The Red Bull Ultra Natural Ultra Natural played out thrillingly on the superhuman challenge of a course dubbed “Scary Cherry” on Sunday at Baldface Lodge.
It was an awesomely complex production, from the construction of 80-plus platforms to the placing of scores of camera people perched in crow’s nests, some even embedded in the snow itself camouflaged in white. All this even before the defying feats of the 16 world-class competitors themselves took place.
Throw into the mix the gamble with conditions, snowpack and visibility, the nerve-edged responses that would compose each contenders ride, and you glean an understanding of the beautiful gamble this experiment is.
“I’m pleased as punch,” said Travis Rice, the sport’s visionary who brought the Ultra Natural to be for the first time last winter. “The level of riding was much higher and I still don’t think we have seen the potential of this.”
After the daytion, Austria’s Gigi Rüf claimed the top spot on the podium and the gorgeous trophy that was locally produced by Keith Berens of Live Metal Works. Switzerland’s Nicolas Müller finished second and Bryan Fox — who entered the competition as a wild card — gained third.
Müller also got the award for the day’s best trick that Baldface Lodge owner Jeff Pensiero jokingly described at the awards ceremony as “some crazy kind of thing over a pillow.” Technically it was a gigantic jump over a tree sending the rider down 100 feet of the 45 degree course: Superhuman.
Rüf’s first of two runs was the one which netted him a score of 82.6 to take the victory.
“The sky-ridge feature that he hit with his first line, he hit fast and aired out super-deep,” Rice said. “He aired 60 or 70 feet off the end of that and because he’s Gigi he stomped it and actually made it through the rest of his run including a backside 180 that if you were to bring a tape measure out it probably would have been in the 200 foot range.”
Rüf was humble in victory.
“I don’t know, I definitely got lucky,” said Rüf about his performance today. “I don’t really consider myself a ‘winner,’ I believe in luck and coincidence. My friend told me about a great quote that says a winner doesn’t need luck, but I believe there was a little bit of luck involved today just because of how Mother Nature played out and how she played into my vision.”
Fox truly out-foxed the course with back-to-back 360’s and was the only rider of the 16 not to take a fall.
Weather was a central factor. The first half was bright and sunny, but clouded up for the riders’ second runs making it really tough for them to see the terrain clearly.
“The first year,” Rice explained, “we had a great weather window, we had a good enough window to run it but it was pretty wind pressed; people were struggling. Today we had better snow but lookers-left side of the course had a wind layer under it so people were getting bucked. We lost light half way through, speed and flat light was difficult. It’s a game of averages we set ourselves up in to succeed.”
With the naked eye from the bottom of the mountain it was difficult to decipher and appreciate these athletes with boards strapped to their feet like traps, dropping over treacherous inclines, navigating obstacles, thrusting their mass off platforms the height of trees: hence the tantalizing multi-task of coverage to encapsulate this event.
The event will be aired as a highly complex filmed sequence.
“Shooting something is always going to influence it a little bit and it’s never going to come out as authentic as it was when it happened,” said Rice. “We shot it as well as we can to tell the story about what happened up here like you were here and you witnessed it yourself presented in a very easy to understand manner. That’s the game we play in order to hold this event, a game we play we are excited to share with the world. We think it a good thing that I think will enhance peoples lives.”
Rice again expressed enormous gratitude to the town of Nelson and its openness, from the mayor’s office to local entrepreneurs like Pensiero willing to take big chances, right down to the agents at the border-crossing who facilitated the traffic of people with as much ease as possible.
Snowboarding 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.
So BC and Nelson made this happen: the world’s most loved snowboarding event.
Results for the 2013 Red Bull Ultra Natural is as follows:
NAME RUN 1 RUN 2
1. Gigi Rüf 82.6 72.4
2. Nicolas Müller 76.4 71.4
3. Bryan Fox 44.6 75.4
4. Terje Håkonsen 66.2 60.2
5. David Carrier-Porcheron 62.2 39.2
6. Mark McMorris 61.6 45.4
7. Eero Niemela 61.0 34.0
8. Pat Moore 59.0 38.0
9. Lucas Debari 57.2 53.0
10. Travis Rice 56.2 49.2
11. Jussi Oksanen 27.8 55.4
12. Bode Merrill 48.8 45.2
13. Jake Blauvelt 46.8 48.0
14. Wolfgang Nyvelt 45.6 42.8
15. Torstein Horgmo 32.6 44.8
16. Mikey Rencz 39.6 40.0
For additional information, photos and video from Red Bull Ultra Natural, please visit www.redbull.com/ultranatural.