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Back in February, after the Revelstoke leg of this year’s Natural Selection Tour went off so successfully, I wrote the following on Instagram about this week’s Open Thread guest Liam Griffin:
“That Natural Selection spectacle we all enjoyed yesterday simply would not have been possible without Liam. Travis is the frontman who dreams big; LG is the guy who actually makes it happen behind the scenes.
Like everybody, I was blown away by the riding yesterday. But I was also in awe at the sheer scale of what Liam and his team pulled off. It’s got to be up there as the most complex event and broadcast project in professional sport”.
I stand by those words. And in this week’s Open Thread, open to free and paid subscribers, Liam has generously agreed to answer questions about Natural Selection and anything else you want to ask the most sought-after event organiser and planner in the snowboarding business. This is a peerless opportunity to put your questions to one of the sharpest, smartest and most quietly-influential figures in the snowboarding world, so get ‘em in below.
Liam and my friends at Yeti have also offered a some exclusive Yeti x NS memorabilia as prize for the best question in the comments! I’ll pick a winner once the Thread is finished. (This contest is only open to paid subscribers, as will all future Open Thread contests featuring prizes from my pals at Yeti, Danner, Db, Patagonia, Finisterre and Goodrays).
Hi Liam & Matt,
Just wanted to say we loved Natural Selection and as snowboarders just back from an epic Whistler trip, we could truly appreciate how freaking talented & balls-out mad the riders are who rode in the finals!
My question to you Liam is this; with Travis being so successful in NST since it’s inception, do you feel it’s time he moved aside to open the playing field up for another rider to claim top slot? Mikkel is the obvious contender for the crown, but with Travis no longer being a threat, would the other riders push even harder as they all have a shot at victory?
Super grateful to you and all at NST for giving us our own “World Cup” and I can’t wait to see its progression going forward.
What do you think about the debate about the judging?
In regards to the question below and the mention of World Cup - have you thought about the value in having just 1 event per year? The first year in Jackson was mind blowing. Attainable, aspirational, new perspective, access in terms of film angles never before seen and the best riders. With 3 events a year do you worry about the Christmas everyday syndrome for viewers?
Hi Liam, firstly thanks for organising such a great snowboarding competition🙏
We hear a lot about how the organisers and riders work together to organise each leg of the competition but is there ever any conflict or differing opinions here? If so, how do you resolve this, who has the final say?
Secondly other than a couple of Scandinavian riders there is a definite absence of wider European riders. I'm interested to know if they get invited and if they turn down the chance to compete or is it just a case of them not being invited? And kind of related to this, are there any plans to hold round in Europe for future NSTs?
Also for what its worth I'd like to see Travis (and other overall winners) continue to take part rather than see him move aside.
Do you think that there is something intrinsically snowboard-only about this event? Or could you imagine opening it up to skiers as well, or running a similar skiing event in parallel?
Hi Liam (and Matt),
Firstly I would like to say thanks for everything you and the team have put into creating such an iconic event - my question for you is:
Considering the growth of NST since the first event in Jackson, did you see it being as successful as it was 5 years prior and where do you see it being in 5 years time?
Just to also touch on Steve’s comment below around expanding into Europe/bringing in a broader demographic of riders - has there ever been thought to offer “wildcard” invites from smaller scale events that would follow a similar format?
Thanks and all the best,
I’ve got one! I got a comment on Insta the other day saying the tour should move away from AK because it’s not relatable for the average rider. So which party is more important when it comes to making decisions, especially around broadcast: the viewing public or the riders?
LG - Questions the people need answers for.
1. Your outfits. I recall you having the drippiest looks on the slope when you were working on the Burton series. Please tell me this continues.
2. House and Techno DJ as well as playing the horn (is that right?), what role does music currently play in your life?
3. You clearly love numbers and logistics, how does this understanding of the world manifest itself outside of snowboarding?
4. Tell us about climbing and how that plays into your lens of the natural world.
5. I personally want to hear the story of the Star Wars Speeder fancy dress bike - It's next level.
Hey Liam. Love the show!
