The best of both worlds

Welcome to Travis Rice's world: The world of the Red Bull Supernatural. Danny Zapalac

Snowboarding right now is broken into two sectors. You have the youth: the progressive and talented up-and-comers who are doing the most incredible things on the contest and jib side; and you have the film stars: the guys who have been in the game for years, who started on a freestyle platform, but have moved in a more backcountry-focused direction. Sometimes contest guys will try to film between events, and occasionally film guys will do a contest. But when it comes down to it, the two worlds are pretty segregated.

Supernatural course build

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The beauty of snowboarding is how diverse and multifaceted it is, but right now there's not enough cross-pollination going on. One of the goals of Supernatural is to bridge this gap. The two groups have a lot to teach each other -- they need to be brought together. At the end of the day, the best snowboarders out there are the ones who can do it all.

My first attempt at this idea was the Natural Selection contest, which went down four years ago in Jackson Hole. That event was a breakthrough, but it was the beta version. From there we really took a step back in order to assess how we could move forward differently. So I've been working on this event concept for three years.

The first challenge was finding the right location. We scoured everywhere, trying to find the perfect place with the best chance of pulling the contest off. Finally we found an amazing run at Baldface, which is a cat-skiing operation in the interior of British Columbia that has a deep-rooted history in snowboarding: Craig Kelly helped find the original tenure that Baldface sits on. Baldface has really played a huge part in this event coming together. Without the hard work of owner Jeff Pensiero and the whole staff and crew, the event would not be happening this year. Between Red Bull Media House, Baldface, and our logging crew, she came together out of love.

The last two winters we examined the contest site, trying to figure out the logistics. This spring we got the project green-lit by Red Bull, so we went in, spent a number of weeks walking and setting the course with our foreman Lee Usher, who also used to be the lead guide at Baldface. Then we hired the most bada--, strapping, British Columbian lumberjack crew. These guys are professional arborists. They spent four months climbing 40 feet up in trees with chainsaws, using hoist and pulley systems to get lumber up on-hill to build the course features.

By features, I mean we built pillow lines, transfers and huge suspended log ladders in the trees. Anyone familiar with the B.C. snowpack knows that everything pillows. The snow just sticks. We built about 100 features, and I'm completely confident that we've created the best, most diverse snowboarding run in the world.

It starts at a sustained 45-degree pitch at the very top, then levels out to 40, 35, then 30 degrees as you get further down. About two-thirds of the way down is a bench. We're going to bring the snowcat in and groom the inrun into a 200-foot-wide kicker. We might break it up into three or four 30-foot-wide kickers. We haven't decided yet. Basically the idea is to have a massive jump that everyone can hit into a full powder landing. The younger guys are really going to have an edge over the older guys here. From there, the remainder of the course is more of a Burton Stash-style park, with jibs and smaller features to play around on.

When it's all said and done you have a multi-dimensional contest run that demands that a rider know how to pick a line, ride pow and ride pillows. The creativity level and confidence it will take to ride this course fast is huge. The goal of the event is to flatten the playing field and really bring out the strongest overall riding.

The most important thing is, this is NOT a one-off event. This is the start of a new movement. We're going to try to change the paradigm of snowboarding. I truly believe that this type of event, spread around the world, can become the highest echelon of competitive snowboarding.

The contest holding period is Feb. 2-9. The contest itself is only one day, but, just like in surfing, we've got a window of time to run the event in the best weather. Everyone will get a day to really scope their line. No one can ride the course, but we will have a lot of measures in place for people to figure out their lines. It's safer, and you'll see better snowboarding, when people feel good and secure about the lines they're going to ride. Will have full photo maps of the course blown up. They'll be able to ride down both sides of the venue.

We've also built two cantilevered gangways out from the hill -- these big metal structures that are basically like massive gangplanks that hang out over the top of the course, with judge and viewing towers about two-thirds of the way down. So everyone will be able to walk out and look down over the run.

We haven't set the official rider list yet (the contest is invite-only), but we've sent a "save the date" to John Jackson, Nicolas Müller, DCP, Jake Blauvelt, Gigi Rüf, Wolle Nyvelt, Lando, Devun Walsh, Pat Moore, Shaun White and a few others. Terje is confirmed. There will be about 18 riders in all. Because the whole point of the event is to try to mix it up, we're giving out wildcard spots. Right now there are four, for the winner of a North Face Masters event, the Winter X slopestyle gold medalist, and the top two guys on the TTR tour. There will be a cash purse, and all athlete trips will be paid for.

I got my start with a wildcard. I got second place behind Todd Richards in a slopestyle event where they were giving away one qualifying spot to the X Games. Todd had already been invited to the X Games, so by default I ended up getting the one qualifier spot. I was basically nobody. I had my first part in 'Transcendence,' but that was really the only thing I'd done. I showed up to the X Games and was riding against all these guys I looked up to. None of them knew who I was. I ended up winning the slopestyle event. That changed a lot for me; it started my career. I want to pass that on.

The older guys have a lot to teach the younger guys, and the younger guys have the gusto and raw freestyle talent to light the fire. A big part of this event is just being together up at the Baldface lodge. I'm really excited about it, because like I said, I think beautiful things can come from bringing the two groups together.