Last year, Travis Rice’s inaugural Natural Selection tour couldn’t make it to Baldface due to COVID restrictions. In fact, the last time there was a competition on Baldface’s infamous Scary Cherry, dubstep was hot. Cameron was PM, Obama was kicking off his second term, Trump was chumming it up with Putin at a Miss Universe pageant. Pandemics were reserved for Hollywood scripts.
The year was 2013. On the hill, pants were baggy, outerwear bright. Footage from GoPro’s Hero 3 was blowing minds. Nicolas Müller was Rider of the Year and could do no wrong. Frank April was Rookie of the Year. The only bar Red Gerard was going to was a classmate’s bar mitzvah. No one was hoarding Nike boots. Behind a barn in Vermont, Burton had a shotgun to the head of the broken-legged racehorse that was The Program. You could walk into a snowboard shop, brush away tears, and buy the last Forum boards on the market, which, at the time, would’ve cost you around 25 bitcoin—not that anyone knew what the fuck a bitcoin was.
“Scary Cherry is still beyond the average rider’s comprehension, dotted with obstacles architected by a madman whose vision burns brighter than ever”
In 2013, Torstein Horgmo won X Games Big Air with a switch 14 triple cork, which earned a perfect score and snapped the perceived limitations of slopestyle. To quote the all-seeing Pat Bridges, who recapped that night: “By SNOWBOARDER Magazine’s calculations there were roughly eleven triple corks landed in all of the past year. This means that more triple corks were landed on the evening of Friday, January 25th, 2013 than in all of 2012.”
In the near decade since the 2013 Red Bull Ultra Natural, our world has changed dramatically. We’ve been through political unrest and upheavals, a pandemic, conflict after conflict, the hopefully permanent death of dubstep. And snowboarding has changed dramatically, too. Red Gerard can buy beer. Triples are commonplace. GoPro’s on its Hero 69. And, thankfully, Travis Rice’s madcap backcountry freestyle competitions are no longer one-off events—the Natural Selection is a full-fledged tour, fresh and full of promise.