Duels vs Pre record vs the live
Can they all coexist and in an ideal world would the whole tour be live? do you see any benefit to having an actual live show? It’s a logistical nightmare. You must love the hustle. Tim
Hi Liam and Matt,
Thanks for hosting this great thread. I loved watching the Natural Selection this season and wanted to congratulate you and the NST team for pulling off such great events. Achieving an event where the 'value' is so obviously more than the sum of the parts from a cultural perspective, in this high stakes context is beyond impressive. I also think the NST is really great for snowboarding but it's not always easy for me to really explain all that I mean when I say that so I wanted to take the opportunity to ask you some questions along those lines. I am also interested to hear your answer to Steve's question below about how the collaborative decision making approach works in practice and I think my questions are related to that one.
How do you understand the idea that the Natural Selection Tour is valuable to snowboarding for example do you see it as valuable in a cultural or community sense (so more than only a financial/material sense)?
If so, who owns the value (or values?) produced at each event?
Who has the responsibility for looking after the cultural value if you believe that is a thing?
In what way is this similar or different to the responsibility involved in collaborative decision making at operations level? How do the high risk factors involved in all aspects of NST effect this picture for you?
I love Natural Selection and look forward to all the content that drops each year and I usually watch it on the day it happens.
I think the Torstein/Jackson and McMorris/Ciccarelli Duels stood out this year as an example of the strength of the original Natural Selection format, natural terrain plus epic built features.
Is there discussions about including built features in all the event stops or is it logistically impossible?
Natural Selection looks impossibly difficult to create and to ride. As a consumer of snowboarding videos, magazines, and now digital content for over 30 years I’m accustomed to the “illusion” of natural terrain. A beautiful reset on a feature that was sessioned until the riders were ready to try something no one has ever tried before, filmed from several angles by people who have filmed at that spot before has created the most memorable snowboarding clips in my opinion. Like Austen Sweetin’s 7 at Baker in Windslab for example…
Watching riders take their first ever laps down terrain sometimes feels like watching “practice”… and the duels with built features felt exponentially more exciting to me personally. Is that something that caught your attention as well? Will we see a return to venues people have ridden before or built features with predictable landings to encourage bigger tricks? Or is that antithetical to the Natural Selection format?
Huge NS fan,
Could you ever imagine all this when growing up in western NL? What things do you think are characteristics instilled in you from growing up in a place that isn't known for snowboarding or event creators (from an outside perspective anyway)?
LG, when you coming back to our hood, crashing in the guest room and surfing with us? Fam misses ya.
Just wanted to say thanks for organising the greatest live events to watch that I’ve seen in a long time and pushing the boundaries to a new level. Other competitions just do not have the same edge of the seat factor in my opinion.
I really enjoyed the Duels this year my only thoughts were as follows,
The challenger selecting the venue? On their home turf so to speak..could make it more spicy...😂
And maybe a slightly longer Duels section with a bit of banter between the riders etc, it was great dropping a an episode a day..loved it.
Awesome work, thankyou.
My question is... Why does it have to be a competition?
To go to the effort of getting the best riders on a unique course/terrain and limiting most of them to a few runs feels like a shame.
If the event is seen as less marketable to big sponsors (often non-snowboarding companies) in a session format is there a future in non-competitive snowboarding?
Hey Liam and Matt,
Been really enjoying the tour the last few years. A couple observations.
The duels qualifying format besides Leanne losing to Hailey all went to the defending champion. Seems like the zones were unfairly familiar to most of the riders minus Trav and Red. Maybe randomize venues to level the playing field?
The judging seems to be favoring Travis heavily the last two years. After rewatching this years finals with Mikkel and Travis there seems to be a serious consensus with the general shred community that Mikkels run was technically more difficult and following the CREDO score Bang should have taken it. At a minimum it should have went to sudden death super finals. Lets see less favoritism and bias next year.
Finally AK is the pinnacle of snowboarding and the Finals should always be in AK. Hopefully in SE AK at some point.
Hi Liam and Matt,
what a great event, I think one of the things I love so much about NST, beside the insane level of riding, filming and snow conditions, is that being in a ski dominated industry, all the pro skiers I work with and respect do look forward for NST events...
My question :
I have been on a few FWT events and was always in awe regarding the logistics of these stops. NST seems to go even one step farther, with the pow element being crucial, and thus so weather dependent/anxious.
how would you compare to the FWT, in terms of people involved, gear, time schedules, etc.
sidebar question: what a joint event with FWT could look like? I remember fondly when Candide won in Chamonix (he could be a skier to make it happen), and the last stop in Haines...
one from the Bean, when is the junior version of the comp going live
Final thought here for the Travis being a rider debate and winning the event.
