Born and raised in Jackson, Wyoming, Travis Rice is considered by many to be the best all-around snowboarder in the world.
Rice is not only an award-winning big-mountain free-rider known for making landmark snowboarding films but also the creator of the Natural Selection Tour, a three-stop contest that showcases the world’s top riders competing on some of the most exciting natural and naturally-enhanced terrain in the world.
In advance of the 2022 Natural Selection Tour x Stay Wild Festival in Jackson from Jan. 23-30, Rice sat down with KHOL Music and Community Affairs Director Jack Catlin to talk about creating the event and this year’s focus on environmental sustainability.
The following interview transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity. Listen above for the full conversation.
JACK CATLIN/KHOL: The Natural Selection Tour’s first stop is in your hometown, here in Jackson, and is undoubtedly big for the community, bringing all this world-class talent from various disciplines into your own backyard. As someone who grew up here, how important was it to host the event in Jackson Hole? And what are your thoughts on how much the area has changed since you were a kid?
TRAVIS RICE: So much time and effort from so many people has gone into bringing this thing to fruition. I think that this year, being able to also bring the components of the Stay Wild Festival, it’s a little bit more fully realized. The original goal, which was to hold a world-class event like this and also be able to give back to the local community, the valley, and so much of the ethos of this kind of this event, this movement that we’re continuing to put energy into is focused on education, focused on sustainability and it’s focused on having fun and the reality that so many of us enjoy the outdoors for certain reasons, and you really spend time and effort towards the things that you’re passionate about. So, we’re trying to continue to connect those dots.
And as far as the evolution of the town, I mean, without a doubt, it’s evolved quite a bit. I think that in past years, it’s easy, as someone who spends a lot of time in a relatively small community, to find yourself frustrated with additional traffic and additional challenges that the past few years have brought. Again, I think with what we’re trying to do, you know, if we can bring something of substance that isn’t just a ‘Hey, come to Jackson and come party and send it [kind of thing].’ If we could just add an extra layer… but I mean, yeah, the town’s changed a lot. I think that a lot of those changes are in the eye of the beholder to kind of define as good or bad or focus on the potential negative components when you know, not all the changes are necessarily negative.
KHOL: The Natural Selection Tour x Stay Wild Festival not only showcases some world-class snowboarding but also includes concerts, films and environmentally focused presentations. How important is it to you to have that full-spectrum blend of sports, music, art and education?
RICE: I mean, it’s kind of everything for us. In putting it together, we didn’t want to bring like a spotlight to Jackson for this big event showcasing conditions in its most idyllic form without a bit of a self tax, if you will, in the component where it’s like, ‘Hey, you’re going to come to the community here, you know, [and] what are you going to do to give back? What are you going to do that’s got some depth?’ That’s got some layers, that has local touchpoints. And I think being able to make education fun, I mean, there are so many interesting people that have so many important ideas and alternative points of view to share, and the fact that we have been blessed with this ability to have a bit of a microphone during the time that we do these events. I think that it would be shortsighted to not include education, to not include this bigger narrative. And I think too often there’s this idea where people should stay in their lane or that snowboarders [shouldn’t be] talking about politics, talking about real-world issues. I think that a lot of the individuals that are coming on the riders’ front, these people are well-traveled, they have a pretty decent perspective on the world around them and some alternative takes. And I think that those differences of opinion should be celebrated [and] should be communicated in respectful ways.
KHOL: You’ve been quoted as saying the tour’s mission is to inspire people to forge a deeper relationship with the outdoors. Can you touch on your passion for the environment and sustainability?
RICE: Just touching on the how first, the nature of the events that we hold, so much of it is dependent on natural conditions. There are so many opportunities within that when it comes to hydrology, when it comes to the weather, when it comes to the changing weather, to have touchpoints and be able to go a little bit deeper and talk about these things. Things are evolving, right? Like when I was doing X Games 15, 20 years ago, for me, at least in my perspective that X Games component or that kind of X generation, it still had a little bit of relevance, I think, at this point. That time has come and gone, and I think there’s a desire for more depth in both communication and projects that take time, effort and resources. I think that we’re just trying to be responsible in how we do things.
This coverage is funded in part with an Arts For All grant provided by the Town of Jackson and Teton County.