A historic day in snowboarding at the TAE Natural Selection at Baldface wrapped with hometown Kootenay hero Dustin Craven (CAN)—and, fresh off a double medal performance at the Olympics—Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (NZL) on top. Fourteen of the world’s best snowboarders including five women dropping into the revered Scary Cherry venue in competition for the first time, made the second stop of the Natural Selection Tour an event not to be missed. The three-and-a-half hour contest captured from racing drones, a cineflex on the helicopter and riders wearing mics throughout their runs is now running “as live” on demand at NaturalSelectionTour.com.
Just before the event was release online and on Red Bull TV for all to watch we managed to get a quick zoom call in with Zoi and Dustin to hear how it all unfolded for them and how it feels to take home the big W.
Hey Zoi, where are you at and what time is it?
I’m in Whistler and it’s 7.30am, everyone is still asleep so i’ve gone for a walk.
Well congratulations! Another win.
Ah thank you, yeah it’s crazy.
So we’ve not seen the event yet at this point. Who were you up against?
Well we all got 2 runs down the face for qualifiers and the the top 2 scores went through to a final head-to-head. So it was Elena Hight and myself in the finals and we got another 2 runs.
How were the snow conditions?
The snow conditions were pretty good. I hadn’t ridden powder all year so I was pretty hyped. The first 30m of the course were quite wind defected but once you really got into it it was protected and was pretty sick.
Straight off the back of winning at the Olympics, going from icy park jumps to Baldface powder. How does that feel?
Umm, that was actually quite nice. To go from the Olympics and then to Baldface and get to freeride and ride pow. It’s such a different kind of competition. I know exactly what to do to training for Slopestyle and Big Air. So it was nice to go to a competition where you kinda have to just let things happen as they come. I kinda just put the Olympics in the back of my mind while I was there, even though it was the best result I’ve ever had. But I’ve got a few things to focus on now like Natural Selection and filming so I can celebrate that a little when I get home.
Was this your first time to Baldface?
Yeah first time tot Nelson and Baldface, so it was a pretty sick experience.
How was the atmosphere competition against the other girls up there compared to the Olympics?
Yeah it was much more of a chilled camaraderie vibe at Natural Selection, but at the same time we do get that in Slopestyle and Big Air, but just kind of in a different way I think. All the girls are hyped on each others riding so I enjoy both and they’re both not super crazy competitive as we all get to hang out together.
Who out of the girls really pushed you or motivated you to step it up?
I think really all of them. They have been riding super sick in their own ways. Hana [Beaman] did the sickest first run on the face and that really pushed me and then watching marion [Hearty] it looked like she’d been working on a lot since last year, she was riding so good and had also been working on new tricks.
How do you approach these events? The same way as your other competitions or is it different?
Well I guess I’ve never really properly prepared for a Natural Selection comp because I’ve always been riding Big Air and Slopestyle comps before hand, but I though that was a pretty good way to prepare, especially for Jackson Hole as you’re practicing all your tricks and getting your stomp legs. Then you just have to adjust that for powder.
There’s not really any way you can prepare for riding Natural Selection except for, err, watching Super Natural and Ultra Natural a bunch of times, haha.
Any good party stories to share from up there?
Urrrm, haha, na!
Haha, yeh everyone was sensible, we’re at a competition. haha.
Yeah right! Even after you found out you’d won?
Errrm, haha yeah a little bit…
What did you win?
I won a new SkiDoo! I just started sledding too here in Whistler, so I’ll know what i’m doing when I get it.
Oh sick! Where’s that going to be parked up?
I haven’t actually figured that out yet, but somewhere in the States.
So next stop Alaska. How are the conditions looking up there?
Oh I have no idea. I think they’re looking good. But I’m not trying to think about Alaska, I don’t want to get too hyped up about it before I get there. I don’t want to freak out beforehand.
So what is your mindset going into Alaska?
I guess the mindset is just to try and ride the faces the best I can. I can’t really ask for much more than that. It’s such a hard one to prepare for. I definitely have the fear, so I haven’t looked at the faces yet and don’t want to look at them as I know I’ll get nervous. I’ll hold out until I get there. But I am super excited and I think we finally get to ride 'Priority 1' which was the face we were meant to ride last year and that looks pretty crazy.
And then after Alaska do you get to go home?
Nope, I’m off to Switzerland for a shoot and then back to Baldface actually, before Peace Park in April and then finally back to Europe for Monster Hell Week in Crans Montana and then home in May for some surfing!
Wow busy winter still ahead, well congrats once again and good luck in Alaska.
Next up was Dustin, finally being able to tell someone other than the neighbours cat about his epic win for the passed couple of weeks.
Thank you very much.
How does it feel?
Errm yeah it feels… well like it’s such a crazy scenario right, because when we were there it’s so wild, and everyone is in the zone. The contest started at 6.30am and was over by 11.30am and then everyone was still so excited and cheering for one another and I was so happy. Then it was exchange day the next morning from the lodge and all of a sudden it was like I landed back home with no snow on the ground and was like ok I’m not gonna talk to anyone about this, haha. It kinda made Baldface feel like Las Vegas, you don’t even tell your girlfriend what happened up there, haha.
