboarding’s own terms.
One of the other whole questions this tedious Olympic debate has thrown up has been a simple one: where are the leaders of our sport, the ones that should be taking responsibility and representing snowboarding in the right way? Looks like Travis has stepped right up with this latest venture. Can’t wait to see the footage and imagery. Knowing Rice, he’ll probably win the thing as well.