The first time I met snowboarder Travis Rice, he was perhaps a freshman in high school. It was a holiday party. My boyfriend at the time worked for a contracting company Travis’ mom had some connection to (my memory is a bit fuzzy about that). It was that company’s Christmas party.
Last week I sat down with Travis — now 29 and recently named one of National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year and Snowboarder Magazine’s 2011 Rider of the Year — in plush chairs front of a cozy gas fireplace at Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole.
To say Travis has grown up is an understatement. Unlike many professional athletes, Travis has parleyed his athletic abilities into something larger. Or rather, somethings larger. He co-produces films, dreams up and then organizes competitions, co-founded an online art gallery where artists that do work for snowboards, skateboards, and surfboards can exhibit and sell their stuff, and has even done a bit of writing. The latter was the narration for his latest movie, The Art of Flight, which was released in September 2011.
Amid all of this other stuff, Travis continues to push the boundaries of snowboarding. His style, honed at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, where his father was a ski patroller, is constantly evolving. “I can see the future and the future is now. It is Travis Rice,” said another professional snowboarder. Rice takes moves — flips, spins, twists, corks — most often seen in half-pipes and does them in big mountains, where a fall won’t mean only serious injury, but possible death.
I’m a skier myself, but the 18-minutes Wyoming Chronicle had to talk with Travis wasn’t nearly enough for me. I was able to ask him about how he deals with the possible heavy consequences of his interpretation of his sport, but didn’t have the time to get into how exactly it is he comes to have the confidence to spin 1260 degrees — that’s three-and-a-half revolutions as he’s flying over 100+ feet of ground. Does he practice on a trampoline first? Or maybe he practices landing in a pool full of foam? And what’s with not wearing a helmet? Fingers crossed I’ll see Travis again in the near future and be able to ask him these questions. Until then, I’m going to keep watching the clip of him from The Art of Flight soaring high over a giant crevasse in Alaska’s Trujillo Mountains. I’ll try to pick my jaw up off the ground.