Above: Dustin Craven boosting into his finals run at Jackson Hole (Image courtesy of Yeti Natural Selection)
The dust has settled in Wyoming. Worthy champions have emerged after an all-out brawl. As we pop Advil, shake off the multi-day hangover, and ice our injuries, let’s take a look back at the absolutely rowdy week of snowboarding that went down at the YETI Natural Selection Jackson Hole.
1. Sage Kotsenburg is Gladiator
At last year’s YETI Natural Selection Jackson Hole, Sage Kotsenburg reportedly watched Gladiator before his heat with Ben Ferguson, seeking inspiration. The tactic didn’t pay off, and Sage fell to Ferg’s Burton blade in the quarters. This year, though, was a different story—Sage met Ferg, bested him in battle, and won it all. Now that I think of it, Sage’s quest for revenge and glory echoes the arc of Russell Crowe’s Oscar-winning epic.
Sage realising he’ll battle not one, but two Fergusons.
For those unfamiliar with the film—spoilers and tangent to follow—Russell Crowe’s character, General Maximus Decimus Meridius, is a war hero cherry-picked as an emperor’s successor over the emperor’s own son, Commodus. Commodus, asphyxiates his father and crucifies Maximus’ family. Left for dead, Maximus is seized by slavers and forced to become a gladiator. He fights his way out of hell before exacting vengeance.
“Behold the fall from grace, the rise from rubble. Here he stands: a gladiator”
To be clear, Kotsenburg’s family is fine—as far as I know, they were in Jackson enjoying the event. And Ben Ferguson seems like a genuinely nice dude. But when Ferg trounced the 2014 Olympic gold medalist and two-time rider of the year last winter, he might as well have left Sage for dead, his Park City vegetable garden burnt to ash.
This year, Sage emerged from the backcountry bloodbath on day two of Travis Rice’s spectacle redeemed, triumphant, clutching his J.Stone-forged, still-unreleased K2 broadsword in one hand, a crystal trophy in the other. He went through Gabe then Ben Ferguson, then Mikkel Bang, then finally Jared Elston, dishing out chicken wing tweaked sevens and cab nines like Maximus dealing death blows in the pits. Behold the fall from grace, the rise from rubble. Here he stands: a gladiator.
When I interviewed Sage about Natural Selection for the Whitelines Annual this past summer, he seemed uncannily locked in, stewing over film like Tom Brady the year after a Super Bowl loss. “I literally think of it every single day. I watch the event in the summer and I am obsessing over it, just because I’m such a fan of it,” he said, in between mountain bike rides, marathon training, and brutal sessions at SLC’s pro-approved gym, The Sect. “It’s something that I definitely want to win and I definitely want to take home the overall trophy.”
“It’s worth noting, he and Ben Ferguson are one for one head-to-head, and if the commentators have anything to say about it—they most definitely will—this rivalry could have more legs than a prosthetic factory”
The field is on notice. A once-dormant, ultra-competitive, plant-based apex predator is wide awake and shot-gunning Monster. Building off the momentum of this win, Kotsenburg is an obvious favourite in Baldface. Also, it’s worth noting, he and Ben Ferguson are one for one head-to-head, and if the commentators have anything to say about it—they most definitely will—this rivalry could have more legs than a prosthetic factory. I’m here for it.