Gigi Rüf wins the Red Bull Ultra Natural

Sam Oetiker Sam Oetiker

The Red Bull Ultra Natural is the follow up to last year’s ground breaking Supernatural – an event dreamed up by Art of Flight snowboard superstar Travis Rice to bring the world’s best backcountry freestyle snowboarders together for a contest that is truly one of its kind.

The sun came out only two days into the Ultra Natural holding period and the competition was a go / Photo: Tim Zimmerman / Red Bull
The sun came out only two days into the Ultra Natural holding period and the competition was a go / Photo: Tim Zimmerman / Red Bull

We’re not 100% sure why the name was changed but we can only assume it was a copyright issue – please enlighten us if anyone knows! Surely there are only so many names that could be used if it’s changed every year – after Mega Natural and Über Natural we’re already running short…

Putting the 55 degree Scary Cherry face into perspective / Photo: Tim Zimmerman / Red Bull
Putting the 55 degree and appropriately named ‘Scary Cherry’ face into perspective / Photo: Tim Zimmerman / Red Bull

And the course? A 55 degree face at Baldface Lodge in Nelson, BC appropriately named Scary Cherry, littered head to toe with natural features – think diving boards, transfers to logs, trees to bonk and a series of massive kickers at the bottom to round it all up – it’s all sitting there on one monstrous face and had been collecting snow over the course of the season ready to be ripped to pieces by the world’s greatest snowboarders.

Last Friday, the 7 day holding period for the Red Bull Ultra Natural officially opened, with organisers waiting for the sun to appear and the snow pack to be deemed stable enough for the riders to safely drop into the course for the contest.

Mark McMorris picks his line / Photo: Christian Pondella / Red Bull
Mark McMorris picks his line / Photo: Christian Pondella / Red Bull

The riders invited were a mix of today’s top riders and backcountry freestyle legends, with the top 8 from last year’s event receiving invitations (Travis Rice, Gigi Rüf, Nicolas Müller, Lucas Debari, Kazuhiro Kokubo, Jake Blauvelt, David Carrier-Porcheron and Eero Niemela) along with seven other wildcards (Tere Haakonsen, Bryan Fox, Jussi Oksanen, Torstein Horgmo, Mikey Rencz, Bode Merrill and Pat Moore) who were hand chosen by Rice. As the winner of this year’s X Games Slopestyle in Aspen, Mark McMorris also received an automatic invite.

Sadly, Kazu Kokubo had to pull out from the Ultra Natural due to injury and was replaced by Austrian legend Wolle Nyvelt.

You don't get more lumberjack than Pat Moore. They seriously need to introduce nail hammering as a seeding method in more contests... / Photo:  Tim Zimmerman / Red Bull
You don’t get more lumberjack than Pat Moore (look at those fine mutton chops). They seriously need to introduce nail hammering as a seeding method in more contests… / Photo: Tim Zimmerman / Red Bull

To determine the official start order, riders took part in an eclectic array of logging games including log carrying, log throwing and nail hammering before throwing an axe at a wooden target to improve their standing. While they aren’t really anything to do with snowboarding it definitely seems like a rad way to kick off a contest if you ask us. We await the day when a game of Nagelstock will be used to determine the X Games rider list…

Gigi Rüf on his way to the win / Photo: Scott Serfas / Red Bull
Gigi Rüf on his way to the win / Photo: Scott Serfas / Red Bull

Just two days into the holding period the sun came out and everything came together to give the Red Bull Ultra Natural the green light. We haven’t seen any footage from the event yet (the full thing will be broadcast on NBC in the US in the spring and we will post footage from it here as soon as we can), but from what we can gather from the photos, this year’s Ultra Natural was once again nothing short of epic. Riders went huge, many a method was poked and some heavy tricks were stomped over the final kicker section.

Gigi Rüf with the kind of style worthy of a champion / Photo: Christian Pondella / Red Bull
Gigi Rüf with the kind of style worthy of a champion / Photo: Christian Pondella / Red Bull

Last year’s second and third place finishers both moved up a spot this year with Gigi Rüf taking the win followed by Nicolas Müller and wildcard Bryan Fox. Last year’s victor Travis Rice ended up down in tenth, although it’s hardly like he could go and win his own event two years in a row is it? By the looks of things, Mark McMorris redeemed himself after a particularly  rag-doll filled effort last year, finishing in sixth place.

Travis Rice could only manage 10th place this time around - he couldn't exactly win his own contest two years in a row right? / Photo: Scott Serfas / Red Bull
Travis Rice could only manage 10th place this time around – he couldn’t exactly win his own contest two years in a row right? / Photo: Scott Serfas / Red Bull

Nicolas Müller also took the best trick award with a huge air off one of the upper diving board features. Check out the full results list and gallery of photos below and look out for footage from the event here on Whitelines. We’re just as eager to see it as you lot are!

The Red Bull Ultra Natural top 3: Gigi Rüf, Nicolas Müller and Bryan Fox
The Red Bull Ultra Natural top 3: Gigi Rüf, Nicolas Müller and Bryan Fox / Photo: Tim Zimmerman / Red Bull

RED BULL ULTRA NATURAL RESULTS:

1. Gigi Rüf
2. Nicolas Müller
3. Bryan Fox
4. Terje Håkonsen
5. David Carrier-Porcheron
6. Mark McMorris
7. Eero Niemela
8. Pat Moore
9. Lucas Debari
10. Travis Rice
11. Jussi Oksanen
12. Bode Merrill
13. Jake Blauvelt
14. Wolfgang Nyvelt
15. Torstein Horgmo
16. Mikey Rencz

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