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.
Travis can't overstress the importance of making sure you're prepared to handle any unseen situation that might arise in the backcountry. Without groomed trails and ski patrol marking off hazardous features, every turn you take is inherently riskier than anything you'll ski in-bounds. Having a backpack with a shovel, beacon, and probe is definitely where you want to start. "Sometimes people don't take it that seriously, but I know from firsthand experience that there is literally nothing more helpless than going into the backcountry unprepared, having a situation arise, and being unable to deal with it," says Travis. "I've seen people sitting around unprepared while a buddy of theirs is buried underneath the snow and there's nothing they can do about it. It can be a pretty serious situation."
The best way to be prepared is to attend a backcountry camp, which some resorts like Jackson Hole are starting to offer.
Credit: Christian Pondella / Red Bull Content Pool