The Red Bull Supernatural snowboarding event has landed.
After months of preparation at Baldface Lodge, host Travis Rice along with 17 of the best snowboarders on the planet arrived in the West Kootenay earlier this week to officially launch Red Bull’s Signature Series.
“It’s awesome and it’s an honour,” said participant John Jackson, a California native who is regarded as one of the favourites to win the judged event. “There has never been anything like this, so there is a lot of anticipation and unknown. It’s this fantasy that has come to life. They built all these [course] features in the summertime and now it’s covered in a few meters of snow. I can’t wait.”
American television network NBC Sports is a sponsor of the Red Bull Signature Series that kicked off last month. The series will feature a number of adventure sports like mountain biking, freestyle motocross, ice cross downhill and BMX. The idea behind the series is to bring viewers “custom courses from the inspiration of the athletes themselves.” Rice is the designer of the Baldface course that snowboarders will tackle this weekend.
“It’s mixed emotions, this whole thing has been incredible,” Rice told the Star on Thursday afternoon during a pre-event lunch at the Hume Hotel. “The amount of work and the dedication the entire crew has shown… from Baldface, to our all our hired hands to people like Keith Berens from Live Metal Works to Red Bull’s side. It’s the sum of an amazing amount of work.”
The custom designed course was carved out this past summer and is now covered in snow in anticipation for the action.
The Supernatural is a judged competition combining freestyle and mountain riding. The goal is to crown the best snowboarder in the world.
“It’s a fun idea to put the freestyle world into a mountain setting,” said Tom Burt, one of snowboarding’s pioneers and a member of the five-man judging panel. “Turning a 2,000 vertical foot face into a playground for the best riders in the world to go and have fun… it’s going to be quite exciting to see.
“The hardest thing is that not a lot of the public can come and see it. It would be an incredible thing for the public to be able to sit there and watch it live. People will get to see it on NBC, but it’s still not the same as watching it live. I am very lucky to have the opportunity to see it live,” said Burt.
As the athletes gathered for lunch, there was a buzz of excitement for what’s to come.
“Most of us here don’t do contests, we’re mostly backcountry and powder riders,” said Mark Landvik. “I grew up riding powder in Alaska and that’s my passion, and I think that is shared with most of the other riders here. Anytime you can get 18 of the world’s best snowboarders in one place and they are all stoked about it… it’s obviously going to be a pretty sick venue.”
Landvik now lives in Bellingham, Washington and has travelled to Baldface and Nelson many times over the last few years. The 32-year-old said he was happy to be back in Nelson.
“I love it here,” he told the Star. “I grew up Juneau and it’s on the ocean and on the hillside, epic powder, so it kind of reminds a lot of home. And the Full Circle is one of my favourite breakfast joints in the world so I like coming back for that.”
The event is not only exciting for local powder junkies, but also for the local tourism industry.
“It’s really exciting,” said Ryan Martin, manager of the Hume Hotel and member of the Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism Association. “I think nobody does marketing or big events like Red Bull. They throw a lot of money at these things and they really do it right.”
Martin commented on the quality of the teasers that Red Bull was producing leading up to the event.
“It’s all shot in super high definition with helicopter shots. There’s no way that you can’t get excited for something like this,” he said.
Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Tom Thomson echoed Martin’s excitement.
“I’m totally excited. I’ve been drinking Red Bull all day,” he said with a laugh.
When Thomson first heard from Baldface partner Jeff Pensiero back in September, he knew the event would be a great opportunity for the region and the City of Nelson.
“It’s really nice even to get an event like this happening in our own backyard,” said Thomson. “Nelson and area is certainly well known within the outdoor recreation community but this is really going to be something that puts us on to the map on an international scale.”
The Supernatural stop of the Signature Series is going to be broadcast by NBC on March 31 as part of a tw0-hour special.
“We’re in a situation in the region where attracting visitors to our area is really important to the economy,” said Nelson Mayor John Dooley. “You have to be constantly working on it. You can’t just live on any one particular event or another.”
Dooley said that after Nelson hosted Hockey Day in Canada the marketing began immediately after to find a new event to draw eyes to Nelson.
“The Red Bull Signature Series is going to be a real boost for us now. It’s one of those events that is national and even international, and that gives us really good coverage,” he said.
Nelson has become a sort of second home for Rice in the last year. When he returns to his home base in Jackson, Wyoming and on his trips around the world, the gracious athlete boasts of our area with pride.
“I think it’s pretty simple,” he said. “I can sum it up on two words: you’ll see. This is a place where you can come and focus on good living, it’s snowboard paradise with some of the best snow in the world.”
As for the snowboard summit that will take place over the next few days, the host couldn’t be happier about what the ultimate outcome will be.
“It’s a beautiful place for ideas and ideals to be strengthened and carried forward,” said Rice.