For Travis Rice, the goal of Supernatural "Is to have a rider do a single, two-minute run that can stand up to a two-minute video part." The rider who puts a run like that together could be considered the best all-around snowboarder in the world. For the idea to be possible though, Travis needed a next-level course, the riders to send it, and new approach to snowboard contests. Here's what you need to know about how it will all go down on Saturday, February 4 at Baldface Lodge, BC.
Travis wanted a group of the world's best video part riders for this event and that's exactly what he got when DCP, Devun Walsh, Eero Niemala, Gigi Rüf, Jake Blauvelt, John Jackson, Kazu Kokubo, Lucas Debari, Mark Carter, Mark Landvik, Mark Sollors, Nicolas Müller, Eric Jackson, Scotty Lago, and Terje Haakonsen showed up in Nelson, BC on February 2. Most had long since been confirmed, but Eero Niemala was selected to replace Pat Moore after he hurt his knee while filming for X Games Real Snow and Mark Sollors got the call just a few days before the event when Wolle Nyvelt blew his knee. The wildcard spot, created for up and coming contest kids who don't have much backcountry experience, went to X Games double Gold medalist Mark McMorris and X Games 16 slopestyle silver medalist Sage Kotsenburg. Jamie Lynn is also kicking around and may make some runs.
Despite the insane amount of planning and preparation that went into creating the Supernatural course, none of it would matter without good snow. While most of North America received low snowfall so far this winter, Baldface has been hit with a series of storms that have brought its snowpack to near average levels. The backcountry setting means that weather and avalanche danger also play a role in determining if and when the contest goes down, especially since sloughing is predicted on the first and steepest section of the course. Waiting for the right conditions is why the event was given a six-day holding period, similar to a surf contest. With snow "stability reasonably good" according to lead guide Demian Whitley, and sun in the forecast, the contest will kick off Saturday, the first day of the holding period.
Given that runs are done on pow and meant to mimic a backcountry filming session, the dropping order of the riders is crucial. Going first is a definite disadvantage since the other riders get to see where the sketchy sections are, and going last sucks because the course will be more tracked out. Riders get no practice runs so they'll have to send it first try, just like filming in the backcountry.
To select the dropping order the riders competed in a sort of triathlon on Friday afternoon made up of an ax throw, timed nail pound, and timed beacon search, where each is ranked first through 18th. The rider that places first gets to call his drop-in position followed by the other riders in order. Most riders felt that dropping fourth was the best spot to be in and as predicted, Northwest woodsman Lucas Debari, who qualified first picked just that position.
Saturday's start order list is: 1. Scotty Lago 2. DCP 3. John Jackson 4. Lucas Debari 5. Terje 6. Mark Sollors 7. Nicolas Müller 8. Mark McMorris 9. Eero Niemala 10. Gigi Rüf 11. Mark Carter 12. Mark Landvik 13. Travis Rice 14. Sage Kotsenburg 15. Eric Jackson 16. Devun Walsh 17. Jake Blauvelt 18. Kazu Kokubo
The mile-long setup, with close to 100 features to choose from, will be a test of endurance with runs lasting an estimated two-minutes. X Games slopestyle runs, in comparison, last an average of 45 seconds on groomed slopes, meaning Supernatural is going to be as much about stamina as it is about skill. Looks like we'll see who's been eating their Wheaties.
The contest will be judged by Tom Burt, Andy Hetzel, Temple Cummins, Shin Campos, Bryan Iguchi, and Mel Simmons on four criteria: line choice and creativity of the line, air and style , flow, and control for overall impression out of 100. An average run will score around 50 and winning run will likely be in the 90s.
"Judging is much more subjective in this type of contest because it's not like someone has to take the same line," says Head Judge, Tom Burt. "Someone might choose something that you never thought of doing and you'll be like 'Whoa, who would have thought that?' Creativity will be valuable."
Riders will get two runs to post the highest possible score, with the top nine moving to a third and final run. The third run will be a chance to better previous scores, but in the end it’s best run of three that counts.
There's 75,000 dollars up for grabs at the Red Bull Supernatural but there's a lot more at stake than just money when there's the potential to crown the best all-around rider in the world on Saturday. The stage has been set. Now it's time to drop in.
The Red Bull Supernatural airs on NBC Saturday, March 31. Sorry no video until then.