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.
Watch out for cornices, and avoid them at all costs.
"Cornices are hands-down the most dangerous feature in the backcountry," warns Travis. "They inevitably take the most people out." A cornice forms when you have one consistent wind direction blowing over ridges that inevitably scours snow off the windward side and deposits it on the leeward side. You end up with overhanging, unsupported, unstable accumulations of snow. It's virtually impossible to predict when these things are going to fall. So when traversing in the backcountry, you should always be aware of what's above you, such as cornices that can break off at any time. Never walk up onto a ridge to look over the other side unless you're sure that there's no cornice.
Credit: Scott Serfas / Red Bull Content Pool