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.
Know how to use your gear.
Avi (avalanche training) courses will take you through beacon search drills and teach you proper digging techniques to extract a buried body, but you can practice throwing out your probe in your own backyard or driveway. Have the most experienced leader in your group do a beacon check before heading into an exposed area by flipping their beacon into search mode as each person passes by, just to make sure everyone is beeping. Travis recommends carrying a medium- to large-sized shovel if you want it to actually move snow around. "They make some really tiny shovels these days that are useless," he says. "When you have a shovel blade that's basically the size of your hand, you might as well just doggy dig."
Credit: Christian Pondella / Red Bull Content Pool