Elena Hight with a tricky exit off a knuckle of terrain that suits her style perfectly. Photo: Tom Monterosso//Natural Selection
The white dust has now settled on “Boulder Park,” a gnarled chunk of terrain in the Canadian Wilderness outside Revelstoke that the Natural Selection athletes are calling the scariest venue to date. By all accounts, the face had never been ridden before. So the whole competition day served as a collective first descent.
Runs were watched in near silence by the small crew of organizers, media and fellow athletes at the bottom of the course while the riders made their way through the headwall of spiney pillows on the lower part of the venue. It wasn’t until they came safely into the corral that everyone was able to relax and dish out well-deserved applause.
Of course, that win was no easy task for Zoi. On her first run, Elena popped smoothly through the playful part of the course and then boned her way into one of the more technical lines of the day: a nasty little knuckle of pillow stacks guarded by an icefall at its entrance.
But Zoi took the win by charging through the mega gnar on the second half of the course with her characteristic flow, and by tapping into her freestyle skills on the upper part of the course.
“I was honestly pretty nervous because I haven’t had a lot of experience riding pillows,” says Zoi. “I was just happy to make it down in one piece.”
The best part? It was her birthday.
Boulder Park has a party-at-the-top, business-at-the-bottom kinda vibe.
“It’s basically the pow run of your life into the scariest run of your life,” said Dustin Craven.
“And just to put it in perspective,” added Rice, the Revelstoke Champion. “This venue is 4.5 times the size of the Jackson venue.”
Craven, the local favorite, got taken out by T. Rice on a tough call in the semifinals. Rice’s run was ultimately rewarded for its technicality, which not everyone (especially angry Canadians on the internet) agreed with. But Craven bowed out with class, and he seemed happy enough to hang at the bottom of the course and heckle Travis before his final against Blake Paul.
Somebody yelled, “Come on Blake, take it home,” before the two of them were shuttled up for their final.
“He’s only a man!” added Craven.
But that’s up for debate, really, because the crux of Travis’s next run was the culmination of what the Boulder Park venue was all about: a redefinition of the word “rideability” with a backside 360 tossed in for good measure. The judges rewarded it with a 90.8, the highest score of the day.
“I think Craven and my semifinals could’ve gone either way,” Travis said after the fact. “That had to have been a really tough call for the judges, and I feel like Dustin was gonna go and grease that line I did in the finals, so I felt like I owed it to him.”
Travis’s lines, on the other hand, did not look easy. He took a leave-no-pillow-behind approach, crushing the stacks with such ferocity that van-sized chunks of snow would trundle down the slope beside him as he exited his lines.
Going into the day, Travis had picked out lines that he wasn’t sure were possible.
“If I’m putting a run together and I’m like ‘yeah I know I got that’, then I’m not trying hard enough,” he said in an interview the night before competition. “I’m recklessly confident that I can, but we’ll see how it goes.”
Now, with the day of competition behind us, we know how it went. Nature called the day and the mountains crowned two champions. But the biggest takeaway is that 12 riders put 40 runs down the gnarliest venue in NST history and everybody came away unscathed.
“Everyone’s healthy and everyone’s psyched. I think that’s the ultimate win,” said Rice. “Huge shoutout to all the riders for handling themselves so professionally on the big, savage, critical, dangerous megaface.”
And a huge shoutout is in order for the safety crew from Selkirk Tangiers as well. They’ve been controlling this face, and also the overhead hazard around it, since December, and they got it in perfect shape for the contest. Not to mention the tech crew for running such a seamless broadcast from deep in the Revelstoke woods.
As it turns out, the mountains can be a lot less dangerous when all the humans involved know what the hell they’re doing.
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