Watching Travis Rice walk across the red carpet in front of thousands of fans at The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles felt normal. Travis Rice is a movie star. He has been for over a decade now. He’s been at it long enough that Zach Leach and Tyler Lepore were among the main support in his first film, The Community Project. Travis is the best at what he does, and any current snowboarder who rivals his prowess shows up in The Fourth Phase—Pat Moore, Eric Jackson, Bode Merrill, Jeremy Jones, with riders like Ben Ferguson, Cam Fitzpatrick, and Victor De Le Rue representing the future.
Everything about the film’s opening makes sense. It is set in the backcountry surrounding Jackson, Wyoming, on Travis’ home turf. The heavy track from The Sword playing while Travis prunes treetops with his snowboard—like he’s done so well in movies prior—is a clear nod to this segment’s co-star, Pat Moore. The metalhead from New Hampshire who was introduced as an up-and-comer in The Community Project, and appeared in each Rice movie since, has formed a brother-like relationship with Travis. Alongside Rice and Moore are three other riders representing the intersecting pinnacle of versatility, board control, leg strength, and controlled chaos: Bode Merrill, Ben Ferguson, and Cam Fitzpatrick. The opening segment closes as godfather of the Jackson backcountry Bryan Iguchi looks on, commenting on Travis: “Business as usual, man. Blowing my mind since the first time we went out and hit a jump.”
It wasn’t until this point during the film’s premiere that we noticed renowned Japanese producer Kishi Bashi, the man who scored the film, playing violin live, stage-left of the screen. Not something you see at a Videograss premiere.
The plot of the film is this: H2O molecules travel around the globe, shifting phases between solid, liquid, gas, and somewhere within to a fourth phase discovered by scientist Gerald Pollack—who has become a personal friend of Travis and was at the premiere. Travis became intrigued, maybe even obsessed, with this cycle and decided to follow it around the world, snowboarding, surfing and sailing.
While filleting a fresh-caught tuna on his boat, the Falcor, Travis explains that he’s not able to live life on land with the same discipline as that which he cultivates at sea. It is apparent that sailing is what maintains the sanity of the man responsible for perhaps the most insane snowboarding that’s ever occurred.
As Travis follows the water cycle to Japan, two new characters and one familiar are introduced. Mikkel Bang and Shin Biyajima join Rice and Mark Landvik to display what is by almost any measurement the most outstanding Japanese tree riding ever documented. No one may have ever planted an andrecht as perfectly as a particular one from Travis in this section. Mikkel’s loose, confident style shines in these misty woods, emphasized with a flawless back seven through two trunks, and Lando’s powerful prowess honed in dense Northwest forests is present in this segment as well.
The portion of the film taking place on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula contains less action than any other, punctuating the idea that The Fourth Phase is truly a location-based movie. During the filming of Rice’s previous movies the crew would have more quickly migrated to snowier pastures, but Travis’ infatuation with this water cycle meant the crew was going to post up in a given locale and ride it out, even if that meant not riding. It’s refreshing to see the struggle acknowledged.
Eric Jackson shows up in Russia, but Alaska is where he all but steals the show. Mark Landvik decides to bail on sketchy conditions in AK and sort personal issues at home, leaving much of the Alaskan riding in the film to two dudes—a side-by-side comparison of Eric and Travis, and if anyone can hold their own with Rice on hairball spines and unfathomable descents, it’s E-Jack. The guy’s lost two major sponsors in the last year, often indicative of a rider slipping. E-Jack has not slipped. Lando’s leaving is made awkward by a line from Travis: “One part of me is disappointed that a partner can’t meet me where I’m at, and the other part is compassion.” It’s hard to tell if it’s just Travis being real or if it was added for Hollywood-style drama.
Eventually, Victor De Le Rue syncs up in AK, lays one out off a cornice, then proceeds to demonstrate what the future of big mountain riding looks like. The guy does everything pinned, full-throttle.
A moment that may be the most horrifying occurrence documented in a snowboard movie caused a momentary questioning as to whether the protagonist was alive, until you remembered he was on stage a half hour prior. Following this grisly incident, Travis peels himself from the snow with a series of gut-wrenching grunts, which elicited a shout from one enthusiastic fan on the hand for the premiere: “HE’S A GODDD!”
Is the action in The Fourth Phase as preposterous as its predecessor, The Art of Flight? Yes. Is there as much of it as films prior? Probably not. Each Rice movie—The Community Project, That’s It, That’s All, and The Art of Flight—has had a narrative element to it, but this time the story rises further to the top. The down days and logistical hurdles, which are a reality for every big mountain snowboarder, are embraced in a cinematic sense.
The film wraps as aptly as it begins. Everyone loves a homecoming, and something about Travis being in Jackson, sending wedges with a crew is comforting. As the movie comes to a close and Travis skins off into the sunset it causes one to wonder what’s next for the guy who’s done everything. Where does Travis go from here? After this premiere tour he’ll likely take some time on the Falcor to figure that out.
Source with more pictures at Transworld Snowboarding