Watch: Eighteen-month-old Montreal toddler snowboards backyard park, neighbors declare “she’s the new Shaun White!”

Le Pomme de terre Volante!

Oh to be young and talented, the world stretching out in one gilded and unbending line. Shaun White, now 34, was possibly the last snowboarder to experience now decades ago, what with snowboarding rising, then peaking, in popularity following his Flying Tomato exploits.

But now there is another savant, possibly, and she lives in Montreal, Canada.

According to the local news, Zoe Barabe, 18-months, was put on a snowboard by her father just to kill some time in the backyard but, lo and behold, she displayed extraordinary talent and is now a massive Tik-Tok star.

Her mother, very proud, says, “It’s amazing. Honestly, at first, we had the idea and hoped she’d like it and she enjoyed it right away. I guess it was the perfect little sport for her. There were some comments like ‘It’s fake, it’s a green screen.’ They really don’t know us if they think we could do something like that.”


A Natural Selection invite forthcoming?

More as the story develops.

Utah in the midst of deadliest season on record, experts blame exorbitant lift ticket costs, VALs: “It’s a backlash against the expense, hassle and restrictions of riding at resorts!”

Vulnerable Adult Learners.

There is a general hunger, amidst a Covid-battered public, for our extreme sports. I am a surf journalist, of course, and have plied my trade on the ocean’s edge but oooooeee. If there ain’t ten times as many utter VALs (Vulnerable Adult Learners) in the water. 20 times. It’s a dangerous disaster of people not knowing what they’re doing, clogging already tight breaks.

Making life hell.

In the mountains, my birthright, things are downright out of control. Utah is in the midst of its deadliest avalanche season on record. Experts blame Covid creating a severe hunger for our extreme sports, exorbitant resort costs driving these VALs to the backcountry, a tough snowpack.

Per The Salt Lake Tribune:

One of the hottest commodities last spring, just after coronavirus outbreaks shut down ski resorts, was climbing skins. As hard to find as toilet paper and hand sanitizer, stores couldn’t keep the long strips — lined with nylon or mohair and attached to skis for easier uphill traversing — on the shelves. Online outlets had them on back order.

Diegel said that was a natural extension of a trend that has developed over the past decade. Though alpine ski growth has mostly remained stagnant since the late 1970s, backcountry touring has experienced a surge of interest, propelled mainly by gear that made accessing and skiing the backcountry both easier and safer. But it also gained momentum from a backlash against the expense, hassle and restrictions of skiing or riding at resorts.

Between the start of the 2016 season and the 2019 season, Snowsports Industries America reported sales of alpine touring equipment and backcountry accessories grew 81%. In a report last month, SIA’s Nick Sargent said alpine touring sales swelled by 104% between August 2019 and March 2020. And that didn’t include splitboards — a snowboard that can be split into two planks and used like skis for uphill travel — which he said added another $5 million in sales nationwide.

“There wasn’t much that was needed to push people over the edge, but the whole COVID thing pushed people over the edge,” Diegel said. “Some people bought puppies and some people made sourdough bread and some people bought a lot of backcountry gear that they’d been thinking about buying for a while anyway.”


But how to fix? Shame VALs severely? Sort a modern way to clip tickets?


The End: A final summation of Natural Selection, from a cursed surf journalist’s point of view, and what it means for the future!

Hello, tomorrow.

Travis Rice saunters toward the Continuum hotel breathing heavily, fully geared, snow dappled. Exhausted. A random European stops his progress, begs for a picture, compliments him for what he had witnessed.

The “great days of snowboard ever.”

Travis, ever gracious, talks story from the hill, leans in and throws his patented devil horns.

He has just come down from that Natural Selection course, working shoulder to shoulder all day with the crew, tearing platforms off the features, breaking down what can be broken down.

Nature hath selected and to nature it shall return, mostly so some random European inspired by the broadcast doesn’t come and try to Austin Sweetin.

There were many inspired random Europeans. Chileans, Australians, Canadians, etc., Americans too. An absolutely shocking amount who tuned into both the first day and the final day, witnessing snowboarding’s re-birth.

That’s what it felt like, what it became, over the week and was spoken about over, over and over again.

Snowboarding’s re-imagining.

Foremothers and fathers lauded, a style of riding they pioneered taken to a next level, love of powder, progression, punk, not caring about anything but going as big as one could, impressing gathered sisters and brothers, impressing the ghosts of snowboarding past.

The week was about snowboarding.

“Thank you, snowboarding” was what Mark McMorris uttered from the balcony at the Natural Selection afterparty award’s show and he meant it. He was happy to be part of a crew of derelicts, of ne’redowells, of stone cold bastards and bastard-ettes.

Mark McMorris is a multi-gelded Olympian yet this was his moment. He had gone to the last iteration of Natural Selection in Bald Face, four-odd years ago, and tomahawked down that bald face like an embarrassment but, there, he realized what and who he wanted to be and became in extraordinary fashion.

Shaun White was here early, also a multi-gelded Olympian though not a part of the crew. Crew-adjacent maybe. A bastard but not stone cold. Shaun rode the Olympic hype, that Flying Tomato, Target, Us Weekly-thing to great success but snowboarding died under his watch. Not the kid dreaming, kid skinning into backcountry, kid jibbing in his derelict town imagination but some greater unifying vision.

He left before Mark McMorris hoisted his moose antler, proclaimed this was the most important thing he’s ever been part of, thanked snowboarding, shined a spotlight on some new greater unifying vision.

