When Mark McMorris collected his gold medal in Slopestyle at X Games Aspen two weeks ago, he also punched his ticket to Red Bull Ultra Natural, the most-challenging all-mountain snowboard contest, which is limited to 16 invitees.
“He's such a strong and really cool kid -- super humble,” said Rice about McMorris. “In the last three years he's ridden himself into stardom. It's kind of him and the Shaun White show these days at X Games and the Dew Tours and the contest circuit that's going around. He qualified to ride last year and struggled on the course but had a really incredible week. I think he was really inspired.”
Just before McMorris left for Baldface Lodge in Nelson, British Columbia, the site of Red Bull Ultra Natural, he spoke to RedBullUSA.com about his expectations, what he really thinks about Shaun White and co-founding a web startup.
RedBullUSA.com: What are your thoughts about Ultra Natural?
Mark McMorris: Thoughts are good. I've been excited. I've been on a whirlwind of contests, so I'm excited to get to the lodge and chill out with my friends and ride the powder. I'm not really going there stressing, like when I'm going to the X Games. I'm just going to chill out. I don't get to ride powder every day, like those guys, so I'm going to enjoy it.
RedBullUSA.com: What's the vibe like up there?
Mark McMorris: The vibe's awesome. I've seen those guys a bunch. I get along with everyone really well. It's like a big snowboard reunion. Torstein [Horgmo] is going this year, and he's a really good friend. I’m really good friends with Terje.
RedBullUSA.com: Even though there's a big generation gap?
Mark McMorris: We click so well because of the generation gap. I grew up watching him. He was such a cool dude. He represented snowboarding really well. Obviously, we're on Burton together. For 'Standing Sideways' (2011), we were on the premiere tour together and had a lot of fun. I've been on trips with him. I went to Hawaii with him and hung out.
RedBullUSA.com: What's it like going from X Games to powder?
Mark McMorris: It's 100 percent different. Travis, all he does is ride that terrain, and I ride it once a year. I love it and I want to ride it more but I can't do it for a couple of years.
RedBullUSA.com: Obviously, your contest career is taking off -- this year, it seems, more than ever. Travis even mentioned that it's like the 'Mark McMorris and Shaun White Show' these days. Have you felt that increased spotlight?
Mark McMorris: For sure you notice it. You notice your profile getting bigger and ESPN setting me up as a battle against Shaun at the X Games -- a lot of people wanted to see it. When I won Slopestyle at X Games, I had a lot of weight off my shoulders. I had fun... I'm growing for the better. I snowboard for the reasons I snowboard for, but I'm doing the best [I can], and I just put the other stuff to the side. Some of the pressure actually makes me want [to win] more.
RedBullUSA.com: Was Red Bull Ultra Natural also a motivation?
Mark McMorris: A lot of people were asking me, “Are you going back? Are you going back?” It wasn't until I won the gold. Obviously, I was focusing on the gold and riding the way I do. I was so psyched when I landed my third run... One of the thoughts was, “I get to go back to Ultra Natural.”
"You need to hang out and watch and understand. It's cool to stand back and watch Nicholas Müller and Travis and Terje and Gigi fly down that mountain."
RedBullUSA.com: What was your experience last year?
Mark McMorris: It was a lot of fun. It was different than a lot of contests. They show you a really good time. There aren't any agents or team managers telling me what to do. Riding the lines you want.
RedBullUSA.com: Have any of the more experienced riders given you advice?
Mark McMorris: It's weird when you talk to someone about that stuff. You need to hang out and watch and understand. It's cool to stand back and watch Nicolas Müller and Travis and Terje and Gigi [Rüf] fly down that mountain.
RedBullUSA.com: Finally, tell me about Shred Bots. I love the site. It's great that it's open to anyone.
Mark McMorris: Shred Bots... I'm really excited about it. It's been doing so so well. It was an idea me and Torstein and my brother Craig had, and we got Eero Ettala on it. The kids would be a part of it, and develop a community and they could post on the home page. The amount of traffic is through the roof. It's crazy. I've heard a lot of good feedback about it. If you watch our careers, we've been really into the web. These days, we're so busy we can't film a full part, especially with my contest schedule. But I can put out a quick video, and more people watch our shit. I love filming. I want to film full video parts because that's the history of snowboarding, but I also want to put out these edits. Part of it is putting out videos with my friends.
Red Bull Ultra Natural runs from February 15-21. It will air on NBC as part of the Red Bull Signature Series on March 30 at 1:30 p.m. ET / 10:30 a.m. PT.
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