Undeterred by ‘Scary Cherry’
Asking around among core snowboarders, Baldface Lodge in British Columbia’s Selkirk Mountains often gets named as a dream destination. The snowboarding mecca receives more than 500 inches of snowfall per year across 32,000 acres of peaks and perfectly spaced trees. The area has seen legendary contests and video shoots, with the Natural Selection stop as the latest big-ticket event.
Rising to the occasion, course designers upgraded the ‘Scary Cherry’ downhill run with gnarly obstacles. Starting at the top of the steep slope, riders had a choice between 80 huge natural and wooden drops, kickers, and other features integrated into the mountainside.
No stranger to putting down heavy tricks on powder-covered courses, Sadowski-Synnott dropped into the qualifiers with confidence. On Run 1, she boosted a backside 360 tailgrab the kicker, Indy nosebone the cliff, stalefish the diving board, and big frontside 360 for 84.00 points. On her second run, the Olympic gold medalist raised the bar with a tailgrab on the diving board and a huge backflip. The judges sent her into the final in first place.
Dealing with changing conditions
Before the final commenced, the Canadian wilderness challenged riders with changing light conditions and hardened snow across the course. But Sadowski-Synnott had the right strategy.
“It got a bit tracked up between the semis and the finals. I stuck to the same line and changed my lenses because the light got a bit flat. So fun out there, getting some face shots,” she said in her post-contest interview.
Adding to the challenge, Sadowski-Synnott went head-to-head against 32-year-old American freeride icon Elena Hight in her final battle. But although Hight set the tone by landing a flawless run on the steep course, Sadowski-Synnott clinched the victory with a dominant score on Run 1.
Sadowski-Synnott popped a clean straight air on the first jump, into a tailgrab the cliff drop, smoothly landed wildcat backflip, floating tailgrab across the distance, and a final shifty air at the bottom for 88.6 points and the lead. Taking her final run as a victory lap, she also added a frontside 360 and a floating stalefish air for 90.00 points to take home the win.
“I just came back from the Olympics and had a pretty good time. I managed to come first in Slopestyle and second in Big Air. There was a lot of pressure leading up so I’m glad it's over and I can just ride pow,” said Sadowski-Synnott on competing in the Natural Selection Tour at Baldface Lodge.
The Woman of the Hour
It’s safe to say that Zoi is on an epic roll right now. The Kiwi ripper claimed gold in Slopestyle at Beijing 2022 and also took silver in Snowboard Big Air. What’s more, she earned two gold medals at X Games Aspen 2022 and became the first woman to land back-to-back double corks in a slopestyle competition run.
“I would say the difference about the vibe here versus the Olympics is everyone here is kind of like-minded and chill and wants to have a good time. I think it was a bit more tense over at the Olympics and there was a lot riding on that,” said Sadowski-Synnott.
Having just turned 21, Sadowski-Synnott already commands a unique track record. At the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, she made history by winning Slopestyle bronze and ending New Zealand’s 26-year medal drought. At Beijing 2022, she took Slopestyle gold (the first athlete from her country to win at a Winter Olympics) and Big Air silver. She’s now won every major snowboard competition and owns seven X Games medals (4 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze).
One more stop to go!
Sadowski-Synnott also won the Jackson Hole stop on last year’s Natural Selection Tour. She now has a shot at taking the 2022 overall title at the end of the month in Alaska in the ultimate backcountry snowboarding competition.
The Natural Selection Tour is an iconic backcountry snowboard contest created by pro snowboarder Travis Rice. The invite-only event features legends of backcountry riding alongside X Games-winning pros in head-to-head elimination battles.
Instead of pristine snow park courses, the world’s best snowboarders battle it out at North America’s most iconic, powder-filled mountain spots. To accommodate for weather delays and other factors typical for snowboarding in wild environments, each tour stop extends over a seven-day window.
Now the finalists are set for the last tour stop. All eyes are on the Tordrillo Mountain Range outside Anchorage, Alaska, from March 20-27. Watch out for Zoi Sadowski-Synnott in the final battle for the overall title in the 2022 Natural Selection Tour. We can’t wait!