Rob Kingwell and Travis Rice are two local legends of the Jackson snowboarding community. KHOL caught up with them and some of the other pro athletes at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort the day before the Natural Selection Tour kicked off to ask about snow conditions and why they ride.
“Last year, we had deeper snow conditions, for sure. I mean, last year was, like, waist-deep pow,” Rice said. “This year, we have good conditions on-venue, but they’re sporty. Like, it’s definitely more like a resort riding style.”
“It truly is a return to kind of that core essence of snowboarding, where you don’t necessarily need a superpipe in your backyard or a really good park,” Kingwell said. “You can go out and look at the mountain, [and] be like, ‘Hey, I can kind of slash that lip and I can build a little jump over there,’ and just kind of bring it back to that core root of just interacting with the mountain and dancing with the world around you.”
Rice said he was also pleased with the quality of riders present at this year’s event, many of whom traveled from all over the world to shred in Jackson Hole.
“We take it really serious, and a lot is taken into consideration [when selecting riders]. You know, lifetime achievement [and] recent, say, video parts or contest results. And that’s all baked into an invite list that I think is very, very credible,” Rice said. “The goal with this venue was to celebrate creativity. Celebrate individualistic expression. And the goal for the build on these venues that we create and enhance is to provide enough optionality for riders to feel that they can express themselves.”
Other riders also said they appreciated the backcountry-style nature of the Natural Selection Tour, which differs from the Olympics or X Games. Blake Paul is yet another younger pro snowboarder who grew up in Jackson.
“I think they’ve kind of opened the door to something that’s a little more interesting, a little more relatable than what you might see on a slope-style or half pipe course. Nothing to take away from that, for sure. All disciplines have their respected gnarly elements, but this is carving a new path,” Paul said.
Kingwell said he was also looking forward to the accompanying festival being held in town during Natural Selection, called Stay Wild. Those new events this year included concerts, gear giveaways and educational talks focused on sustainability and conservation.
“I’ve always been outdoors, and I just really love to share my experience being outdoors with people,” Kingwell said. “Snowboarding is awesome. Like, it really gives you a connection with nature and yourself that no other sport does.”
Paul was also excited that his hometown took over the spotlight.
“The course is in an area of the mountain that I grew up kind of hiking around when I was really young and riding the backcountry when I was like 10, 11 or even younger than that,” he said. “I always enjoy just having a good time and chasing good snow, no matter if it’s to snowboard professionally or just for fun. To have a great day. So, that’s what keeps me going, I guess.”
The next two stops on the Natural Selection Tour are in British Columbia and Alaska.