Travis Rice Red Bull Supernatural

Photography: Chris Wellhausen

Travis Rice Wins Red Bull Supernatural 2012

When Travis Rice came to a stop at the end of his first run this morning at Baldface, BC, the rest of the field was left to battle for second. He dropped into the mile-long course in the 13th start-position, kicking his descent off with a massive straight air. Next he picked his way between the trees and towers before laying out a solid backflip off one of the log features, which led into a natural backside 5. Pointing it switch, he transitioned from pow to the groomer leading to the 65-foot main booter and threw a perfect inverted Cab 9 into the pow landing. At the bottom of the course he launched an air over the bonks, deep into the tranny. Travis posted a 91. At the end of the third heat the next closest rider was Gigi Rüf in second with a score of 84, followed by Nicolas Müller in third with 82.60. (Note the event is now called the Red Bull Ultra Natural for 2013)

Red Bull Supernatural Finals Travis Rice Ultra Natural Photo Chris Wellhausen

Travis mid-backie, mid-run. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen

Gigi's best run included a double pillow tap, a frontside 3 to a big straight air into a wide chute, followed by a backside 3. He stomped a frontside 7 off the main booter but bailed on the bottom bonks.

Nicolas's perfect flow finally came together in his last run, which was packed with tricks. Highlights include a platform gap followed by an ultra smooth backside 3, and a natural backside 5 to switch straight line to switch backside 3 on the main booter.

Was it weird that Travis won his own event? Not really, there was no doubt he should have been in the top spot.

It was Scotty Lago though who claimed the first descent of the day. During last night's drop-in order selection, Lago manned up and put his name on the top of the list. No pressure. Scotty kicked it off in style with a burly method on his first hit into a frontside 5 off a diving board but tomahawked on the landing. He picked up himself up and stomped a backside 7 off the main booter, scoring a 57.60 for the run. It was a ballsy way to start but in the end he finished second last.

Travis Rice Red Bull Supernatural Finals Scotty Lago 1stDrop Ultra Natural

Lago, breaking the course in. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen

The next six riders to drop, DCP, John Jackson, Lucas Debari, Terje, Mark Sollors, and Nicolas Müller all stomped off the main booter until it was Mark McMorris's turn. As an X Games double gold medalist, Mark crushes slopestyle and big air courses on the regular, but those skills didn't translate to this setup. He struggled on his first run, tomahawking most of his landings, but pulled it together for a stronger second showing with some backside 3s in the steeps and a backside 7 on the main booter.

X Games silver medalist Sage Kotsenburg looked timid on his first run but was way more solid on his second try.

"Mark and I had a super good time just hanging with these legends," said Sage. "It's crazy how much a slopestyle course can differ from a mountain with a bunch of powder on it. It's such a different feel and you have to take a different approach to it. In slopestyle landing a 1440 on hardpack is easy, but here just doing a straight air off a big cliff is gnarly. I found that out fast. It's crazy to do a big trick because you're going off something that isn't hard and you're landing on something this isn't hard either. It's way different but you can get way creative."

Big ups to both Mark and Sage for showing up and going for it in the company of so many backcountry veterans. Mark finished 15th and Sage finished 16th. We look forward to watching them progress with this type of riding in the future.

No double corks got dropped by these two, but John Jackson did set one down off the main booter during his third run earning him The Trick award.

Travis Rice Red Bull Supernatural Finals_John Jackson Ultra Natural

John Jackson Backside 1080 Double Cork. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen

There was a lot of hype around what Supernatural would deliver, so, here's the big question: was the best all-around rider in the world found and did anyone put down a run that could rival a two-minute video part for progression as hoped?

It turns out that Supernatural is still a work in progress on these fronts.

"This was an experiment right out of the gate," said Travis. "At this point, in hindsight, we proved that this is doable."

But there's no doubt that today was progressive for snowboarding and snowboard competitions. Supernatural’s potential is to show a larger audience that snowboarding is about creativity and expression, not just competition, which is what many other sports are solely based on, or have been reduced to. For the vast majority of people, the only time they come into contact with snowboarding is through competition. This event provides a chance to present a different take on what snowboard competition can be. And if the runs didn’t quite rival a video part, they were about as close as you can get to watching one unfold before your eyes between the filmmaking and creative line choice.

"This shit is going straight mainstream, which is kind of crazy," said Travis. "A core event like this, most people don't get to peek their heads into stuff like this. They think that snowboarding consists of Olympics and X Games for the most part. The fact that we're able to showcase riding like this, on a course like this, in the way Brainfarm covered it, I hope it blazes a path forward."

Gigi Rüf agrees with what was achieved at Supernatural and with what it can teach a larger audience about snowboarding.

"A new format of competition has been created," he said. "I believe this is a way to show more of the creative side of snowboarding. There were unprepared takeoffs and a long run that really got your legs burning. To keep it together for such a long run and keep fluidity going, I think that was the crucial part."

The way freestyle riding is judged was also progressed. In traditional slopestyle contests points are awarded for tricks only. In Supernatural what happens in between the tricks—riding into and out of them—is also scored.

"This contest is like taking X Games, bringing it to the backcountry and adding the element of Craig Kelly—you have to try and ride the course like Craig rode—a ball floating down the mountain," said Nicolas Müller.

Red Bull Supernatural 2012 Winners Podium Ultra Natural Photo Chris Wellhausen 03

Gigi, Travis, and Nico poppin’ bottles at Red Bull Supernatural 2012

This is just the start of Supernatural. Next year's event has already been confirmed at Baldface for 2013 with hopes to expand to Japan and Europe in the future.

Check out our Supernatural Contest Guide to get a breakdown of how contest is run.

Supernatural airs on NBC Saturday, March 31. No video footage until then. There’s a long wait on the release because it’s tough to get all the normal resources that go into producing a TV show deep in the backcountry. Trust us, it will be worth the wait.

Red Bull Supernatural 2012 Results

1.      Travis Rice                            91.00
2.      Gigi Rüf                                84.00
3.      Nicolas Müller                     82.60
4.      John Jackson                        80.60
5.      Lucas Debari                        77.00
6.      Kazuhiro Kokubo               75.50
7.      Jake Blauvelt                        73.10
8.      David Carrier-Porcheron   69.20
9.      Eero Niemela                       68.90
10.    Devun Walsh                        68.80
11.    Mark Sollors                         68.30
12.    Terje Haakonsen                  68.20
13.    Eric Jackson                          65.80
14.    Mark Carter                          64.70
15.    Mark McMorris                    63.00
16.    Sage Kotsenburg                   62.00
17.    Scotty Lago                            59.40
18.    Mark Landvik                        55.50



Red Bull Ultra Natural coverage here