With the Red Bull Supernatural set to go down February 2–9, we caught up with Travis Rice at Baldface Lodge in Canada's BC Interior where he's making the final preparations on one of the most anticipated contests of the season. The course, with nearly 100 lumberjack-built log features ranging from pillow lines and transfers to log ladders hung 30 feet in the trees, blends natural and man-made elements for a one-of-a-kind setup. It's all part of Rice's effort to find the best all-around snowboarder in the world.
By Chris Wellhausen and Gerhard Gross (originally posted Jan 9th 2012)
What's left to do to get the course ready?
We built the course this summer, the whole upper section with [log] pillow features. Now it's basically going in and editing. We made our best guess as to how the snow was going to fall and we're going back to make sure every feature is perfect. We also have to build this massive kicker about two thirds of the way down.
What are the snow conditions like so far?
We've been held up getting on slope the last three days because of some bad instabilities in the snow pack. It's some of the worst they've had up here in six or eight years. We're doing the best we can. They've been dropping charges on the slopes, dropping cornices, doing everything they can. We've got a good crew up here. Basically we want to finish up and then we don't want to touch the thing for three weeks, giving it time to get a couple snowstorms—then we come in and cook that face.
Where did the idea to modify the run with the wooden features come from?
It comes from the unique features we’ve found along the way—what occurs both in the real world and what the imagination can conjure up—all those “what if” type situations that are finally able to materialize into reality. Above all, I wanted to create amazing features that would help showcase individual riding styles. We’re really just creating a studio for these artists to come and express themselves. We just have to make sure that the features are structurally sound and let Mother Nature do the rest.
How did you choose the scale the features were built at?
By spending a lot of time researching existing snow packs. I visited the course on four different intervals over last winter. Baldface had a huge year last year, so we were able to see all levels of snow. We built the course for mid-season snow levels.
What will the giant kicker be like?
We're still not sure how much snow we'll have, but the idea is a 250-foot wide kicker. We might break it up with a couple of different takeoffs. First off we have to enhance the landing quite a bit, so that's the main project. Then we're also finishing off a whole mini-park zone at the very bottom. It's packed full of features.
I was very particular about finding the perfect run so we actually looked everywhere, from heli terrain to off-resort. It became apparent that with the infrastructure needed to run the contest, a cat operation would be the best call. We scoured three cat operations in the area because, statistically, the safest bet was to do something in Interior BC. We wanted to get enough elevation that [the course] could survive some warm spells or a week or two with no snow. That's why we chose something on a Northeastern aspect. Basically, if it didn't snow for two weeks, the aspect would still hold good snow. So we found this run [Scary Cherry] on Baldface.
Why put on an event like this? Where did the inspiration come from?
Seeing events like the North Face Masters and the resurgence of the King Of The Hill contest, that stuff is great. But you don't see those contests with the best riders in the world and they're not showing snowboarding at it's best just due to the situation. Snowboard films come out every year, and they show the current state of snowboarding. As far as contests, nothing is on par with what you see in a snowboard video. Of course, it's an impossible situation because when filming people seek the best features. When we go out and off a couple mountain peaks, we might find one, maybe two, really cool features. A video part is the sum of these moments. I want to create an event where a contest run has the potential to be more progressive than a video part. I'd like to see this event become the highest echelon of competitive snowboarding. I'm totally backing slopestyle, all the stuff, but I feel that there's even a level above slopestyle. Riding fresh snow changes everything. I'm hoping that the up and comers will be a big part of these events as they continue in the future. This one is a little legend heavy, but it's the first year and we had to start it off.
Will you be competing? If so, is it a foregone conclusion that you'll win?
Yeah, I'm going to compete. But, it's absolutely not a foregone conclusion that I'll win. I'm making sure that everything is lining up with the course, but I won't be riding it at all. I may go through to do some course maintenance, but I won't hit a single feature.
Invited Rider List (unconfirmed): John Jackson, Nicolas Müller, DCP, Lucas Debari, Scotty Lago, Kazu Kokubo, Jake Blauvelt, Gigi Rüf, Wolle Nyvelt, Mark Landvik, Devun Walsh, Pat Moore, Shaun White, Terje Haakonsen, Mark Carter, and Travis Rice.
Wildcard spots: Winner of North Face Masters, Winter X Games slopestyle gold medalist.
Contest format: The best of two runs counts with the top nine scores making it to the third run.
Judges panel includes: Tom Burt (head judge), Temple Cummins, Andy Hetzel, Bryan Iguchi, and Shin Campos.