Men’s Rider Of The Year Nominees—2020 Snowboarder Awards
We will be dropping the nominees for each category over the next week, leading up to the first annual SNOWBOARDER AWARDS. The winner of each category will be announced during the first annual award show at Copper Mountain on Feb. 6, 2020 (while the Dew Tour is in town). With +350 past, present and future pro riders casting their votes for the individuals and projects that most influenced our culture this past year culminating into one big night, it is poised to be quite the party (FREE TO THE PUBLIC!). Feel free to come join us in celebrating the winners, as well as the top nominees (listed below).
It’s no small feat to balance the rigors of the contest season with filming for a movie. It’s further remarkable to compile a collection of the year’s most lauded clips while competing. And it’s even more awe-inspiring when those clips represent your first season-long foray into the backcountry and when you weren’t riding powder lines and sending it off cheese wedges, you were winning the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships with a backside triple fourteen on the last jump. In 2019, this is what Red Gerard did. In Joy, a movie that followed the Ohio-born Gerard as he traversed off piste with Sage Kotsenburg and Ben Ferguson, Red’s innate style was unmistakable. Oh, and he opened up namesake parks called Red’s Backyard, inspired by the infamous area behind his family’s Colorado home, at Woodward mountains across the country. At only nineteen-years-old, Red has casually asserted himself not as someone to watch in the future, but as the future, itself. Fellow Coloradan and 2001 top ten Rider of the Year, Chad Otterstrom noted, “Red won the US Open and had the best style and snowboarding in Joy. He semi-grew up in Summit County, as well and it’s hard to be that well-rounded of a rider when all you really have to ride for good terrain when you’re that young is snowboard parks.” While Red may have sharpened his skills on perfectly-groomed park jumps, Joy provided plenty of proof that he’s a natural in the backcountry. Breckenridge local, Benji Farrow added, “For a rider this young to have such composure and strong work ethic in the backcountry is inspiring. I’m so impressed and can’t wait to see where he goes.” Central to Red’s ROTY nomination is that he is truly a snowboarder’s snowboarder who performs at the highest level. Said Scott Stevens, “I’m always in awe. He’s the complete and total package of a 2020 upper echelon pro snowboarder.”
Thirty-two minutes and seventeen seconds into Joy, Sage Kotsenburg drops into one of the most anticipated shots of 2019. In the movie that Sage made with Ben Ferguson and Red Gerard, his snowboarding comes full circle, from young rider watching Travis and Romain in Pop, to contest circuit favorite and Olympic gold medalist, to backcountry vanguard, upping the ante on seminal spots and in doing so, unflinchingly affecting the future of snowboarding. And the final seconds of Joy provide the most distinct proof of why so many of the 2020 Rider of the Year panelists chose Sage as their pick for number one: Sage unleashes the double back twelve Japan heard ‘round the world on Chad’s Gap, an iconic spot that is a relative stone’s throw from where he grew up in Park City. But even more, while the Chad’s clip is a worthy ending to Sage’s 2019 video offering, it’s only part of a whole host of insane footage that the twenty-six-year-old rider put together, contributing to one of the most renowned video presences of the year. Said 2015 Pipe Rider of the Year Danny Davis, “Sage stepped up. He blew me away at how talented and savage he is on big ass kickers. He raised the bar on a few legendary jumps with some incredible style and stoke to go along with it. The kid deserves it.” John Jackson agreed, noting, “Sage’s riding is in another league this year.” 2019 SNOWBOARDER cover rider Joe Sexton commented that Sage had “insane jumping and a refreshing take on backcountry snowboarding,” while 2016 ROTY Mark McMorris mentioned, “Sage was head and shoulders above most this year with spot/trick choices.” Fellow Wasatch rider Jake Welch was also impressed, saying, “The thing I love about Sage is it always appears he’s having a good time. Always smiling. He is insanely talented and makes it look effortless,” while Russel Winfield threw in, “He keeps it super old school while at the same time tastefully pushing the limits.” When it comes down to it, Sage’s explosive style resonated throughout snowboarding. Noted Halldor Helgason, “Sage went all in, killed it, made my balls proud, and that’s why he deserves Rider of the Year.”
Beginning in 2003, Travis Rice has landed in the top ten Riders of the Year and unprecedented ten times. He’s won Movie of the Year honors for That’s It, That’s All and The Art of Flight and video part of the year in 2005 (for Pop), ’09 (That’s It, That’s All), and ’12 (The Art of Flight). He’s been Big Mountain Rider of the Year (2008, ’09, and ’12) and the ROTY in 2005, ’09, and ’12. What this all amounts to, is that for the entirety of his career, Travis has been operating at an unparalleled pace, a pioneer of big mountain riding whose freakishly impressive abilities are matched only by his drive to tackle new terrain. In 2019, Travis continued to bear influence on the current state of snowboarding. First, in January, he won the Freeride World Tour stop in Hakuba, Japan. In February, he won the King and Queens of Corbett’s at his home resort. In April, he released one of the most mesmerizing and panic-inducing GoPro clips of snowboarding to date, offering a POV look at a pillow-laden spine in British Columbia. And finally, in December, Travis released Dark Matter, a half hour of Travis and Elias Elhardt riding Mathematics, an NBD zone in Alaska’s Tordrillos Mountains that Travis has been eyeing for over ten years. In Dark Matter, Travis once again showcases riding that truly only he is capable of. Quiksilver teammate, Austen Sweetin, was impressed, stating, “Travis went all out this year, taking riding in Alaska to the next level by deciphering complex terrain with a freestyle outlook that was pure insanity. Pioneering terrain at that level is something you don’t see very often and he did so by producing one of the most high-energy films of the year.” Manboy Jody Wachniak echoed Sweetin’s sentiment, saying, “I don’t think anyone is on his level and I can’t understand navigating down those lines/pillows. How does one do that?” Added Eddie Wall, “Hands down the best snowboarder in the world. Travis rides the most steep, high risk, and technical lines, and does it all fast and with power. I don’t think most people can actually comprehend the difficulty of the lines he rides in Dark Matter. He is a true master.” Seventeen years after his ROTY debut, Rice keeps releasing high octane snowboarding with no sign of slowing down, a fact we are grateful for as he continues to push limits and defy expectations.