You know you travel a lot when one of your favorite places to “visit” is your own home. Pro snowboarder Mark McMorris is traveling for contests and other events so often that he is never at his house outside of San Diego, California, for more than a couple weeks at a stretch. But McMorris’s journeys have been fruitful. He won a bronze medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, when the slopestyle event made its debut at the Games. He has also won 13 medals at the Winter X Games, including two bronzes in 2017 where he competed a little over a year after breaking his femur.
McMorris’s style and determination is a big reason why he is a favorite at this week’s US Open in Vail, Colorado, the finals of which will air on Red Bull TV on March 3 and 4 starting at 10am PST. Before McMorris dropped in on the slopes in Vail, we spoke with him about his favorite mountains, travel tips and his plans for the 2018 Olympics.
What is your favorite part about competing in the US Open?
I think it’s the fact that it’s an event for snowboarders by snowboarders. I’ve had a lot of success here. And it’s always good people and good times off and on snow. The first time I competed in the Open, I was 14. I’m 23 now.
The only way to watch the Open used to be going to watch it in person in Vermont. What is it like now that it is webcast live?
The really cool thing about this event is that it’s webcast so well. Everybody around the world can watch on RedBull TV. It doesn’t matter where you are, you’ll be able to see every piece of the action. Last year I had a broken femur and was at home in Cali and I watched it on my TV. I really enjoyed staying tuned throughout the whole event.
What are some under-the-radar spots that you like to check out when you’re in Vail?
The one that I love the most would be Alpenrose. It’s a friend’s Austrian restaurant. They’ve got great food and bartenders and pastries. The first year [the US Open] moved to Vail, my agent is from Colorado and is good friends with the owner. They would always take me out riding and show us where the powder was. We’d always end up going back to their restaurant after. I also really like Bol, but a lot of people know about that spot.
How many days a year do you think you spend traveling?
Probably like 300 almost. Maybe a little less. I’m maybe at home for two months throughout the whole year. I don’t think I’ve ever been at my house longer than two weeks. It’s good to change up locations.
What are some of the travel tips that you’ve picked over the years?
Never bring as much clothing as you think you need. You’re always going to overpack. You never need as much as you think. Then don’t panic in the airport. I hate when people are freaking out at flight attendants or people at the desk. At the end of the day they’re not the ones making the call. I find that if you’re just mellow when you travel, everything goes a bit better.
What gear do you always travel with?
Definitely a boot dryer helps out a lot. I bring a lot of extra boards, and a backup toothbrush because you’re always going to lose one on the way. I also like the Skullcandy Method Wireless headphones. They’re nice because you can ride with them and you don’t have a cable jerking down on your jacket and pulling the headphones out of your ear. When you’re working out, they’ve got a tapered thing that goes around your neck. So you can be doing crazy movements and they won’t fall off.
What kind of training do you during the snowboard season?
It’s a lot of maintenance during the season and keeping the strength up so I don’t get beat up. A lot of the training is obviously leg-based and [focused on the] mechanics of how to absorb load and pop higher. Most people would be surprised by the amount of effort and time people put in the gym as snowboarders. You wouldn’t have too much longevity at the level where the sport is at if you didn’t do any gym work.
Given how far snowboarding has progressed, how do you psyche yourself up to try these tricks where the results of getting them wrong can be really bad?
It’s one of those things where you should never try anything unless you feel like you’ve got it. You’re going to take some slams, but the more time you spend in the gym, the less injury-prone you become, the harder hits you can potentially take. When I first got into X Games, it was all 900s and 1080s. Now people are shooting for the stars, trying quadrupole [spins]. I’m not too happy about the amount of quad corking going on. But whatever, it’s the way progression goes. I’ll deal with it as it comes and keep trying to win contests. Usually, I try to do whatever it takes.
What are some of your other favorite mountain towns to visit?
Another one that’s high on the list is Aspen. I really enjoy being there. There’s a resort in Switzerland called Laax. It’s a really fun resort with a cool little village. In North America, I really love being in Vail, Whistler and Aspen. Interior British Columbia is really fun too. There’s a really great resort called Revelstoke that I like going to.
How are you getting ready for the 2018 Olympics in Korea and what are your goals?
I’m just getting ready by snowboarding a lot and trying to earn my spot on the team. I’m not changing much because it seemed to work pretty good in the past. My expectations are to go and get some medals.
How excited are you for the addition of the big air event to the Olympics?
I am pretty dang excited. It gives you two shots to do well at the Games. Last time, [slopestyle] was one of the first days of the Olympics. I ended up winning a medal so I pretty much had to go straight back to Canada for media. But this time we open up with slopestyle and then big air kind of closes them. It’ll be cool to be at the Olympics throughout the Games. It’s also going to be really cool to have a shot at winning a couple medals.