Travis Rice and Zoi Sadowski-Synnott Crowned 2023 Natural Selection Tour Champions

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Zoi Sadowski-Synnott
Zoi Sadowski-Synnott flying to a win in AK. | Picture: Chad Chomlack / Natural Selection

Twelve riders — from Olympians to big mountain film stars — dropped into the Coliseum in Valdez, AK, an all-new, multi-dimensional Natural Selection Alaska venue, for a full day of sunup to sundown, head-to-head competition. At the close of a massive, 12-hour day of competition, across three distinct faces, Travis Rice and Zoi Sadowski-Synnott have been crowned the best all-around snowboarders in the world. Rice and Sadowski-Synnott took the 2023 Natural Selection Tour titles cleanly with stunning back-to-back wins on both scored stages of the Tour, Revelstoke, and Alaska.

The brainchild of snowboarder Travis Rice, the Natural Selection Tour showcases the world’s top riders, from Olympians to big mountain film icons, competing on the planet’s most exciting natural and naturally enhanced terrain. The 2023 Tour featured three stages, with riders moving through DUELS, Revelstoke, BC, and Alaska. The best all-mountain freestyle riders in the world came together for the crowning of a men’s and women’s champion at the Alaskan final. The Natural Selection Tour’s mission is to inspire people to forge a deeper relationship with Mother Nature.

“Just being able to take runs on terrain like that is really inspiring. The fact that we had three beautiful areas with perfect light and conditions that were good, but they could have been better, but it made for something more dynamic. Frankly, it was kind of a rough day for me. I took a hard slam in the beginning of the contest and managed to make it through to take six competition runs. That’s the thing with this event, and especially today; it’s really technical and it’s tricky to plan a line that flows, but riding terrain like that is a joy that many of us aspire to.”

Travis Rice, 2023 Natural Selection Tour Champion

Travis Rice
Travis Rice at the Natural Selection Alaska. | Picture: Chad Chomlack / Natural Selection

Eight men and four women qualified out of the Natural Selection DUELS to compete first in Revelstoke and now in Alaska, representing all disciplines of elite snowboarding – halfpipe, slopestyle, big mountain freeride, and backcountry freestyle. On the women’s side Kimmy Fasani (USA), Elena Hight (USA), Hailey Langland (USA), and Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (NZL) start with semi-finals in Alaska. Jared Elston (USA), Dustin Craven (CAN), Mikey Ciccarelli (CAN), Ben Ferguson (USA), Mikkel Bang (NOR), Blake Paul (USA), Travis Rice (USA), and Chris Rasman (CAN), riding in Torstein Horgmo’s place, meet first in the quarterfinals, before dropping into a two-heat semi-final and final.

The day started before dawn with riders flying from Valdez, Alaska, into the Chugach Mountains to capture the morning light on a 1000-ft+ Northeastern facing wall in the Coliseum for the women’s semi-finals and men’s quarterfinals. Kimmy Fasani opened it up for the women on a convex roll-in and rode flowy and fast to land the high score of the first run, an 80. With Fasani in the lead, the defending 2022 Tour Champion Elena Hight turned it up a notch, wiggling through a ridgeline to open up a new zone with solid grabs throughout, landing a 93 and the highest score of the day.

Travis Rice
Travis Rice dropping in Alaska. | Picture: Dean “Blotto” Gray / Natural Selection

On the men’s side, Mikkel Bang landed the high score of the quarterfinals, a 90, riding with confidence and landing a big, buttery 180 into a switch backside 180 in his first run. In his second run of the quarters, Rice went huge, looking to solidify his lead, but clipped a rock face mid-run smashing his helmet into the rock, which sent him sliding downhill for 200 feet before getting to his feet. With riders landing big spins, including 720s, and flowing down the spine face, the vision of bringing freestyle riding to big mountains came to life in front of viewers worldwide.

Late-morning, the men’s semi-finals moved to a powdery 800-foot Northwestern-facing wall. Jared Elston and Dustin Craven locked in slim leads on the first heat, but Mikkel Bang and Travis Rice, with experience on their sides, answered back with powerful second runs. Craven’s 720s matched up against Bang’s massive 5 and rode switch through large stretches of the run with judges moving Bang on. Rice shook off the morning’s fall to spin and flow through the semis-venue pulling off his high score of the day, an 87.

The bigger, upper Northwestern face set the stage for the men’s and women’s finals. Elena Hight, the 2022 NST Champion, and Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, who bested Hight in a close final in Revelstoke, met in a rematch for the crown. Both riders approached the face strongly and confidently, navigating incredibly steep line choices, dropping big cliffs, spinning 360s, and landing solidly. Only one point separated the reigning big mountain queen and the world’s best slopestyle rider in both finals runs. In the end, Zoi’s 88-point run in the first run took the final and landed both the Natural Selection Alaska and 2023 Natural Selection Tour titles in the Kiwi’s hands. This marks Sadowski-Synnott’s 23rd straight podium finish and Kimmy Fasani’s first pro podium.

“It feels pretty insane to win the Alaska stop. I’ve never been super stoked on my Alaska riding, so I’m super, super happy to win and of course I look back and want to do it differently, ride different lines, but that’s the beauty of it: you always want more. Juggling slopestyle and big air, and also competing in big mountain is a lot to do in a season, but returning to Natural Selection is one of my number one goals for next year.”

Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, 2023 Natural Selection Tour Champion

Zoi Sadowski-Synnott
Zoi Sadowski-Synnott flying to a win in AK. | Picture: Chad Chomlack / Natural Selection

For the men, Bang, the inaugural Natural Selection Tour rode solidly through the day to meet Rice, who rallied back from an early crash in a clash of the titans. With their highest scores of the day and a non-stop day of big lines behind them, Rice’s 80 in the first run pulled through to secure his second consecutive Natural Selection Tour Championship.

2023 Natural Selection Alaska, women’s podium:

  1. Zoi Sadowski-Synnott
  2. Elena Hight
  3. Kimmy Fasani

2023 Natural Selection Alaska, men’s podium:

  1. Travis Rice
  2. Mikkel Bang
  3. Dustin Craven

The approximately three-and-a-half-hour broadcast, featuring Natural Selection’s signature follow-drone angles, was broadcasted ‘as ​live’ with hosts including Todd Richards, Mary Walsh, Ed Leigh, Hana Beaman, Eddie Wall, and Pat Bridges live from the studio. Catch the action from Alaska now for free, on-demand at and YouTube.

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