"Setting The Course With Dustin Craven" - An Interview With The Man Behind The Yeti Natural Selection Revelstoke Venue



Ultimately the mission of the Natural Selection Tour is to create a platform that highlights the talent and skill it takes to tackle the unbridled terrain of the backcountry. While there are no manicured takeoffs, groomed landings, or fresh-cut transitions on the Natural Selection Tour, this isn’t to say that the zones where the competitions take place haven’t benefitted from manmade enhancements. For the 2024 YETI Natural Selection at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, BC Travis Rice, who was very hands-on with creating previous venues in Jackson Hole, WY and at Baldface Lodge in Nelson, BC, has passed the reigns of course creation to NST veteran and Revelstoke local Dustin Craven. 

Like Sage Kotsenberg, Elena Hight, Mark McMorris and other Natural Selection senders Dustin Craven cemented his place within snowboarding’s professional pantheon as a top-tier slopestyle and halfpipe competitor before segueing his career to focusing on filming. With standout segments in Capita’s Defenders of Awesome, Union’s Stronger , Transworld’s Kamikazu and his self-produced Oh Boy and Oh Man videos Craven’s exploits in front of the camera have been highlighted by endless pillow descents and death-defying drops. This pedigree and his proximity to the 2024 Yeti Natural Selection Revelstoke venue made him an ideal workhorse for manicuring the mountain where the upcoming event will take place. After spending the off-season with shovel, axe and chainsaw in hand, Dustin and his colleagues have erected a Natural Selection venue for the ages, with the rest of the work left up to Mother Nature. Slush caught up with the rider widely regarded at the Natural Selection Tours “people’s champ” to get the ultimate insider’s perspective on what this new course has to offer. - Pat Bridges


 How did it come about that you were able to manifest the unfair advantage of building your own Natural Selection Tour course?
I heard that they were going to start building on Revelstoke at the end of last season. I kind of put the idea of my helping build in her ear of Nicola Dechamps from the Natural Selection Tour. I was like, "Hey, you'll probably be in on the meetings, you should really push for me to be on the build team." Then Travis asked me if I wanted to do it. At that point, I was a window washer in Revelstoke, so it was nice to put down the squeegee and pick up the chainsaw.

 Was there an underlying strategy or technique that you employed when laying out the course?
I guess just standing on it in the Summer. Being scared looking at something in the Summer gets you ready to be scared in the winter. 

Is there anything that you baked into the course that when the competitors get the chance to scope the zone they aren't going to notice right away?
Not really. I just put a lot of Travis traps up there.


When you look at the field who do you think is going to have the best time and the worst time navigating the course?

I think Mikkel, Nils, and Travis are all going to have a pretty good time. I don't know if I want to say who I think is going to have a bad time. I think the course is almost evenly suited to everyone. It has freestyle elements like Jackson, but also has some big lines like Boulder Park had last year. The lines are set up where you could do a set up trick and then hit a big cliff line. Or you could go down one way with four jumps that all accommodate spins and bigger tricks.

Since you had the ability to build the course and in turn get an unfair advantage were you tempted at all to put a halfpipe in the middle of the run? 

I actually was trying to pitch the idea of a quarter-pipe at the bottom.

Was there any thought of putting a Caesar bar mid-slope?

Well, if we did Mikkel would definitely pull up.

Looking back on your efforts what was the hardest aspect of being involved in the Revelstoke course build?

It's stressful because you're trying to accommodate everyone and so many different riding styles. I don't want it to be unfair for one type of rider. It's super stressful thinking about it because there are so many lines, but not knowing if any one of those lines are going to work out is what keeps me up at night.

  Were you familiar with the slope before the build?
I had never been there in the winter. The first time I went out there was on Canada Day with Rick Ross and Travis Rice, and we flagged it. That was the first time I'd ever stepped foot on it. When we went to dinner that night, Travis was thinking that maybe the slope was going to be too intense. I was like, "No, I think we got this." After getting rid of most of the trees, you could see that the slope actually wasn't quite as gnarly as we had originally thought.

How do you go about laying out the course and setting the features in the Summer without knowing what the snowpack will be like once it starts getting blanketed?
Usually, our average snowpack in Revelstoke is six to eight feet in March, so just kind of going by that. We were like, "Okay, if all the features are head high with no snow, then they shouldn't be sticking out like crazy come winter." The idea was for the terrain to fill in so that it almost looks like natural pillows and not giant mountain bike jump platforms. But even going out there now and looking at the photos and stuff, it's like you can see "Oh, that's actually a landing." Or “that's not a landing." This year is about getting people out there and riding the course and then in the future we’ll adjust and keep adding new features that accent what worked well and improve what didn't. It’s kind of like playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

 Having done it himself a few times did Travis have any advice for you regarding course design and building?
Yes. Not everything has to be death-defying. Travis was super supportive of making everything flow. He kind of took a backseat and let it happen. If I had any questions, he would just answer them and be super supportive. 

 Is there anything that you wanted to incorporate into the course that you didn't get a chance to?
Not really. At one point my best friend and I were up there working, and Gabe Ferguson texted "Put a pole jam in the course." We were like, "Okay, we'll make that happen." So at the top of the course, there's a giant pole jam off the top of the ridge. I think it’s pretty cool that we actually made that happen.

 Can you tell us any features or aspects of the venue that you think will separate the field?
There are 40 platforms incorporated into the slope. I think what's really going to distinguish the best riders are actually the natural features. Some of the best riders are going to be the ones that maybe go around the platforms and find opportunities to go big off the things that weren't manmade.

 Make no mistake, I’m sure you want to win but you also have to be looking forward to seeing the fruits of your labor being put to the test by your peers. 
Yeah, I think that'll just be so incredible. There's so much stuff up there that I see through my eyes, but watching some of my favorite snowboarders come down, I’m looking forward to being like, "Oh, I didn't even see that." It will be such a unique experience. And I mean, those trees aren't going to decompose for 60 to 80 years up there, so I'll always have played a part in a little piece of snowboard history.

 Can you let us know who else joined you in making the Yeti Natural Select Revelstoke course come together?
Mateo Messetti, Charles White, Seb Grondin, Jasper, Chris Spicer, Phil Garneau, Rick Ross, and Chris Ford. 

 Is there anything that you want to touch on that I didn't touch on?
No, just don't make me look like an asshole.

No problem. I’ll just leave that up to you. 


Twenty-four of the world's best snowboarders will convene in Revelstoke March 10-17, 2024 to go head-to-head in the backcountry over two days for the Naturals Selection title. Stay tuned!