This shot of Travis Rice is our favourite cover that never was
You may have seen the video that went viral last week of a skier tackling one of the gnarliest lines imaginable, flying through a near-vertical natural archway in Alaska and into an impossibly tight left-hand turn with unimaginable consequences if he had got it wrong. Amazing stuff that shocked everyone who saw it.
Well, it shocked some more than others. Part way through filming his multi-year follow up to The Art Of Flight, Travis Rice had probably assumed the footage he and Eric Jackson had secured in Alaska - on a remote face they had christened 'The Crack' - was going to take some beating, so you can only imagine his surprise upon logging in to find Cody Townsend's GoPro footage of the same line shared all over Facebook.
It's one of the raddest snowboarding photographs you'll ever see - upon first glance you begin to hunt for the rider somewhere down the shoot to looker's left, before realising in astonishment where Rice is actually perched.
We had actually seen this line before too. The above photo, taken by the movie's official snapper Scott Serfas, had been passed on to us by Red Bull a few weeks ago with two huge clauses: don't publish it online, and don't reveal the location (which was something we weren't told anyway. Someone in the office suggested it could be the Dolomites).
A fierce debate immediately ensued at WL HQ as to whether it should go on the next cover. The rider is so tiny there's a risk he would be lost to some folk browsing the news stand; it's also not the prettiest of pictures for what would be our photo annual. In the end we agreed it was just too plain gnar NOT to be on the front, but even as us print dinosaurs were still stroking our chins THAT skier video dropped online before Red Bull – now in damage limitation mode - released the image as part of an interview between Travis and Cody and it sadly became our favourite cover shot that never was. Such is the nature of the print game these days.
It still remains one of the raddest snowboarding photographs you'll ever see - upon first glance you begin to hunt for the rider somewhere down the chute to looker's left, before realising in astonishment where Rice is actually perched.
According to the interview from his website, it took Travis and his crew six hours to dig out the cornice to make it safe to ride (rumour has it he actually aired into it!), which he and E-Jack promptly did, before catching the heli back up to ride it again. You can check out his GoPro footage of him scoping out the line below, but the video of the line itself will sadly have to wait for the actual movie...
Without taking anything away from Cody Towsend or the Match Stick Productions crew, for us at least this will forever be Travis' line. After comparing timelines the two parties agreed that Rice had indeed ridden it first and so the name 'The Crack' will stand, a much more suitable title than 'The Vagina' anyway, which is what MSP christened it. This is a much better glacial representation of that anyway...
UPDATE: Leaked footage has emerged of Travis Rice's first run down The Crack! Watch it here.