Natural Selection 2022: Event Three - What to Look Out For

The third and final stop of the 2022 Natural Selection Tour is coming up and Snowboard Expert Jason Robinson tells you what to expect and who to keep your eyes on.

Snowboarder Dustin Craven stands in a red Natural Selection Tour jacket against a blue sky.

Dustin Craven in the Tordrillos. Photo courtesy of Natural Selection Tour

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The highly anticipated third and final stop of the second annual Natural Selection Tour just went down, and now all there is for us to do is sit back and wait to watch the event which airs on April 12th.

Honestly, I’m not exactly sure why we are being forced to wait and can’t watch the event live as we did in Jackson Hole. It could be some sort of sick joke to punish us for not making the invite list! Or (more likely) it’s the technical challenges of live-streaming a broadcast from such an extremely remote location as the Tordrillo mountain range. Either way, it is unacceptable! Travis Rice has defied physics before. He built a snowboard career around it! Rice is known for making the impossible possible, and if the Jackson Hole event can actually remove more carbon from the atmosphere than it introduced, then this stop should be broadcast live and I will expect nothing less for 2023! Of course I’m joking, but that could be something for them to strive for…

The Venue

Snowboarding is one of the most exclusive sports there is, so it’s only right that the most exclusive snowboard contest, Natural Selection, is held in one of the most exclusive locations on the map. The Tordrillos aka the Tords is probably the most fitting location to hold the finals of snowboarding's most progressive backcountry freestyle event of all time. With a heavily glaciated and mostly volcanic range stacked with spines, pillows, and out-of-this-world-looking terrain, I can’t help but wonder why the face they chose is so vanilla. Although it’s not my flavor of choice, I guess it is the most popular flavor of ice cream after all.

I do have to give the organizers some credit for what must have been a difficult decision to choose to camp this year instead of basing operations out of the Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, like last year. A favorite among tech billionaires and Russian oligarchs alike, the Tordrillo Mountain Lodge is the physical embodiment of opulence. For just shy of $200K you can rent the lodge for the week and you too can experience what a ski/snowboard trip looks like for the 1%. This makes $199 for a lift ticket at Breckenridge sound like a pretty good deal all of a sudden and also makes me wonder if the move into tents was actually a choice or a move taken out of budgetary necessity.

But in all seriousness, with the 600 inches of annual snowfall combined with the steep, featured terrain the range is known for—you can’t really go wrong. The snowpack in much of Alaska has been stacking up especially high this winter, and I expect the snow to be deep. The venue will allow for the high-speed, big mountain, freestyle snowboarding that the NST has become known for.

Who to Watch: Women’s

The whole lady's field is absolutely crushing! The only rider that was eliminated at the Baldface stop was last year's overall women's champ, Robin Van Gyn. That leaves us with Zoi Sadowski-Synott, Elena Hight, Marion Hærty, and Hanna Beaman all competing at the Alaska event.

Zoi Sadowski-Synott

Zoi is coming in hot, straight off a win at not only the Balface stop but also the Olympic Games shortly before that. Her riding is at the forefront of snowboarding progression, not just in the parks but in the backcountry as well. She’s a personal favorite of mine, and her approach to the AK terrain at this same stop last season was one of my favorites to watch. The way she played with the natural features on the face and sought out the most technical and dynamic lines of the day was very entertaining. I think this year will bring only an improvement in her skills from last year. She’s the youngest rider in the lady's field by almost a decade and she’s progressing so fast that she is better each time we see her.

Elena Hight

Elena has been snowboarding really well this season and is no stranger to riding these larger faces. Expect this extremely strong rider to bring some of the silkiest smooth turns to the venue in AK for our viewing pleasure. That method that she has been kicking out at the last couple of stops is going to look especially nice up there in the Tords.

Marion Hærty

This is Marion's time to shine! She made it through the much more freestyle-oriented venue at Jackson Hole, a testament to her leg strength and adaptability. This multi-time Freeride World Tour champion excels at high speeds and in big terrain. Her skills on large faces are possibly unmatched, and I imagine she could find a line on most any face you throw her way.

Hanna Beaman

Don’t rule out Hana though! Some of the lines at her home mountain, Mt. Baker, rival last year's venue in size and technicality. One of the most competent snowboarders on the planet, she will definitely be in the running for the win.

Who to Watch: Men’s

These guys are gonna be in tents, I mean intense, to watch. They are hungry. Not literally, I hope, since I imagine the event isn’t catered with Mountain House like typical camping trips!

But like the typical snowpack in AK, the men’s rider list is stacked. Including the whole lineup from Baldface, minus one very smooth operator, Blake Paul, we’ve got some of snowboarding's greats in attendance. The competitor list includes Dustin Craven, Travis Rice, Mikkel Bang, Torstein Horgmo, Mark McMorris, Ben Ferguson, Sage Kotsenburg, and Jarod Elston. Heavy line up to say the least, and it’s really anyone’s game.

Dustin Craven

Dustin Craven is hot off a win at Baldface and he has just the right combination of good fundamentals and a go-for-broke mentality which will certainly serve to his advantage.

Travis Rice

Travis, of course, is never one to rule out. Quite possibly the event favorite, he has ridden in the Tordrillos more than any snowboarder on the planet. Will Trav’s unmatched experience in this style of terrain come to his advantage? Either way, he’s hardly human so I expect BIG things.

Mikkel Bang

Mr. Bang is last year's winner and for good reason. According to Mikey Rencz, Mikkel has a backcountry stomp ratio of over ninety percent. That would make him the most consistent backcountry boarder in attendance by quite a large margin. You’re not gonna win a contest if you don’t land, and this guy lands—a LOT.

Jared Elston

I have to say that you have got to look out for Jared Elston at this event. Commonly known as a “Bend, Oregon Guy,” I recently learned that he actually is originally from Montana and that he started riding at a small mountain outside of Helena called Great Divide. This may be the greatest divide yet, and I’m not sure how he feels about it but I, as a Montanan and huge fan, have decided that we are taking him back as one of our own. Sorry Bend. A win for Jared would mean a win for the entire 406! Let’s go Jar!

So there you have it, a little heads up on what to keep your eyes on when the event airs on April 12th—hopefully with just the right amount of spice to make for an interesting read without getting myself blacklisted from all future Natural Selection events! Either way, make sure to check back to see who the winners are and if anything else comes up for me to poke fun at.

Thank you for tuning in, and if you are in the market for any snowboard gear but just don’t know how to choose from all the great products that are out there these days, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a Snowboard Expert here on Curated to help you find the setup that is right for you.

Snowboard Expert Jason Robinson
Jason Robinson
Snowboard Expert
Jason here! How can I help?
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I've spent over thirty years on snow and a decade as a professional rider. Snowboard career highlights include standout video parts with Absinthe Films, 2016 Big Mountain Rider of the Year and two Snowboarder Mag covers. I pretty much grew up on the slopes in Whitefish, Montana and snowboarding has...

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