Mark McMorris & Zoi Sadowski-Synnott Win the YETI Natural Selection at Jackson Hole
The vision was realized at the first stop of Travis Rice’s all-mountain, freestyle snowboard Natural Selection Tour, where the best riders in the world competed in an all-new format, with never-before-seen drone technology, broadcast live on Red Bull TV.
Mother Nature absolutely provided for the final day of the YETI Natural Selection at Jackson Hole with over four-feet of snow falling ahead of today’s finals. At the end of a huge day of competition, Mark McMorris (CAN) and Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (NZL) took the wins, with both riders pushing the boundaries of big mountain, freestyle riding. Fans followed the action exclusively on the Red Bull TV live broadcast with social media participation going through the roof, as people worldwide weighed in on their favorites in the head-to-head format.
The manifestation of pro snowboarder Travis Rice’s wildest dreams, finals in this completely new big mountain, freestyle format featured the advancing eight men and four women riders. Coming from diverse snowboarding backgrounds—ranging from Olympic slopestyle competitors, to halfpipe specialists, to dedicated big mountain freeriders—the venue challenged the foundation of all of their skills. The riders unleashed across sixteen-acres of big mountain terrain, complete with over 50 natural jumps and enhanced natural features. The stakes couldn’t have been higher, as the unforgiving head-to-head format rewarded risk, flow, creativity, tricks and control, with judges considering each riders’ overall run from top to bottom.
The day kicked off with eight men going head-to-head. Ben Ferguson (USA) advanced through quarterfinals against fan-favorite Sage Kotsenburg (USA), and then met hometown hero Blake Paul (USA) in the semi-finals to earn his place in the finals. Mark McMorris (CAN) had the unenviable task of defeating the GOAT, Travis Rice (USA), and then edging out Burton teammate Mikkel Bang (NOR) to advance into the finals.The sun came out as McMorris and Ferguson battled—the former a slopestyle champion, the latter halfpipe, both established backcountry riders. McMorris took the lead in the first round and held onto the lead despite an incredible showing from Ferguson. McMorris’ runs showcased his slopestyle tricks with style and bedrock consistency in a big mountain venue. McMorris flowed through his finals runs linking up a Double Wildcat, Cab 900, enviable powder turns, and, of course, a method salute. Ferguson answered back with runs heavy on switch riding including a Cab Underflip and a backside 900 off the Great Wall, nailing a heavy switch landing. But it was McMorris who took the win.
McMorris claims he lost sleep going into his initial matchup against Travis Rice, he says, “I was so glad to be able to ride the way I wanted to, I’m glad it was a good fight and a matchup I never thought I would win.” He claims the stress dissipated through the day. “I just started to build and have more and more fun as the day progressed.” He added, “This win is the biggest that I’ve had in years—when all your peers care about an event, you know it means something. This is the true essence of snowboarding—freeriding with freestyle components.”
The women’s semi-finals field featured four women, with 19-year-old Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (NZL) advancing against local favorite Hana Beaman (USA), while Marion Haerty (FRA) advanced past Elena Hight (USA). The two women’s finalists couldn’t have more different backgrounds, with Haerty coming into the competition as the three-time Freeride World Tour champion and Sadowski-Synnott with Olympic big air and X Games slopestyle and big air medals to her name. Sadowski-Synnott dominated both finals runs, with her second run a victory lap, where she put down the day’s highest score, with a huge Wildcat, a stomped backside 360 interspersed with pow turns and grabs all the way down the face, landing the Visit Jackson Hole Run of the Day.
Sadowski-Synnott, who earned a last-minute entry via a Wildcard slot, says, “Three weeks ago I didn’t even know I was going to be here! I never expected to be competing in Natural Selection, and then to come away with the win definitely means so much to me.” She adds, “I was just so honored to ride with my favorite snowboarders. I’ve learned a lot about riding pow and landing. This is how snowboarding really is and there’s finally an event that shows that. I can’t wait to come back next year!”