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Salad Days Magazine | April 24, 2024

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Sage Kotsenburg claims dominant victory in Natural Selection Backcountry Snowboarding Competition at Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Sage Kotsenburg claims dominant victory in Natural Selection Backcountry Snowboarding Competition at Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Salad Days

28-Year-Old from Park City, Utah, takes home flawless win at competition on natural mountain terrain.

It’s been a long time coming! Sage Kotsenburg took the first place in the first stop of the 2022 Natural Selection Tour snowboard competition at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyoming, on Friday. On the final day of the invite-only competition featuring some of the world’s best all-mountain freestyle snowboarders, the 28-year-old from Park City, Utah, clinched the win by advancing from quarter final to victory without conceding a single round.

“I was able to get the run that I envisioned and I’m just trying to stay board down,” said Kotsenburg about his approach during the final day of the 2022 Natural Selection Tour.

Now in its second year, the Natural Selection Tour is the brainchild of professional snowboarder Travis Rice. Bringing snowboarding back to its roots in backcountry terrain, the contest series drives the progression of freestyle snowboarding in natural environments. Instead of pristine slopestyle courses, riders are challenged by natural and naturally enhanced terrain, boasting obstacles such as trees and cliffs covered by layers of fresh powder snow.


This year, the 2022 Natural Selection Tour will feature three stops: The Jackson Hole event kicked off the series on Travis Rice’s home mountain in the Rocky Mountains Teton Range. Next, Baldface Lodge in the Selkirk Mountains, Canada, will host Stop 2 from February 20-27. And finally, the season will conclude in the Tordrillo Range outside Anchorage, Alaska, from March 20-27. Each tour stop extends over a seven-day window in an effort to secure peak riding conditions. Competitions commence on two days, divided into qualifiers and finals. In the Men’s bracket, 16 invited riders compete for tour stop wins and overall points, while eight riders battle it out in the Women’s division. Monster Energy’s Kotsenburg came to Jackson Hole looking for redemption after being eliminated in the quarter final of last year’s Natural Selection Tour. Prepared and focused, the Park City local dropped into the challenging course on Moran Face Mountain not to advance another round – but to win.


Amid bluebird skies and fast course conditions, the final eight riders descended on the course on Friday morning. Advancing to the next round was decided in a “best two of three runs” format. So technically, a rider could bounce back after losing the first run by winning the second run to force a tiebreaker. Except with Kotsenburg putting down perfect runs all day, that didn’t happen. In the quarter final, Kotsenburg faced a rematch against the rider who booted him out of 2021’s competition: Ben Ferguson. Straight out the gate, Kotsenburg proved his versatility on natural terrain by attacking the first jump with a switchstance straight air into a fully inverted Cab 540 and backside 360 Indy off the next jumps. As Ferguson lost the handle on both runs, Kotsenburg upped the ante by boosting a backside 720 Indy to advance to the next round. In the semifinal against Norway’s Mikkel Bang, Kotsenburg displayed the full breadth of tricks he can adapt to natural environments. Alternating his trick selection, he opened with a huge backside 720 method chickenwing air, followed by a frontside 360 Indy nosebone and a switch 540 off the next hit. With Bang taking a hard fall on his first run, Kotsenburg secured the round by putting down back-to-back backside 540 into a switch 540 in a run accented by a backside 360 tailgrab and switch straight air at the bottom. For the final duel, Kotsenburg went head-to-head against Jared Elston. Again, Kotsenburg opened with a perfect run including a huge backside 720 method air, frontside 360 tailgrab as well as Cab 900 and huge stalefish at the bottom to take the lead. With Elston taking a fall on Run 1, the door was open for Kotsenburg to seal the win on his next run. And he did!


He wowed the judges by following up the opening backside 720 with a fast-footed frontside 720 right below, right into a corked Cab 900 off the tree obstacle and a furious line into a final stalefish off the kicker. Although Elston replied with a perfect run featuring a double wildcat, the judges had found their favorite: No tiebreaker this time, it was Kotsenburg earning the win on a final run score of 93.00 points.

“Walking away with the win is unreal!” said Monster Energy’s Kotsenburg upon winning the Men’s event in the Natural Selection Tour at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. In his post-contest interview, Kotsenburg also spoke in memory of a driving force behind the Natural Selection Tour series: “I just want to give major, major love to Mike McKelvey. He put a ton of work into this course last year and a couple of summers ago. We lost him in an avalanche accident last year so this one is for Mike!”


Friday’s victory in Wyoming marks Kotsenburg’s first win in a live snowboarding competition in eight years. A podium threat at X Games and Dew Tour contests in his prime, Kotsenburg walked away from competing after claiming the first-ever Olympic gold medal in men’s snowboard slopestyle at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. Instead, he focused on filming critically acclaimed video segments in the backcountry, including ‘Joy’ and ‘Halcyon’ that have earned awards from publications such as Snowboarder Magazine (2020) and Slush Magazine (2021). Kotsenburg also earned X Games gold in the 2021 Real Snow video competition. Stay tuned for Stop Two on the 2022 Natural Selection Tour at Baldface Lodge in British Columbia, Canada, in February!


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