Without Travis I think NST loses a certain audience. Just look at the speed at which WSL gave Kelly a wildcard to compete the next 12 months to confirm the reliance on legendary names for viewing figures. They couldn't wait to throw one his way.
Let's just ensure we don't start calling Travis the Goat please Liam. Whole of the WSL broadcast team need to have a look at themselves for that, cringe worthy beyond belief. Put the respect on the mans name don't turn it into a gimmick.
I think everything has been great always watch and enjoy. Even though you clearly have some of the best riders and they prove it through competition. I’m really getting to know some of them and I can almost call what there going to do at this point by watching for 3 years. I understand it is unfair to cut someone for winning. But there are hundreds of exceptional riders who might look differently at the terrain I wonder if you might have to shake it up just for freshness.
The commenting is bizarre. Why so serious? Get rid of the non endemic diversity hires. Allow some humor. Stop commenting like its super serious olympdick quallies. Stop the questions “for the noons IE “explain what its like to ride powder” Whatarewedunehair?
Just wanted to say hats off to the whole NST crew for putting on one of the best action sports events ever, and definitely the best one around at the moment. After reading through the whole comment thread (yes, I'm just as much of a boardsport geek as you two) just a few random thoughts. Please note, I've had a couple of beers! Haha!
- The dude who commented about the commenting isn't entirely wrong. He's wrong about the "diversity hires" (think he was talking about Ed & Mary), but the commentary could be a lot looser without alienating all but the most non-core viewer. Yes, Ed and Tim have "shocked" a few grandmas over the years with their Olympic snowboarding commentary, but what they do on the BBC is way funnier and more "entertaining" that what goes on in the boot at NST. I can only imagine if Todd really cut loose in the booth alongside Ed. You have a beer sponsor, right. Crack a few open during the ad breaks and pre-edited pieces!
- Travis is the GOAT, and thank goodness you don't overhype that fact. But, it would be a travesty to put him on the bench just to let some of the young guns have a shot at the title. One of the great things about the 3 years of NST is seeing if McMorris, Craven, or Bang (just to name a few) can take him down.
- The Duels format as an "extra" like in Y2 got me more excited. It seemed as a bonus feature the riders cut loose a bit more, and it was more fun to watch than as a first round of the tour, especially compared the the live webcast at Jackson Hole. I actually thought it was the logical step to take, Duels as the first round, but in hindsight I'd go back to a live webcast à la JH, maybe even with a round robin or leader board format then knockout quarters, semis, finals. I also felt that the Duels round 1 knockout was too weighted towards the returning riders, and producing 12 one-offs must be even harder than one set date & location live event.
- It would be great to see more non-Scandi Euros in the events, but I totally understand the reasoning in the earlier answers on why there aren't more Euro riders. As for Euro event locations, trying to score blower powder is almost impossible nowadays unless it's in a completely off the radar backcountry location. The only resorts with money and logistics are in Switzerland and Andorra, and FWT pretty much have those locked up. But you never know!
- I hate the pre-shaped kickers. If memory serves, there weren't any, or very few in Jackson Hole. Seeing pre-shaped hits in the duels was a total disappointment. Also, as a qualifier into the final two events, the Duels terrains were too eclectic to make things really "fair" for the last two stops. But with for a 24-rider, 3 event, invitational tour it's not the end of the world either.
- FWT v. NST: Two totally different beasts. Even when FWT fans bag on Spain and Andorra as locations, realistically the faces they're riding have bigger cliffs and greater exposure than most anything on the NST. I think they're complementary, not necessarily in competition with each other. I totally agree as well that since FWT has aligned with FIS for financial reasons NST should avoid any "collaboration" events. However, if FWT riders like Marion Haerty or Victor De Le Rue can crossover into NST, or NST riders like Travis taking a FWT wildcard into Japan a few years back, or riders that have done both successfully like Gigi Rüf that's awesome. It shows who are the truly all-round riders that can handle the gnar and the fun backcountry. NST skiing would be an awesome addition, but maybe as a separate tour.
- If you can afford to do it, AK should always be the final stop of the tour. FWT is focused on Verbier, its birthplace, but NST should claim AK. I totally understand the pre-produced events broadcasted "as live" afterwards, but it you could give us a true live broadcast from AK like you did from Jackson, then Liam, you too would become the GOAT of contest organizing.
- KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!!! NST IS AWESOME!!!
All the best, Dave