Snowboard Iskola

The first-ever Research and Development, the brainchild of backcountry trailblazer Robin Van Gyn, just wrapped up at Whitewater Ski Resort in British Columbia.

Robin created the event to open up more opportunity for women riders in the backcountry, a historically challenging arena to enter due to a variety of factors, including resources, cost, necessary education, and access to trips and mentors. 

R&D sought to eliminate as many of the barriers as possible and bring together women ready to sink their teeth into backcountry terrain in a big way. 

The contest ran on Monday and last night, the future of backcountry riding was on full display at the awards ceremony.

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Fourteen riders were invited to compete, though the event encompassed so much more than just the contest day. For nearly a week, the crew linked up with Robin, Hana Beaman, Leanne Pelosi, and Marie-France Roy (all-star mentors along with a few others), as well as an accomplished grip of filmers and photographers. They spent time ripping Whitewater and learning from one another, the group representing multiple generations of riders who are currently propelling the status quo of snowboarding to new heights.

On Monday, go day for the competition, @rndsearch broadcast the whole contest via Instagram live, the camaraderie and collaboration highlighted in addition to the ripping riding.

Hana, Leanne, Marie, and Maria Thomsen had the exceedingly difficult job of judging everyone's runs and last night, the results were announced.

A slew of rad riding awards were announced first (full list below) and then it was time for the podium.

Stefi Luxton came in third. Estelle Pensiero earned second. Truckee, California local and Jones Snowboards rider Ellery Manning took the overall win, earning an invite to compete in the 2025 Natural Selection Tour.

When announcing Ellery as the R&D winner, Robin referenced something that Shin Campos, who helped Robin with the event, said to her in describing the possible champion. "It should be somebody who rides with authority," she recalled. Continued Robin, "[Ellery] rode the face faster than anyone in the contest."

For Ellery, who's currently a senior in high school, this is a heck of an introduction to the greater snowboard world (though she's been gaining notoriety in the Sierra while competing on her high school team and the Junior Freeride World Tour). And it's proof positive of the rising tide of women snowboarders in the backcountry.

In addition to her NST 2025 invite, Ellery won an oversized check for $2500. Estelle, another rising backcountry rider, won $1500, and Stefi, whose backcountry prowess is loaded with style and grace, earned $1000.

Here is a full list of the additional awards:

The Combo Award - Madison Blackley (The award for the best combination of freestyle and freeride. Madison won a trip to Baldface for Risk Maturity.)

Foot on the Gas Award - Katie Kennedy ("We respect the send," said Robin. Katie won a Yeti chair, dubbed an "air chair," and a trip to attend She Shreds snowmobile clinic.)

Best Trick - Telma Särkipaju (The Finnish rider a stomped--and we quote--a phat backflip in her first major backcountry experience.)

Mountain Goat - Mia Jones (Robin explained, "[Mia] got down one of the gnarliest lines of the whole face. I didn't think that'd be rideable. She totally rode it with style and grace.)

Gnar Award - Zoë Vernon (She opened up one of the gnarliest parts of the face, Oreo.

Stay tuned to @rndsearch on Instagram as more photos and videos are released. We are grateful to Robin and the entire R&D crew for bringing to light the riders and the riding. We can't wait to watch what everyone does next.

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