Who is Mark McMorris?
Name: Mark McMorris
Disciplines: Slopestyle, Big Air
2016/17 WST slopestyle ranking: 1st
2016/17 WST big air ranking: 2nd
- 2014 Olympic slopestyle bronze medalist
- 4-time X Games slopestyle gold medalist
- 3-time X Games big air gold medalist
- 3-time Burton U.S. Open slopestyle champion
Expected to be the odds-on favorite in slopestyle at the 2014 Olympics, McMorris broke a rib just a few weeks before the contest. The injury didn't seem to affect his performance much though, as he landed two different triples in his run during the final. It was a run that many, including McMorris himself, thought would be good enough for gold, but he ended up with just a bronze medal instead, finishing behind U.S. rider Sage Kotsenburg and Norway's Stale Sandbech.
McMorris has already locked up a spot on the stacked Canadian Olympic team but had a life-threatening crash while snowboarding in the backcountry in March 2017 and suffered a litany of injuries. He recently returned to the competition scene and so far, he has been picking up right where he left off. In PyeongChang, he's likely to be the favorite in slopestyle and will also be expected to earn a medal of some kind in big air, putting him in position to possibly win two gold medals. Between the two events, his biggest competition may come from Norwegian snowboarder Marcus Kleveland and Canadian teammate Max Parrot, though many other riders will be in the mix as well.
Potential Olympic records
With one medal already in his collection and two separate events coming up in PyeongChang, McMorris has a shot at leaving Korea as the most decorated male Olympic snowboarder ever. Currently, no male snowboarder has more than two medals. Vic Wild, Zan Kosir, Benjamin Karl (parallel giant slalom), Stale Sandbech (slopestyle/big air) and Shaun White (halfpipe) are the other leading contenders in this category. Like McMorris, any of them could run their tally up to three total medals.
A solid all-around slopestyle rider, McMorris is a master of triple corks who is also capable of getting technical in the rail sections. Casual fans will marvel at the magnitude and consistency of his backside triple cork 1440 (see the video below), while snowboard purists will appreciate his ability to spin a cab 270 hardway onto a rail. Both tricks have been seen frequently in his slopestyle runs over the years, and many of those runs have won contests. He's only getting better though: At one of the last contests of the 2016/17 season, McMorris upped the ante by unveiling a switch backside triple cork 1620 melon grab in one of his slopestyle runs for the first time. Compared with his usual backside triple cork 1440, this new variation features a switch takeoff, a blind landing, an extra half rotation and a more difficult grab. A big part of McMorris's continued success is the fact that he rarely ever falls during a run.
McMorris first tried snowboarding at age 5. But his hometown (Regina, the capital of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan) was flat, making it nearly impossible to ride there, and the good resorts in Alberta were a lengthy drive away. So he and his brother came up with a solution — they would build jumps in their yard using snow that they had shoveled out of parking lots and into a pickup truck.
In 2012, McMorris ushered in the era of the triple cork by becoming the first to land the trick in a contest. His backside triple cork 1440 in the X Games big air event won him a gold medal and set the new standard for the rest of the field.
McMorris has remained the most consistent slopestyle rider, dominating numerous contests and winning three consecutive World Snowboard Tour titles (and four of the last five) in the discipline. He's also bagged quite a few medals in big air, though his compatriot Max Parrot has traditionally ranked ahead of him in the WST standings. It hasn't been without injury though: McMorris broke his femur in February 2016 and then had a terrifying backcountry crash just over a year later.
2016/17 season recap
It was more or less a typical competition season for McMorris, who landed on the podium at nearly every contest he entered and had several notable victories, including big air at X Games Norway and slopestyle at the Burton U.S. Open, en route to another WST slopestyle championship. But his season will be most remembered for what happened outside of competition. While filming with his brother and friends in the Canadian backcountry In March, McMorris went off a jump and hit a tree. The crash left him with a long list of injuries: broken jaw, broken left arm, ruptured spleen, stable pelvic fracture, rib fractures and a collapsed left lung. Because they were in the backcountry, it took nearly two hours for the helicopter to arrive and airlift him away from the scene. McMorris, who was conscious throughout the painful waiting period and said that he "almost died" as a result of the crash, had emergency surgery in Vancouver then started his rehab.
He returned to competition eight months later and won the very first contest he entered.
Off the snow
Had he not become a professional snowboarder, McMorris just might have had a career in wakeboarding. He was a talented wakeboarder as a kid and used to do competitions before dedicating himself to snowboarding. McMorris also enjoys other board sports, including skateboarding and surfing, and playing hockey.