Few snowboarders have become household names. Three-time Olympic medalist and 21-time X-Games medalist Mark McMorris is probably closest in Canada.
We caught up with McMorris in Whistler, British Columbia, as he prepares to travel to his native Saskatchewan for the first race of the Burton Mystery Series, a global snowboarding show, It will also facilitate the financing and installation of the world-class terrain park at Optimist Hill, a ski resort in Saskatoon.
He talks about how snowboarding is both fun and work, how he takes care of his body through healthy eating and rest days, and how learning to surf as an adult has been a humbling experience.
For many people, snowboarding is a great way to get away from work. It’s work for you. Was there a time when you didn’t feel like you were working while you were riding?
Anytime I’m snowboarding it doesn’t feel like I’m working. This is exactly what I like to do. Sometimes if you’re in a race and the weather is bad, or you’re trying to run, you can get really frustrated and it can get annoying, but if you step back and look at the big picture, I Getting paid to do it is what I wanted as a kid, it was a dream job. So I don’t get depressed as often.
What do you do when you need time off the board?
I chase winter almost every month of the year, so when I’m away, I like to go to a place that doesn’t have snow and get myself completely away from the sport, which usually means getting on my skateboard. I also have a place in California where I spend a lot of time – I love surfing. Starting surfing as an adult is very tough and humbling, and it’s a really great experience.
What you’re talking about not working is pretty much physical activity. Is there anything you feel you need to do to not move?
I definitely prefer when I can move my body, I find that to be the most calming and helpful for me. I definitely found other ways to keep myself busy and out of trouble, like figuring out what I wanted to achieve. I also really enjoy editing footage and making stuff on my computer and phone, and working with my team to come up with ideas. I definitely try to be heavily involved in all my partnerships, designing clothes, skateboards and goggles, doing campaigns, selling myself, you know.
Today, snowboarding sports run the gamut from racing to backcountry riding. What kind of riding feels best right now?
It feels best to be in the best conditions: sunny, snowy, and I’m with my friends. It’s like the ultimate experience, riding in the backcountry and in top-notch conditions. Not many are over the top these days. But I mean, if you race and you ride really well and do really well, the satisfaction is also amazing. I like the feeling of knowing that I did my best and that I was born. I’ve been working on this for over a decade. I know that feeling, I know it’s great, and I’m still looking for it.
I think most people think of drinking lots of beer and eating greasy food when they think of snowboarding. I’m assuming that’s not you as best performer?
Yes, being a snowboarder has definitely changed a lot these days. You must be an athlete. To be sure, partying and having fun is still part of some aspects of the culture, but it has changed a lot and if you want to be at the top of your game, you have to treat yourself like an athlete. For me, a day of racing isn’t burgers and beer, it’s laying around watching TV. I think the stigma surrounding snowboarders needs to change because yes, we are still a super unique community, there is a lot of self-expression in this sport, and everyone is different. But I think taking care of your body is cooler than ever.
So when you’re picking your battles, if you let go of a meal, what are you eating?
I love sweet potato fries.
what! Sweet Potato Fries are a healthy choice.
Ha, well, I just love fried food when I want to let go. But I mean, I’m not the pinnacle either.I don’t eat salad everyday but I’m getting better and I’m getting older so I have to get better
You spent a lot of time recovering from some pretty brutal injuries and then had an amazing comeback to earn a bronze medal in slopestyle at the 2018 Winter Olympics. What did you learn during that forced break?
I learned that I really like snowboarding. I did learn that I can’t take it for granted, I’m not invincible, and I have to take it all with a grain of salt. If you haven’t been injured for a long time, at some point you’ll start to feel almost invulnerable. Two seasons in a row the thing I loved was taken away, broke my femur and then hit a tree the next year it was tricky but it’s a good time to get to know yourself and get to know what you really are Love.
A lot of people will ask why do you keep doing this? And, it really is the thing that makes me the happiest. Obviously, I’m skiing for myself first, but being able to be a positive role model or inspire someone or help someone recover is pretty neat.
What would you like to be back in Saskatchewan?
It’s always fun to meet up with friends and family, and now it feels special to be able to bring something as massive as the mystery series to my hometown. We’ve been raising money for Optimist Hill in Saskatoon since 2016 and now we’ve put a magic carpet there, kids who live in the city don’t want to drive hours to a resort and spend that much money Money can go skiing after school. So it’s a really convenient and affordable way to ski everyday. It was very special for us to be able to come out there and host the Mystery Series in my home province.
Did you start riding in Saskatchewan?
I’m from Regina and I grew up on a very, very small hill. But that’s it, I always try to make it clear to you that you don’t really need big slopes to learn the basics and be a good snowboarder. At the end of the day, what we all want to do is share the joy of snowboarding with people who don’t know snowboarding yet.