Who is the best snowboarder in the world? That's what Travis Rice aimed to determine at Red Bull Ultra Natural, an all-mountain freestyle competition in Nelson, British Columbia that the snowboarder created (and which took place in February, but will air on March 30th on NBC at 1:30 p.m. EST). As a Jackson Hole native who's spent the last decade setting the sport's bar ever higher for films, big tricks, and innovative competitions, "Trice" seems as good a judge as any, having won his own contest in 2012. While it's hard to even fathom how a human body can launch off such monstrous jumps and cliffs, huck a double 1080, and land with a board beneath them, even Travis knows when to play it safe. In 2012, 34 people were killed in the U.S. by avalanches in mostly backcountry terrain, bringing to the ski industry's forefront a need to increase avalanche danger awareness and education. While more and more recreational skiers head out of bounds for added excitement and more challenging terrain, it's still worth taking a page or two out of Travis's book of safety experience. We got a hold of him between heli drops to tap his expert advice for backcountry safety tips.
Beware of what lies below the snow's surface.
Snow falls differently depending on location. If you're in a coastal climate closer to the ocean, where snow is stickier and full of "pillows," you should always be wary of any kind of bump in the snow. Travis cautions that you never know when a sharp log or rock is waiting just beneath the surface. Same with higher and drier locations like the Rocky Mountains, where the snow, with a little bit of wind, can lightly cover a jagged cliff band.
Another inconspicuous hazard is the threat of deep tree wells. As snow falls on a tree, the branches collect most of it before it hits the ground, which inevitably creates a hole around the trunk. But if you fall head-first into a tree well, Travis advises you to wait for a friend's help and not move. "The more you struggle, the more snow falls into the hole and engulfs your body," he says. "This is another reason the buddy system is great – so they can yank you out of there."
Credit: Cole Barash / Red Bull Content Pool