Travis Rice’s Natural Selection Tour kicked off its first stop of the year this week in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Finals day is today, Friday, Jan. 28, and we couldn’t be more hyped to catch the action.
Unlike last year’s YETI Natural Selection Jackson Hole, which took place in deep powder, competitors repeatedly describe this year’s course as “sporty.”
The word seems euphemistic for “variable,” as conditions included pockets of protected powder, more crust than your favorite pizza place, and enough tracks to DJ an all-night rave by the end of the day.
Despite the suboptimal snow, competitors threw down from the jump, and what transpired was an incredible show — one well worth watching if you haven’t already.
On finals day, competitors will ride the left side of the venue — a more shaded, northerly, and protected aspect. Hopefully, the snow will be better, and, if possible, the riding will be too. Catch the competition live today:
Twelve riders are going into finals day — eight men and four women. If you’re like us, you’re fascinated by what gear elite performers put their faith into when pushing their limits.
Below, you’ll find the boards these badass backcountry athletes are likely riding on finals day (we say “likely” as competitors may make last-minute changes based on conditions, but this is what we expect them to ride).
Our advice? Watch the event in its entirety, get inspired by these artists of flight, pick up a new board from event-sponsor Backcountry, and rip your local resort like it’s the next Natty Select venue.
Men’s Quarterfinals Matchups and Snowboards
Quarter 1: Dustin Craven vs. Jared Elston
Canadian backcountry veteran Dustin Craven faces off with Bend, Ore., upstart Jared Elston — also known as Big Air Jare. Both riders were underdogs in their first heats and proved themselves under pressure. Here’s what they’re riding.
Dustin Craven: Yes Standard
For backcountry and resort riders who have big feet and love to throw big tricks, Yes Snowboards’ mid-wide Standard ($500) is a smart pick.
The directional twin shape sports boosted volume for extra float on the deepest days, but the mid-stiff deck can land and ride switch with the best of ‘em. Case in point? Craven, who had little problem spinning in his YETI Natural Selection Jackson Hole debut.
Jared Elston: Nitro Team Pro
Big Air Jare’s known for his new-school style, but he’s riding an old-school rig: Nitro’s ultra-classic Team Pro ($550). Directional twin shape, heavy camber, reliable, semi-aggro flex — it’s not fancy or remotely futuristic, but it rips without fail.Check Price at evo
Quarter 2: Travis Rice vs. Torstein Horgmo
This matchup is absolute insanity — honestly, it feels like it’s straight out of a video game. Travis Rice, arguably the G.O.A.T. and inarguably the one who knows the course best (he built the thing), versus Horgmo, a contest-cutthroat turned backcountry-booter assassin.
Travis Rice: Golden Orca
Rice has a veritable pod of Orca-inspired weaponry in his quiver. But expect him to strap into the Golden Orca ($749) on Final’s Day.
A hybrid between Rice’s now-retired big-mountain destroyer, the Goldmember, and his cult-classic Orca, the Golden Orca is ridden a centimeter or three shorter than your typical freeride board. It’s narrower than the Orca, and the nose is Orca-esque, but the tail is re-engineered and offers more of a landing pad.
We’ve been testing the Golden Orca for the last 2 years, and we’re big fans of this all-terrain vehicle for deep days in the backcountry, side hits at the resort, and everything in between.Check Price at evo
Torstein Horgmo: Capita Super DOA
Horgmo’s rocking the Super DOA ($700), Capita’s supercharged, premium version of its cult-classic DOA — which happens to be Capita’s bestseller and one of the best park boards of all time.
The Super DOA keeps the same body but upgrades the engine with pricey, primo tech. Most notable is a weight-saving, pop-propelling hybrid core crafted from poplar, paulownia, and post-consumer plastic.
Quarter 3: Mikkel Bang vs. Blake Paul
The most style-heavy matchup of the quarterfinals pits Jackson Hole local hero Blake Paul against reigning overall Natural Selection champion Mikkel Bang.
While some snowboarders alternate between multiple boards depending on the conditions, both Bang and Paul tend to ride one go-to board across all conditions.
Mikkel Bang: Burton Custom
Mikkel Bang, the Norwegian hellion and last year’s champ, is back and hasn’t changed things up at all. He’s still tall enough to play in the post, dripping with swagger, throwing tech tricks, and riding his do-it-all Burton Custom ($630).
One of the bestselling boards of all time, the Custom is cambered for edge-hold and boosted ollies, rides switch like dream, and still floats through deep powder.
Blake Paul: Gnu Hyper
The Hyper ($550), Blake Paul’s soft, directional powder craft, sports an understated white topsheet and black base. That under-the-radar style is tailor-made for the mellow yet gifted Paul, a pro proficient in pop who’s light on his feet, flips with precision, and stomps like it’s his job (which, of course, it is).
It’s one of the more unique boards of this Natural Selection roundup, with a touch of rocker between the feet, serrated Magne-traction edges, and softer flex than you’d expect. It’s butter-friendly and well-suited for creative all-mountain and powder riding, especially for lighter riders.
Quarter 4: Ben Ferguson vs. Sage Kotsenburg
If we had to bet, the winner of the Jackson Hole stop is in quarterfinal four. Ben Ferguson is on fire, and he did well in Jackson last year, earning second place.
Sage Kotsenburg, on the other hand, is an absolute animal and one of the most motivated snowboarders on the planet. He also scored the highest run score of qualifiers thanks to a cherry-on-top cab 900 on the last hit of his final run.
Long story short: Both gents came to play.
Ben Ferguson: Burton Custom or Hometown Hero
A directional twin that can throw down in powder, land switch, and pop to the moon, the Hometown Hero is also the board Zoi Sadowski-Synnott and Mark McMorris rode to victory at the 2021 YETI Natural Selection Jackson Hole last winter. We’ll see what Ferg selects for this year’s finals.
Women’s Semifinals Matchups and Snowboards
Semifinal 1: Elena Hight vs. Hana Beaman
Elena Hight is a household name thanks to her pipe performances in the X Games and Olympics. But she’s recently been backcountry riding — in particular, splitboarding.
Hana Beaman took a similar trajectory, shifting her focus from competition to filming, and is still a staple in the backcountry film scene.
Who wins head-to-head? That’s a toss-up.
Elena Hight: Jones Stratos
A directional ripper with an intergalactic outline, the Stratos ($580) is a rocket ship on corduroy, bottomless powder, and everything in between. Nimble yet reliable on edge, this poppy, all-mountain craft balances power and playfulness, which suits Hight’s blend of freestyle and freeride.Check Price at evo
Semifinal 2: Robin Van Gyn vs. Marion Haerty
This is the heavyweight showdown. Defending overall Natural Selection champ Robin Van Gyn faces Marion Haerty, the four-time Freeride World Tour champion who earned the highest scores in the qualifiers. Odds are, whoever wins this heat takes the cake.
Robin Van Gyn: Jones Stratos
British Columbia’s Robin Van Gyn is the reigning Natural Selection champ, having won both the Baldface and Alaska stops last year. Like her Jones teammate Hight, RVG’s betting on the Stratos ($580) to skyrocket her to the podium in Jackson.Check Price at evo
Marion Haerty: Rossignol After Hours
Rossignol built Haerty’s pro model, the After Hours ($500), to chase Freeride World Tour podiums, but it’s clearly well-suited to Natural Selection venues too.
Urethane strips help transfer energy to the sidewalls and lock in edges on icy terrain, while the big-mountain blade’s generous nose floats through deeper, untouched snow.