The accomplishments of Mark McMorris transcend far beyond the realms of snowboarding. His natural ability to rise to the occasion, his perseverance to overcome adversity and his extraordinary set of talents have cast the 27-year-old snowboarder as a Canadian sporting icon.
He’s won a record-setting 20 X Games medals, four US Open Championships and introduced a number of world-first tricks that have revolutionised the sport. Even today, a decade after taking the competitive snowboard scene by force, McMorris is still considered to be one of the most dangerous riders in any competition he enters.
From learning to snowboard in Canada’s flattest province to battling back from life-threatening injury to reclaim X Games gold, this is the story of his snowboarding career.
Join Mark McMorris and an all-star cast of Slopestyle and Big Air riders as they prepare for the 2022 competitive season in Chasing Winter.
The early days (1993-2011)
McMorris was born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, and strapped into his first snowboard at the age of five. It’s said that he and his brother Craig – both of whom were already hooked on skateboarding – refused to try skiing and were instead naturally drawn to snowboarding.
“From my first time strapping into a snowboard, it brought me the ultimate joy,” McMorris said. “But it wasn’t until I was seven, when I started spending more and more time hitting boxes and jumps at Mission Ridge, that I felt the presence of the snowboard community. I began rubbing shoulders with the older kids and it became all I wanted to do.”
He and his brother would frequently gather snow from hockey rinks and build jib setups in their backyard every autumn, as well as shred Regina’s yearly average 100cm snowfall at nearby Mission Ridge Winter Park. The 97.5m vertical drop wasn’t ideal, but like any Prairie kid, he made the most of it.
You try to perfect everything, work as hard as you can and hope to rise to the occasion
“As a kid I just really enjoyed sports, the ones that always stood out to me were the ones that weren't easily accessed," said McMorris. "I had so much passion for snowboarding that it didn't matter that I was from the flattest place in Canada, I was going to do it for the rest of my life.”
At the age of 11, McMorris was invited to join the Saskatchewan snowboard team, which facilitated monthly trips to the Canadian Rockies or the Canada Olympic Park in Calgary. Here, he had the opportunity to hit larger features, ride alongside skilled riders and dial in more progressive tricks. Just four years later, he turned professional and began his lengthy career with a World Cup Slopestyle win in 2010.
The dominant days (2011-2016)
This period for Mark McMorris was stacked with gold medals, world firsts and a near-perfect reign over the competitive snowboard scene.
In 2011, McMorris finished second in his inaugural X Games Slopestyle appearance behind fellow teen prodigy Sébastien Toutant. His textbook rail game, paired with his progressive trick selection over the jumps, foreshadowed what was to come. Later that year, he would explode into the mainstream after stomping the first-ever Backside Triple Cork 1440 at a TransWorld Snowboarding shoot in Snowmass, Colorado, USA.
“The jump was perfect, I was surrounded by friends, and it made for one of the most special days of my career thus far. It was an exciting time to set the bar in snowboarding,” McMorris added.
This momentum would follow him into the 2012 season and pave the way to double X Games gold in both Slopestyle and Big Air disciplines – a feat he would repeat in 2015. Beyond claiming top honours, McMorris pulled out his signature Backside Triple Cork 1440 for the first time in competition and subsequently set a new gold standard for Big Air progression.
“Seb [Toutant] and I definitely stepped onto the scene with a vengeance,” he explained. “We weren’t just happy to be there hanging alongside our heroes, because we knew we had the tricks to win.”
Trailblazing trickery from McMorris
- Landed the first-ever Backside Triple Cork 1440 in 2011
- Repeated the Backside Triple Cork 1440 for the first time in competition at X Games 2012
- Stomped the first-ever frontside Triple Cork 1440 at X Games 2015
- Landed the world first Double Cork off of a rail in 2018
Watch McMorris land a Front Board Backside Double Cork 1170 for the first time in the video below.
Mark McMorris lands a world-first trick
Now in a new echelon of snowboarding, McMorris was invited to test his skills on a backcountry Slopestyle course at Travis Rice’s Red Bull Supernatural event. But his descent down the 2,200 vertical feet [670m] of British Columbia powder was uncharacteristic. Despite an unfavourable performance, this exposure to backcountry riding ignited a desire and drive to expand his craft in the big mountains.
Returning to the perfectly groomed slopes of Aspen, McMorris would put together the highest-scoring run in X Games Slopestyle history in 2013 and would continue to occupy the podium for years to come.
The down days (2016-2018)
It’s 2016 and McMorris just captured his sixth X Games gold medal in Slopestyle and silver in Big Air. Now in downtown Los Angeles, he’s standing atop a 16-storey scaffolding jump set-up at Air + Style.
Straight lining down a 65ft [20m] drop-in, he throws a Frontside Triple Cork 1440, lands backseat, and catches his toe edge on the bumpy landing. The result is a snapped femur. He undergoes surgery and has a metal rod inserted into his leg.
“The accident was devastating,” explained McMorris. “But I knew that I had a deep bag of tricks at the time and was a little bit ahead of the field, so if I was to battle back, I’d still be able to hang at the top.”
McMorris would return to claim double X Games bronze less than a year later.
Though McMorris possessed an innate ability to rebound from serious injury and maintain dominance in an evolving field, his comeback story was halted by another setback. In early 2017, he suffered multiple life-threatening injuries – including a broken jaw, broken left arm, ruptured spleen, fractured pelvis, rib fractures, and collapsed left lung – after colliding with a tree while backcountry snowboarding near Whistler.
“The tree accident was a different story,” he added. “It was hard to imagine returning to the scene and standing atop the podium in an era where progression was moving so fast. At points, there was doubt in my mind that I would even return.
“But, I did it. Even after all of my rehab and recovery, I was able to represent Canada just eleven months later in PyeongChang, and in 2019, return to the X Games to win gold in Slopestyle and silver in Big Air.”
After everything that happened, I proved to myself that I was still capable of being one of the best
The modern days (2018-present)
Over a decade since winning his first X Games medal, McMorris still occupies the forefront of competitive snowboarding. His history of resiliency proves that he’s willing to do anything to achieve his goals. And today, his goals have trickled into the world of backcountry snowboarding
“I was always excited to ride any type of powdery snow in the Canadian Rockies as a kid,” McMorris said. “And ever since, I’ve put quite a bit of time each year into riding untracked runs in the mountains.”
In 2021, McMorris released standout footage in Burton’s One World and subsequently won the first stop of Travis Rice’s Natural Selection Tour in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA – proving to the world his legacy stretches far beyond the Slopestyle ranks.
“Competing in Natural Selection was a huge career highlight for me,” McMorris explained. “Right now, I’m balancing backcountry riding with competing, but someday, I’ll put more emphasis on it.”
Today, his sights are set on earning the only piece of Slopestyle and Big Air hardware missing from his trophy cabinet in 2022. But thanks to the global pandemic – which caused inconsistencies and event cancellations in the 2020/21 season – his ability to qualify rests on his performance at a few early-season events.
“The pressure has been doubled, even tripled going into this winter season,” McMorris explained. "You try to perfect everything, work as hard as you can and hope to rise to the occasion."
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