Yeah, that must have been weird with the long embargo, since the event not able to tell anyone that you’ve won.
It sure was an interesting scenario, I’ve just been waiting for today. I’m excited to watch it in Revelstoke with all my friends.
So how was the contest day?
The crazy part is we all got to do 2 runs in qualifiers and that was really sick as I got to go first and after my first run I just got to stand at the bottom and watch every one of the guys come down the course and there was that sparkly crystal snow in the air and the sun coming up, which was completely mesmerising and I was so fortunate enough to watch all that go down.
Once semi finals and finals got going then it was so fast and I missed a bunch of those runs just due to the timings and actually didn’t see Mikel again until I was in the Final with him.
It’s great to see ex-competitors like yourself and Mikkel taking home the silverware from the younger comp kids. Who do you find has the advantage here?
Yeah, it’s cool, people have said, oh the experience will pay off at some point, and I guess there you get to see it. Riders like Mikkel and I have been riding Interior BC for the passed 15 years so yeah we're bit more comfortable with how things look, sometimes it looks flat but it’s not flat, that’s just how BC is. I think it’s cool because Mikkel is such an amazing snowboarder so it was awesome to share that with him….oh yeah and then BEAT HIM, haha.
You've lived in Revelstoke for the passed few years, did you find that helps?
I’ve been there for 6 years now. For sure, sections like the top where there’s some big drops into tighter trees, I’m so comfortable with that as in most of my video parts I’m landing in tight trees and then turning straight away. I’ve been avoiding them long enough that it just gets buried in the back of my mind so I can focus on my run, where as for the less experience it might be more distracting.
With being use to filming so much, how does it compare to be in the competitive environment of Natural Selection?
Yeah, I kinda switched in to it. When I dropped in I was gonna just do a mediate trick of the first hit but then though na fuck it I’m gonna go for it and did a cab 5 straight off the top into some shitty snow but landed it and at that point the competition just pushes you. I was thinking I don’t know if I’ll ever be on top of Scary Cherry again and don’t want to regret not going all in. Worst case I fall and I’m proud of myself, better case I get Travis! I could hardly walk after for days, my back leg was so sore, felt like I’d done a power squat for the whole day.
How were the conditions up there?
It was lining up really good at the start of the window but then we had crazy wind. Then the contest was going to go off one morning and we all got to the edge of the ridge and it was -47 degrees with wind chill and half the course had been completely stripped of snow, so we had a riders meeting and decided to cancel it for that day, which kinda worked out because all the cameras were freezing up too.
So game day, how how it dropping in first?
So we held off for 3 more days and then on the contest day it was warmer and had softened up. There was still one side that was still wind affected. The side I dropped in on my first run I kinda skipped out almost on to my belly, thinking “Oh this is bad”, but did a couple more turns and hit this jump and when I landed off that I was like “Oh, ok now this is knee deep blower condition” and I ended up doing switch pow turns down the run which were probably some of the best switch turns I’d done in my life. As soon as Torstein got down to me after the first run he was like “The display of snowboarding that just went down on these first runs is uncanny, so amazing to see!”
Got your ticket to Alaska, how are you feeling about that?
Yep, packed my bags for Alaska yesterday as I’m obviously gonna get absolutely crushed tonight and try make my 6pm flight tomorrow haha.
Have you been riding in Alaska before?
We did go there for the filming the Union movie. I’ve done a lot of sitting in Alaska, not a lot of riding in Alaska. We were there was 26 or 28 days and we only went out 2 and half days! So yeah I know the game. But, same as Baldface, if I hadn’t had been riding bigger lines and bigger mountains in recent years I don’t think I would have been so confident, so it kinda works for Alaska too. Feeling pretty good but it’s all about who you’re up against in the head to head, as we’ve all seen Travis riding Alaska for years so I don’t know if I’d be feeling his level of confidence but it’s also nice to go up against someone that’s going to push you really hard.
How does it feel being a part of the whole tour this year, as you were just at Valhalla last year?
Yeah it’s pretty cool. The first one at Jackson was so sick to get an invite to and that one definitely gave me the most stress, just desperately wanting to get through that round. After that I’ve felt more relaxed and I feel like it’s now my kind of snowboarding and I can just try my best.
So you’ve been enjoying being back in the competitive world once again?
Well it’s a rollercoaster, one minute I’m thinking it’s great and then the next it’s pretty full on after spending the last decade hiding in the the mountains, just going off the beat of your own drum, into what can feel like chaos.
Did you feel like the competitive side of you from back in the comp days came straight back out of you or does it feel different this time around?
Yeah for sure it came back out of me, last year in Valhalla I felt it once again and yeah it almost bothered me as I kinda realised I had this “dark” competitive side that had been buried so deep and that came back out. But it was quite good that last year I had the time to process it and know how to deal with it so this year I could use it to my strength.
So, you’ve got a new sled?
Yeah new Ski Doo, and I’m a big Ski Doo advocate, this will be my 14th Ski Doo. I’d actually just got a brand new one but you can never have enough Ski Doos when you live in Canada!
Awesome, well have a fun night tonight when you can celebrate the win all over again. Send it deep and good luck in Alaska.