The Red Bull Ultra Natural will crown a winner for 2013 today when 16 of the best snowboarders in the world compete in the freeride competition at Baldface Lodge just north of Nelson.
On the eve of the event, the Nelson Star caught up with Torstein Horgmo from Norway, Mikey Renzc from Canada, Bryan Fox from US and Canada’s Mark McMorrris.
“It’s like everyone of our little kid dreams,” said Fox on what makes this course so special. “Travis [Rice] built awesome features everywhere, and there’s a huge variety.It’s like choose your own adventure.”
The riders speak about what makes this competitive course different from more formatted events like half-pipe, X Games or Olympic contests.
“They all have their place,” said McMorris. “But I think this is putting what snowboarding really came from into a contest format.”
“This is what most of us want to do” Horgmo said.
“You gotta realize that format where those guys are competing at the X Game that’s incredibly challenging just the level that its at…what Travis has done is put creativity into a contest as well,” said Fox. “There’s a lot of limitations at those contests compared to here [where] there are so many options …your brain can say alright I can hit this and once I land I’ll be able to get to there…people who maybe don’t have the best tricks but their creativity, you know Nicolas [Muller, the world’s top-ranked rider who is appearing her as well] is a great example where he’s not going to win the X Games but its just something to watch him ride down the hill and your going to say ‘God dammit why didn’t I see that.”
Another difference Horgmo points out is: “ with riding big park jumps we get used to having unlimited practice runs and multiple attempts and in the powder you don’t have that and when you make something happen and even one trick on a long run it’s a lot more rewarding.”
How do these guys handle the fear? Their cool demeanor suggests they can stop snow freezing in hell.
“There are different levels of fear,” said Horgmo. “A little scared or nervous can sometimes be a good thing, but scarred for your life its probably not a good thing to drop in.”
He admits he’s occasionally pulls back from a run to which the boarders-in-arms chuckle and say “but not me, no never.”
“I like being scared,” Renzc said. “Because then you know your doing something really cool.”
Horgmo adds a bad-ass caveat: “If you don’t feel your about to die its not cool!”
Is the sport becoming riskier?
“I think that’s a good one for them” saids Fox, indicating McMorris and Horgmo. “Because the things you guys are doing has some crazy consequences.”
Horgmo explains the scenario taking the influence of the media into account:
“There’s a lot of fun stuff that’s insanely fun for us to do that maybe doesn’t look that good or entertaining as it could,” he said “Camera angles are making certain things in snowboarding look more interesting.”
He further explained how the media “can take smaller things and scale them down and have them more entertaining for the public eye.”
Still, he observes, the scene has been “pushed and pushed to bigger jumps and bigger tricks.”
On the relationship between the expanding industry and individual snowboarders Fox has this to say: “As the industry matures I think there are going to be more and more people taking it in to their own hands and its really inspiring to see what Travis is doing here.”
About Rice’s spearheading of this venture Horgmo said: “There has really been only one man who has been able to gather all the sponsors and have it in his mind and put it into action and that’s Travis, and basically bringing everyone for the ride.”
The Red Bull Ultra Natural was captured by Rice last year. This afternoon he will attempt to defend his title. The competition will be shown to a worldwide audience on NBC television on March 30.