Mark McMorris is the golden boy of the Winter X Games. He's won two gold medals in one season twice now; he first pulled it off in 2013 and will return to Buttermilk Mountain as the defending champion in Big Air and Slopestyle. The 21-year-old from Canada has taken snowboarding by storm the last few seasons, whether it's fans on line to see his new movie, In Motion, pundits going out on a ledge picking him to win competitions or fellow riders trying to keep him from doing so, the eyes of the action sports world are following closely—and McMorris is delivering.
As he prepares for X Games Aspen, which begins Jan. 28, McMorris talked with SI.com about his recent movie tour, what it'll take to successfully defend the double-gold the second time around, his favorite moments from X Games and more.
Ryan Wallerson: So what's the best X Games moment of your career?
Mark McMorris: The top X Games moment in my career would have to be my performance last year with the double-gold for the second time in my career. Obviously 2012 was really special when I got my first double-gold as well. I've had a lot of great memories from X Games; landing the first ever triplecork 1440 in competition in 2012, the year that the rivalry with Shaun [White] was played up and me versus him was a pretty special moment in my career.
X Games Aspen holds a lot of good ones for me.
What's your favorite X Games moment that didn't involve you?
MM: Seeing Danny Davis win halfpipe for the second time in a row was probably the best thing I've seen at X Games. Danny is a good friend of mine, and he's been through a lot. When he broke his pelvis and back people said there was no way he could come back into competitive snowboarding—and then he did just that. To win the biggest event on the action sports stage, it's unheard of. To do it twice in a row, it's definitely pretty motivational.
RW: You just recently finished a packed tour for your recent movie, "In Motion." What was that experience like?
MM: It was 14 cities in 17 days. We had a couple of days off here and there, but it was non-stop travel all the time. We were always on a different flight to a different place, a different time zone. But the response was amazing. Seeing all the kids and young riders who were so happy to see me was super motivating. Just being there and seeing everyone there made it all worth it.
Always being on the move to the next city would be a drag, but as soon as you get to the premiere and see the people lined up, hear the screams and know people are as excited about what you've done as you are, it's just really motivating.
RW: You've done a lot in the last few years and you're already off to a hot start this season with that Dew Tour win. What's your confidence level coming into X Games this year?
My confidence coming into X Games is really high. I've had a great start to the season; I've been on my board a lot. Getting the win at Dew Tour was a nice was to start the domestic event season, but before that we were in Beijing, China at Air & Style, and I got a silver medal there. I'm feeling really good going into X Games this season. I'm obviously hoping for a repeat performance from last year.
RW: Last time you came into X Games on a double gold was 2012. You did well in 2013, a gold and a silver, but couldn't pull off the defense of both gold medals. How do you like your chances this time around?
MM: I had exactly the performances I wanted in 2013. I did as well as I possibly could have in 2013. I did a trick that had never been done in Big Air and I ended up second. I thought that was strange, but it was a toss up, and I won Slopestyle. So it was one of those things where I would of loved to defend both medals in 2013, but I couldn't of done any better than I did. So I was very satisfied with 2013.
How does that experience of not defending both help you going into this season?
MM: Obviously I'd like to win both this year, but the big lesson I learned in 2013 is that all I can do is ride my best. The judges are going to do what they're going to do. I'm just looking to leave it all out there.
RW: You have so much experience to draw from already. Are you beginning to feel like an X Games veteran?
MM: I don't really view X Games or competition in general any differently, but others might. When people look at you to win, you want to win that much more. That's definitely added pressure. I think pressure is something I can use positively. I feed off of it. So I try to take all the people that expect me to win and all the athletes that might want to beat me and use it as extra motivation—fuel to the fire.
RW: Do you think you'll ever try your hand in the SuperPipe?
MM: Nah, simply because I just didn't grow up with one. I didn't get to ride it much, or ever really until I was way far down the Slopestyle line. I'm just trying to focus on that. It's an awesome spectator sport though. I love watching it. Seeing the guys and girls throw down in there can make me wish I'd put more into it because they make it look so easy. They make you feel like you could strap up and join them, but in reality all of those riders have been doing it since they were really young. I definitely respect their discipline.
Who do you think your biggest competition is coming into X Games this year in Big Air and Slopestyle?
MM: I don't know. I don't want to think about that [laughs]. There are a lot of people who have a good shot at taking me down this year. Stale [Sandbech] and Yuki Kadono are two names that come to mind as the biggest threats. I’ll be watching their runs for sure.
RW: Last year, you roomed with your friend Danny Davis and the two of you swept the men's snowboarding events. Will you two be repeating as X Games roommates?
MM: For sure, Danny is a great friend. We ride together outside of this competition. We live together during this competition. So why not win together?