World's Best Compete at 'Ultra' Snowboarding Event
February 18, 2013
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Austrian Gigi Ruf, 31, bested the world's top backcountry freestyle snowboarders today at the 2nd Annual Red Bull Ultra Natural, held at Baldface Catskiing Lodge and Resort outside of Nelson, British Columbia, Canada. In varying weather conditions Ruf scored the highest in a best of two run format as one of 16 riders invited to compete at what is considered to be the most prestigious backcountry snowboarding event on the planet.
"Today it all came together. I was up there and I sent most of my hope into the first run. It paid off and I placed first and it's pretty incredible." Ruf said.
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Ruf is known as one of the world's most stylish snowboarders with an uncanny ability to read the terrain and adapt accordingly. Not typically a contest rider, his reputation stems from annual accolades in his progressive video parts. Ruf chose to compete in this event due to it's more authentic approach.
"This event is pretty unique. It gets the top class of riders all together. It's really not about competition. It's about getting everyone together and being in the moment. That's the Ultra Natural."
The brainchild of Jackson Hole, WY based professional snowboarder Travis Rice, 30, the Red Bull Ultra Natural combines the best of man-made ingenuity applied to Mother Nature's canvass, which includes over 80 hand built timber post features on a 45-degree, powder-laden slope in the heart of the Kootenay Mountain range - known for its solitude and deep snowfall.
Grouping X Games gold medalists like Mark McMorris and Torstein Horgmo (Norway), against proven film stars like Ruf and Rice (Switzerland) along with iconic legends like Terje Haakonsen, the Red Bull Ultra Natural provides an opportunity to bring superior snowboarding talents into one venue and enable a true all-around champion to be named.
"Every rider is so awesome," said 2nd place finisher and best trick winner Nicolas Muller (Switzerland). "It's just a run top to bottom. Let's see what you got."
Rounding out the podium was Portland, Oregon wildcard entrant Bryan Fox, 29, who, like Ruf, is known for video parts over contests.
"I was nervous to look stupid on TV," Fox exclaimed at the awards ceremony. "There's a lot to be said for Travis's idea and following through with that idea. I have a lot of respect for him."
Last year's champion Rice, finished 10th, after failing to execute a trick on the course's sole large, man-made, terrain-park style jump feature.
"I came into the contest today optimistic. I couldn't wait to ride those lines. My second run I was able to hit the features I wanted, but for some reason I couldn't make it over the jump today." Rice said.
Ever positive Rice looked at the podium changeover as a reflection of the talent pool assembled.
"100% - that's been the control in this experiment from the beginning is that there's no qualifiers because these 16 people are here because, literally, anyone of these guys can take it. I still feel that is true. Every dog has his day." Ride said.
The weather proved to be a controlling factor today. As a one day-only contest held in the typically snow-filled skies of interior BC the Ultra Natural is run on on a single day within a waiting period from Feb 15-21st. Organizers opt to run the contest based on the best conditions forecasted in the time frame. It's a tight calculus that requires balancing the often contradictory desires of snowfall and sun.
"I am incredibly pleased that it ran today and the level of riding was much higher than last year, but I still don't think we've even seen the potential of this type of event come to fruition whatsoever. Last year the snow was a bit questionable and this year the snow is better but we had some pretty bad light that made it tricky. But I can't wait for next year. It's a game of averages and we set ourselves up to succeed." Rice said.
The Red Bull Ultra Natural Presented by Nike Snowboarding is part of the Red Bull Signature Series and will air on NBC Saturday March 30 at 1:30 pm EST.
Go to BNQT.com for more videos.
1. Gigi Rüf
2. Nicolas Müller
3. Bryan Fox
4. Terje Håkonsen
5. David Carrier-Porcheron
6. Mark McMorris
7. Eero Niemela
8. Pat Moore
9. Lucas Debari
10. Travis Rice
11. Jussi Oksanen
12. Bode Merrill
13. Jake Blauvelt
14. Wolfgang Nyvelt
15. Torstein Horgmo
16. Mikey Rencz
- James Sullivan