Max Parrot doesn’t play it safe—he likes to go big.
In slopestyle qualifications for 2015 Burton U.S. Open in early March in Vail, Colo., Parrot could have avoided any risks with a simple double cork—two distinct, sideways rotations. Instead, he threw caution to the wind and tried to launch himself into the top spot in the final by attempting a triple cork.
“A double cork would have gotten me sixth of seventh place out of ten finalists, but if you qualify in the top spot, you drop last in the finals and you can see what others do,” says Parrot. “That gives you a chance to see what everyone does and tailor your run to what win earn the best score.”
He put a hand down in his attempt for a triple on the final jump of his last run, which put him in 12th position out of ten available spots in the final.
“The double cork would probably have been a little wiser,” Parrot says, looking back on his decision. “It’s strategy—I had to make a choice.”
Parrot is a classic example of the technologically inclined “spin-to-win” rider. His ridiculous talent allows him to adapt to any jump he has to compete on. The largest jumps that allow him to throw his biggest tricks are rarer than the smaller jumps, where Parrot has to restrain the natural urge to go as big as he can with his trick choices.
“X Games is pretty unique. It’s the only time of year that we see a big air jump like that,” says Parrot about the 80-foot Big Air jump featured on Aspen’s Buttermilk Mountain. “Unfortunately, I’m not able to do the things that I try there in any other competition.”
Parrot came into the 2015 Winter X Games as the defending Big Air champion. He was dethroned by Mark McMorris, but won the silver medal throwing down tricks that he’d never successfully landed before, like a cab triple cork 1440 double grab, which was an improvement from the single grab version of the same trick that helped him to victory in 2014.
“It was very difficult. It took me three of the five runs in the final just to put that down,” says Parrot, who went for gold with a backside triple cork 1440 nose grab—a trick that has never been landed before in competition—in the final two attempts. “I couldn’t reach the grab. I felt so close but just never got there with my hand.”
To secure the podium in his final jump, Parrot played it safe like only he can—he stomped a traditional 1620 and took silver.
In terms of technical snowboarding, Parrot has assumed the role of pioneer. He still has moves like the backside triple cork 1440 nose grab, stylized 1620’s and others visualized in his imagination.
“There are a lot of tricks that have never been done on a snowboard. Performing them successfully is all about if the jump is big enough. The hardest thing about training to these tricks is finding the jump big enough to try them on,” Parrot says. “Jumps like the one at X Games don’t pop up on any mountain. They cost so much money and take so much effort to build. But I’ve done them so many times on my trampoline; I know I can do them on a snowboard.
The greatest of Parrot’s aspirations is the 1800, which is five rotations of the snowboard. Parrot has never even seen the trick attempted on a snowboard, but he dreams of being the first person to land it in competition.
“I would be pretty excited to be the first one to do it. I would be in the Guinness Book of World Records, which would be pretty sick,” says Parrot.
Parrot says the 80-foot jump at this year’s Winter X Games might have been able to facilitate an 1800, but the fear of what could go wrong serves as a constant deterrent.
“To try it, I would of had to go as big as possible on this year’s jump. If you fail, you’d likely be done for that competition at the least,”’ says Parrot. “If they raise the jump by 10 or 15 feet, then the 1800 can be attempted while still landing in the sweet spot. Then there is much less risk and I think some riders, myself included, would go for it.”
To make his pipedream a reality, Parrot has spoken with executives at the X Games and Snow Park Technologies, the company behind the competition’s jumps, about the possibility of increasing heights in the future. If they plan to use the same amount of snow used this year, Parrot says they could pack a dirt base and build the snow jump on top to increase the height.
“They asked me how big I’d like it to be,” says Parrot. “I told them it could never be big enough. I hope for at least 10 feet more.”