Red Bull Ultra Natural course preview and interview with Travis Rice

Words: Gerhard Gross and Chris Wellhausen

Photos: Chris Wellhausen

Rider list: 16 invited riders total

The top eight return from last year

Travis Rice, Gigi Rüf, Nicolas Müller, Lucas Debari, DCP, Eero Niemela, Kazu Kokubo, Jake Blauvelt

Last year’s fourth-place finisher John Jackson, who is currently injured, will sit out the competition but attend as an on-camera personality. Eero Niemela, who finished in ninth-place last year, will take John’s place

Four wildcard spots picked by an industry panel

Mikey Rencz, Torstein Horgmo, Bode Merrill, Pat Moore

One spot for the winner of X Games slopestyle

Mark McMorris

Check back Monday when we announce the final three riders as picked by TransWorld SNOWboarding, Baldface Lodge, and Snowboarder Magazine.

For more on the new contest format, judge change ups, course conditions, and a photo recap of Supernatural head to page two.

Red Bull Ultra Natural Teaser

Renamed from Red Bull Supernatural to Ultra Natural, Travis Rice’s next-level backcountry contest returns to Baldface Lodge outside of Nelson, BC, Canada from February 15–21. Held on Scary Cherry, the same mile-long run from Supernatural stacked with over 80 features, this time the course has been tweaked, opened up, and features added. Travis was at Baldface inspecting and “editing” the improved course mid-January so we caught up with him and event director Liam Griffin to talk about the unexpected challenges and what’s new.

Can you break down the changes to this year’s course for us?

Travis Rice: We gladed the course to make it a bit more rideable and put probably another 20 percent of options for riders to choose from. Last year’s jump had some bang to it but this year’s jump has some after-bang—there’s going to be a techy little part to it. You’ve got to be able to ride in control, that’s what it comes down to.

Liam Griffin: The jump has turned into more of a step-over instead of a step-down like last year. The landing is steeper and there is a new feature going in below the landing. The lowest section of the course where the road gap and light posts were has evolved into some more organic shapes with new wooden features.

How did you decide on the changes?

TR: We learned a lot watching people ride last year. It was easy to tell where the strong and weak points were so we went in and clipped out all the weak points—the trees that were too tight, a couple of stunts that were a little too big, and added a more dynamic mid-slope feature. We thought the lower section last year was a little too mellow so we wanted to make it a little more challenging.

Travis putting in work, editing features. View from one of the many takeoffs.

How do you edit the course?

TR: As the different storms shape the features we add a little snow, take away a little, and make sure things are lined up. Sometimes storms come through with wind and blow the features off or sometimes they come in heavy and grow the features to the point where we have to shovel them off again. Leading up to the window for our event we try to get everything lined up and safe for the riders.

Scary Cherry is a pretty steep face. Have there been any slides?

LG: Since the beginning of this season we’ve lost features to avalanche damage and had a bunch of brand new stuff that was built over the summer get completely buried in a huge slide on December 18. Since then we’ve done more repairs, built some new features, and we’ll be going back right before the “healing period” starts to hand-build some kickers in key areas. All this work has to be wrapped up by January 31 so we have two full weeks of snow cycles to heal the course and set things up so the riders have the freshest snow conditions.

What do you hope comes from Ultra Natural this year?

T: The whole goal with this thing from the start was to really let rider’s style define them and their line choice. That’s why there are so many options. The last thing we want is two lanes of good features where everyone hits the same shit. What you ride and how you choose to ride is such a dynamic part of what this contest is built for.

Travis’s winning run from Supernatural.

Prize money: $75,000

For more on the new contest format,  judge change ups, course conditions, and a photo recap of Supernatural head to page two.