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Ultra opportunity for snowboard fans in Nelson

Swiss snowboarder Nicolas Müller (right) chats with a fan at Tribute Boardshop on Wednesday night. Müller and 16 other pro snowboarders are off to Baldface this weekend. - Bob Hall photo
Swiss snowboarder Nicolas Müller (right) chats with a fan at Tribute Boardshop on Wednesday night. Müller and 16 other pro snowboarders are off to Baldface this weekend.
— image credit: Bob Hall photo

“If the mountain will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will go to the mountain,” is an ancient phrase mightily understood by snowboarding’s advance guards who descended into Tribute Boardshop in Nelson on Wednesday night for an autograph signing session that kicked off this year’s massive event known as the Red Bull Ultra Natural.

Between the holding period of Febuary 15 to 20 at Baldface Lodge, 16 of the world’s top snowboarders will battle it out on the chosen day, navigating the 80-plus wooden platforms of a unique mile-long course constructed on a steep mountainside north of Nelson.

“It’s a celebration of snowboarding,” says Gigi Rüf from Austria, who returns for the event’s second year. “It’s going to be a little bit of survival of the fittest.”

Indeed it will, challenging the sport’s best athletes to bring all the imaginative verve they can in freeride, slope style and big-air maneuvers.

At Tribute, Travis Rice — last year’s winner and co-designer of the course — was joined by Nicolas Muller, Pat Moore, David Carrier Porcheron, Terje Haakonsen, Mikey Rencz, Eero Niemela and other members of this big-hearted crew who happily autographed posters, shirts, boards, helmets, balloons, dvd’s and anything else the crowd of thrilled fans offered.

The more than 200 fans who came out to Nelson’s downtown Wednesday know how this event encapsulates the 50 odd years of this sport’s development presenting to the world its romantic free-riding spirit: the individual playing with abandon in the backcountry of the gods.

When you watch movies such as the recent The Art Of Flight — starring many of the riders that are in town this week — in places as wild as Alaska and Patagonia, you truly sense this sheer connection made between these riders and nature. There is the adrenaline and the awesome thrill, but over and above this there is a portrait of the elemental human being become one with gravity, become pure matter, gliding sublimely with beauty, intent, massive danger.

This is why snowboarding becomes much more than a repertoire of magical tricks, becomes instead the artistry of lifestyle, of connection with superior natural forces.

“Yes, nature gives me a lot that I can now live off as a professional… gives me that freedom and ability to make my own choices and go on an adventure,” Ruf told the Nelson Star.

So how is it that the Nelson area is hosting this world-class event?

“I think BC in general has a really good history with freeriding and powder riding… there are a lot of people who come through here,” said one of the sport’s elder statesmen Terje Haakonsen who was raised in Norway and who returns for this year’s competition and to Nelson for the forth time.

“I think Nelson is very special,” added Ruf. “Its a nice city connected to the mountains, with folks here who are enthusiastic about snowboarding as a sport. I think there is a good scene here with a lot of people that live and breathe the mountains. That just adds to it and I’m very happy it is happening here.”

Another vital connection is the legendary Craig Kelly who was associated with Baldface and who tragically died in an avalanche near Revelstoke in 2003.

The risks are high, yet it is the more competitively formatted events like half pipe and Olympic contests that are pushing athletes to engage in riskier feats such as multiple flips.

The Red Bull Ultra Natural, while showcasing similar spectacular moves, does not lose sight of what are essentially creative priorities: planning your line of descent beforehand as you can, but ultimately subject to the intuitive artistic responses made in the moment, which for extreme sports is likened to a transcendental state.

And the course this year “is tuned up for the better,” according to Haakonsen.

“What I learned from last year is you got to give 100 per cent on the first run, not to do an easy run and then try to get it on the second one.”

Sound mentoring advice that Ruf augments advising young riders who wish to go pro “to map it out, follow their nose and as long as you don’t have anybody tell you what to do you’re fine with your own decisions.”

Invited Riders for the 2013 Red Bull Ultra Natural are: Travis Rice, Gigi Rüf, Nicolas Müller, Lucas Debari, Kazuhiro Kokubo, Jake Blauvelt, David Carrier-Porcheron, Eero Niemela, Terje Håkonsen, Mark McMorris, Pat Moore, Mikey Rencz, Torstein Horgmo, Bode Merrill, Jussi Oksanen and Bryan Fox.

Fans can tune-in to NBC on March 30 at 10:30 a.m. to catch Red Bull Ultra Natural presented by Nike Snowboarding. The show airs as part of the Red Bull Signature Series, an action sports property featuring some of Red Bull’s top events including Dreamline, Wake Open and Rampage.

For more information visit www.redbullsignatureseries.com.

To watch the event trailer and learn more about Red Bull Ultra Natural visit www.redbull.com/ultranatural.

 

 

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