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  • Writer's pictureAlba Pardo

YETI Natural Selection at Jackson Hole Qualifying Day Recap

Eight men and four women advance through qualifiers at the opening event of the all-mountain, freestyle snowboard tour streamed live on NaturalSelectionTour.com

Jackson, WY (January 25, 2022) – Last year, history was made. Today at the YETI Natural Selection at Jackson Hole, heros were made. Day one of competition here at the world’s only all-mountain, freestyle snowboard tour, dreamed up by snowboarder Travis Rice, is a wrap and it was a rowdy one!

Today’s qualifiers, which streamed live on NaturalSelectionTour.com, featured 24 riders competing in a two-run, head-to-head format with a third tie-breaker option—a feature that came into play to make for two of the day’s biggest highlights. The riders were unleashed inbounds at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in the Selector Venue featuring sixteen-acres of dedicated, rugged terrain featuring natural(ly) enhanced features with judging based on overall impression. Unlike the bottomless pow and free refills of the inaugural event, this year’s conditions asked a bit more of the riders, and they answered in what announcer Tom Monterosso dubbed, “The heaviest day one of any event, ever.”

The riders wasted no time getting down to business with the first half of the men’s division dropping to kick off the event. It was Dustin Craven (CAN) versus Danny Davis (USA), with both riders treating viewers to stylish runs in conditions that Davis comedically described as a “full on boxing match.” Craven landed a huge frontside seven to edge out Davis. Next up, in the matchup of 22-year-old Natural Selection rookie Jared Elston (USA) versus Chris Rasman (CAN), the winner of 2021 Baldface Valhalla, saw Elston take the win in an upset by choosing a fresh line with his surfy-riding style fully engaged highlighted by a pair of stomped frontside 360s. Then Torstein Horgmo (NOR) came out of contest retirement to put down a pair of massive backside 720s on the Great Wall to overtake Sebbe De Buck (BEL). But it was Travis Rice (USA) and Kevin Backstrom (SWE) with the first major throwdown of the day, the riders went toe-to-toe taking it to a tie breaker, where Backstrom and Rice both put down the two highest scores of this bracket. Rice’s heater of a run included a Cab 540, a stylish backflip nosegrab, and a switch backside 540. Backstrom answered back with a frontside 720 on the Great Wall—but this final round went to Rice.

“Today was a sporty day of competition,” shared Rice. “I kind of had an improvement through each run, it could have gone either way getting the tiebreak against Kevin Backstrom. I mean his run that I barely beat him on was pretty phenomenal—taking the right Lando’s hip as deep as possible and the front seven tail on the Great Wall, that would have been the ender of a video part. I managed to put down a pretty complicated run and landed everything and I’m thrilled to get to finals day.”

Moving on to the women’s division, freeride and big mountain riding experience paid off for Hana Beaman (USA), Elena Hight (USA), Marion Haerty (FRA), and 2021 Overall Natural Selection Tour winner Robin Van Gyn (CAN) to advance into quarterfinals. Haerty leaned into her Freeride World Tour success, confidently and energetically attacking the course and finding new approaches to the features to put down a powerful run from top to bottom.

Photo by Dean Gray, @deanblottogray

“Today the snow was really tricky,” said Haerty, “So I tried to stay focused and able to get legs of steel instead of style. It was kind of Freeride World Tour conditions today so it was perfect for me.” Haerty came in without a set strategy, opting to, “just follow the flow.” She adds, “I was really surprised to get the highest score today, so I’m really happy.”

The men’s field returned to close out this full day of competition, and there was no shortage of highlights from this field. Mikkel Bang (NOR) crushed two rapid fire runs, slamming the door with a huge frontside 720 off the Great Wall to overtake Arthur Longo (FRA), who didn’t go down without a fight peaking with a huge 70-foot crosscourt tranny-finder straight air. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort local Blake Paul (USA) engaged his signature light touch to overcome the choppy conditions putting down what announcer Pat Bridges declared to be, “a flawless top to bottom run” only slightly edging out Torgeir Bergrem (NOR) in the closest heat of the day. Ben Ferguson (USA) and Austen Sweetin (USA) provided another exciting matchup with both riders engaging warp speed through the trees, Ferguson stomping a backside 720 to edge out Sweetin. And last, but not least, rookie Natural Selection rider Gabe Ferguson, arguably an underdog coming into this event, gave Olympic gold medalist Sage Kotsenburg (USA) a run, to bring us the day’s highlight. The two took it into a third run tie breaker to end the contest on an absolute heater, with Kotsenburg stomping a Cab 900 to earn the top score of the day and advance into quarterfinals.

“It was intense out there today—definitely a little rowdy,” said Kotsenburg. “For me, today was just about moving on to the next round. And from here on out, I just want to keep trying to make it through the rounds. I’m up against Ben [Ferguson] next and we matched up last time. so it’ll be a brawl again, and it should be really, really sick.”

Photo by Dean Gray, @deanblottogray

Looking ahead to quarterfinals it’s four women—Hana Beaman, Elena Hight, Marion Haerty, and Robyn Van Gyn—and eight men— Mikkel Bang, Blake Paul, Ben Ferguson, Sage Kotsenburg, Dustin Craven, Jared Elston, Torstein Horgmo and Travis Rice advancing into quarterfinals. Head to Natural Selection for full scoring results and a closer look at the head-to-head quarterfinals brackets.

Day one’s action can be watched again (and again) at NaturalSelectionTour.com. The seven-day contest window will run through Monday, January 31 with a second day of quarter, semi and finals competition to be announced.

“What you saw today is just scratching the surface of what you’re going to see on finals day,” promises event founder Rice. “The snow conditions are going to be a lot better and, with the nature of the way the north venue rides, there’s a lot more opportunity for big tricks. Everyone knows that they have to step up their approach to how they’re picking their lines and the tricks they’re picking. The finals venue is quite a bit more dynamic.”

The YETI Natural Selection at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort marks the first stop of the three-stop tour. From Jackson, the tour will venture north to the Natural Selection at Baldface

Lodge in B.C, Canada Feb. 20th – 27th; and culminate at the Natural Selection in the Tordrillo Mountains of Alaska March 21st – 28th, where the tour champions—the best all-mountain male and female freestyle riders on the planet—will ultimately be crowned.

Like-minded partners are coming together to help develop and support the Natural Selection Tour. YETI is both the title sponsor of the Jackson stop and the sustainability partner for the entire Tour. Backcountry returns as the Tour’s Official Outerwear and Retail partner, home to the Natural Selection Tour’s merchandise store online and from their customized 1974 Airstream Sovereign store will be in Teton Village during the Jackson contest window. Other tour partners include Red Bull, GoPro, Fuel Off-Road, Visit Jackson Hole, Thule, Burton, Fast, Conservation International, Pacifico, BetterHelp, DraftKings, Carnal, Ski-Doo, Oakley, Dakine, TAE and Rocky Mountain Yeti, along with host venues Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Baldface Lodge. Through the Industry Alliance marketing platform, endemic brands are able to directly support the events and their team riders competing on the Natural Selection Tour. Alliance members including 20+ of the biggest names in snowboard, boot, binding, outerwear and eyewear will receive brand presence on streaming, broadcast and at the events, along with access to content and social assets from the Tour for marketing their team riders. To get involved please contact the Natural Selection Tour’s CEO Carter Westfall.


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