Born in Wyoming in 1982, Rice took to skiing and youth hockey, like everyone else in the state. He eventually switched to snowboarding, but the teenager didn’t consider engaging in serious competition until a road trip offered him his first taste of a pristine park and pipe. “I was enlightened,” he nods.
Rice finished high school just as the 2000/01 season was getting hot. He immediately started competing and building experience, but nothing came together until he earned a slot in Snowboarder Magazine’s high-profile Superpark competition. The newbie came away with the MVP award (and ultimately, Snowboarder’s Rookie of the Year.) Realizing that he could hang with the best, Rice was on a tear.
The following season, the young athlete snagged one of the last spots into the Winter X Games and announced his arrival by taking gold in Slopestyle. He took first in the Grand Prix Big Air competition and captured a Quarterpipe Championship and Most Outstanding Rider honors at the U.S. Open. He bolstered his backcountry cred, nailing the gargantuan Chad’s Gap in Utah, and repeated as Snowboarder Superpark MVP.
By the 2002/03 season, Rice had an itinerary that bordered on the surreal: New Zealand, Switzerland, the French Alps, Mammoth, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Reno, Park City, Aspen, Vail, Japan (again), Vermont, Boston, Canada, Alaska, and Scandinavia. He added to his medal collection along the way: first place in Big Air at the Tokyo Dome, second at the Japan Slopestyle, first at The Session’s Rail Jam in Vail, first in Jib Jam, third in Slopestyle at the U.S. Open, and first in Quarterpipe at The Arctic Challenge. A three-peat Snowboarder Superpark MVP was almost a foregone conclusion.
The 2003/04 season was similar, including a repeat at The Arctic Challenge, first place and best trick at the Boost Mobile Pro, seconds at the U.S. Open Slopestyle, the U.S. Open Rail Jam, the Nissan X-Trail Jam in Tokyo, and the Nor-Am Cup halfpipe in Breckenridge.
Rice wanted to make a snowboard film that represents the perspective of the riders, without the constraints of sponsor agendas. “I was absolutely involved in every aspect,” he asserts. “From the scripting and shooting to the packaging and the book that goes along with it.” As the project evolved, Oakley and Red Bull offered to help out with financing while ceding creative control to Rice and his team. Since the film’s release in September 2005, Rice has been overwhelmed by positive feedback – so much so that he’s ready to do it again. “If you asked me earlier, I would have said, ‘Hell no!’” he laughs. “But now we’ve regrouped to do something serious – something really awesome.”
Rice accomplished all his 2006/07 season goals before it began, winning three early season events. He boosted a huge, clean backside 720 to take the Icer Air in San Francisco, set the sport on its ear with a double backflip, backside 180 at Munich Germany’s Air & Style, and capped off December with a frontside, double cork 180 at Japan’s Tokyo Dome.
“I’m into the peer judged events. They have the legends of snowboarding judging, rather than some guys who are reading right from the FIS book about degree of difficulty. When you have snowboarders judging snowboarding, they score you on what they know to be hard moves to land,” he explains, “And I’m just so stoked on those wins. I’ll do a couple more contests this season, but getting heavy powder tree runs is my first priority.” He’s also been bitten pretty hard by the surf bug, and is looking to search for waves as well.
The Community Project was groundbreaking in the world of action sports films. Yet, having already begun to collect footage in New Zealand, Rice and his crew are looking to raise the bar even higher, taking two full seasons for the new film.
“To try to make a movie to the current standard in a single year would be too stressful. It defeats the purpose of the enjoyment of getting to travel and film,” he explains.
Ultimately, though, what makes Rice such a standout is how much he obviously loves what he’s doing. You get the feeling that even without the adulation, endorsements and the trophies, he’d still be out there, carving new lines and looking for epic jumps. Maybe it’s his easy confidence, or maybe he’s simply too jet-lagged to play the rockstar, but Travis Rice seems to be the complete package, minus supersized hang-ups. “I’ll tell you what,” Rice says, “I still live in Jackson. If I act out and my buddies hear about it, I’m never gonna live it down.”