This matters.

It matters because it is absurdly fun, because it is destructively fun. Because it has a history, because it resonates, because it is rotten, because it is… stupidly real.

In this broken era, snowboarding feels like salvation. Pointing down a hill, doing powder turns, doing icy wind-buffed side-slips, poking into trees, remembering what it feels like to sail airborne, remembering what it feels like to fall and fall hard, laughing or crying about it with friends at the 4 pm end to a day is salvation.

An obscenely rose-lensed summation from a damned surf journalist?

Certainly and this surf journalist asked the very same question while backcountry-ing fresh powder at the beginning of the week with the world’s finest snowboard journalists.

“In surfing, new participation is the end, the curse,” I said. “Why do you even put up with my presence?”

“All snowboarding requires is for someone willing to hike to the next peak,” one responded, while beckoning to the surrounding mountain ranges bathed in cold light. “Someone willing to push slightly further.”

All of this feels like the next peak.

Something glorious.

A naively positive conclusion from a cursed surf journalist?


Travis Rice pushes into the Continuum hotel and is immediately accosted by media, professional, personal requests.

He smiles and throws his patented devil horns.

Final’s Day: New Zealand’s most popular snowboard magazine hires surf journalist as correspondent thereby guaranteeing dark horse compatriot Zoe Sadowski-Synnott Jackson Hole victory!


Natural Selection’s Jackson Hole tour kick-off is officially one for the record books and the superlatives lining those pages, even the most superior superlatives, fall flat. Travis Rice’s brainchild-turned-reality was phenomenal for fans of professional snowboarding, certainly, composing a dissertation on big mountain riding with odes to technicality, creativity, spontaneity and fun but it was also phenomenal for notoriously grouchy fans of professional surfing. The famously grouchiest, from Scotland unsurprisingly, wrote me in the wee hours to declare, “Really enjoyed this. Course is epic, format is good. But fuck, how brutal is the commentary? Selema makes Turpel look like he’s part of Mensa. Truly awful. Worse than the WSL I reckon.”

Joe Turpel, voice of the World Surf League, sounds like a pull-string Cabbage Patch Kid.

Selema sounds like Tony Hawk’s 900 20-years aged.

But even the less-than-inspired chitter-chatter could not put a damper on this day, no how, now way.


It was pure magic and magic in a time when the “science is real” crowd has gained much traction, pushing magic to the fringes, but not today, not when Travis Rice seeing that slate grey sky overhead, called for a sun chant and got one from Blake Paul with help from the rest of the competitors.

It worked, while competition was underway, the sun blasting that course with light. Gorgeous, surreal, almost perfect.

For Travis too. Not in a traditional “winning-the-competition” sort of way, no, but something far greater. Natural Selection is his legacy, its success his shining success.

Canada’s Mark McMorris took Jackson Hole for the men and how?

Magic maybe borrowed from Nevada’s famed Bunny Ranch.

Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, young dark horse from New Zealand, showed such wild poise, such incredible skill topping the women and why?

Magic no doubt granted from Australia and New Zealand’s most popular snowboard magazine tapping a surf journalist to cover the event. An unprecedented move with unprecedented results and now Zoi shall be heading to Alaska to compete in the championships.

Mikkel Bang’s switch method? His rock tap fail followed so bravely by a rock tap success?

The highlights of the day according to many in attendance and clearly due magic gifted from the Michelin-starred spoon of a world famous Swedish chef. After untracked early up powder runs he cooked a steak, vegetable, caviar in some phenomenal reduction feast for the most select few at Princess Jody Kemmerer’s mountain home including Travis and Mikkel and now Mikkel will be going to Alaska too.

That magical sun finally set, turning the sky into fluffy cotton candy, but its magic kept twinkling, transferring from hill to host hotel and the upstairs afterparty.

Oh me, oh my professional snowboarders how to do it right. Unlike professional surfing, where the world’s greatest Kelly Slater has set the tone by being extremely stingy, there is a rule where the winner pays 50% of his or her winnings to the bar tab.

Old fashioneds flowed like milk. Vodka sodas like honey. The athletes, crew, course builders, cameramen, toasted, back slapped, laughed and recounted a singularly incredible week. Mark Landvik, the funniest man in snowboarding, regaled the gathered with stories. Hana Beaman sat laughing. Mark McMorris, still dressed in royal purple, would ring a magic bell near the bar to signal his card was laid down once again and a hoot would rise to the rafters. His victory speech claimed that being part of Natural Section was the greatest thing he’s achieved in a career besotted with Olympic gold. That this victory was not about him but about snowboarding.

Travis stood to the side in his tall, fluffy Peruvian hat smiling at what he had wrought.

What he had willed into existence and what magic kissed.

Open Thread: Comment Live as Natural Selection crowns Jackson Hole champions on adrenalized day!

It's go time.

Adrenaline was pumping heavy through veins, this February 9 morning, before the sun poked over these Grand Tetons. Adrenaline, nervousness, excitement, thrill. Natural Selection is set to kick off its championship day, in a few short minutes and the matchups are stacked.

Round 2


Heat 1: Austen Sweetin vs. Blake Paul.

Heat 2: Ben Ferguson vs. Sage Kotsenburg

Heat 3: Travis Rice vs. Mark McMorris

Heat 4: Mikkel Bang vs Pat Moore


Heat 1: Hana Beaman vs. Zoi Sadowski-Syn

Heat 2: Elena Hight vs. Marion Haerty

Bon appetit.