Mark McMorris is the younger of Cindy and Don McMorris’s two children. Cindy is an operating room nurse and Don is a member of the legislative assembly of Saskatchewan; he represents the Saskatchewan Party in the riding of Indian Head-Milestone. Don McMorris has held several cabinet positions, including Health Minister (2007–12), Minister of Highways and Infrastructure (2012-14), Minister of Crown Investments (2014–16) and Deputy Premier (2015–16).
Mark’s older brother, Craig, is a high performance snowboarder who joined the Canadian National Team in 2011. Since 2014, Craig has been a snowboarding analyst for CBC, ABC and ESPN. During the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, Craig McMorris will be a studio host for CBC’s Olympic coverage.
Mark started skateboarding when he was four years old. A year later, Cindy took her children to Lake Louise for a skiing holiday. The boys refused to go skiing and would only try snowboarding lessons. “I literally had to pull them off the mountain that night,” Cindy McMorris told ESPN in 2013.
However, Saskatchewan was not ideal for snowboarding. The largest local hill was Mission Ridge Winter Park in Fort Qu’Appelle, which has a vertical drop of only 97.5 metres (compared to 991 metres at Lake Louise).
Most years, in the fall, Mark and Craig collected snow and ice from hockey rinks, shovelling it into the family pick-up truck. Cindy hauled the snow to a nearby hill, where the boys would practice. In the winter, they practiced in the backyard, where Don built an eight-foot drop-in with a rail.
When Mark was 11 years old, both he and Craig were approached by snowboarding enthusiast Russ Davies, who was putting together a Saskatchewan snowboard team. Once a month, on a Thursday afternoon, Davies drove the team seven hours to either the Rockies or Canada Olympic Park in Calgary so they could have three full days snowboarding.
At age 13, Mark competed for Saskatchewan at the 2007 Canada Winter Games, where halfpipe and giant slalom snowboarding were demonstration sports. Mark competed in male halfpipe and finished 11th, while Craig finished 19th.
The following year, Mark McMorris won the 2008 Rail Wars Competition at the Asessippi Ski Area & Resort in Manitoba. He turned professional in 2009. In January 2010, he won $12,000 at a World Cup slopestyle event in Calgary. His success, and the demands of competition, helped convince his parents to allow him to drop out of high school to focus on snowboarding.
McMorris had a successful 2010–11 season. He won two silver medals and one bronze medal in slopestyle snowboarding on the Winter Dew Tour in the United States, a silver in slopestyle at the Winter X Games, a gold in big air snowboarding at the Billabong Air and Style event in Innsbruck, Austria, a silver in slopestyle at the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships and a bronze at the Toyota Big Air snowboarding competition in Tokyo.
Historic Performances: Career 2011–13
On 2 March 2011, the 17-year-old McMorris made snowboarding history when he became the first snowboarder to land the backside triple cork 1440. Mark executed the jump while performing in a multimedia series called TransWorld Park Sessions. About a year later at the 2012 Winter X Games in Aspen, McMorris won the men’s big air title and made Winter X Games history by becoming the first snowboarder ever to land a backside triple cork 1440 in competition. He also became the second snowboarder ever to win two gold medals at one Winter X Games, after American Shaun White.
McMorris was dominant during the 2012–13 season, placing first in big air and slopestyle at the Dew Tour Mountain Championships, and winning gold in slopestyle at the 2013 Winter X Games and at the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships. At the Winter X Games, he set a record with the highest slopestyle score to that point (98 points). McMorris also won a silver medal in slopestyle at the 2013 FIS World Snowboarding Championships in Stoneham, Québec.
Olympic Bronze, Sochi 2014
Slopestyle snowboarding made its Olympic debut at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. McMorris was considered a strong contender, owing to his success in the event. At the beginning of the 2013–14 season, McMorris won gold in men’s slopestyle snowboarding for the second straight year at the Dew Tour Mountain Championships. However, he fractured his rib in the slopestyle final at the Winter X Games in Aspen, putting his Olympic appearance in jeopardy. Despite this, McMorris not only competed at Sochi, but also won Olympic bronze. He closed out the season with a gold medal in slopestyle at the Burton US Open.
During the 2015–16 season, McMorris won all three slopestyle races he entered — at the Winter Dew Tour in Breckenridge (Colorado), the LAAX Open in Switzerland and the Winter X Games in Aspen. He also won silver in the big air competition at the 2016 Winter X Games.
On 21 February 2016, McMorris broke his right femur at the Air + Style event in Los Angeles. Early in the 2016-17 season, after months of difficult rehab, he reached the World Cup podium twice in big air competition, with a bronze in Italy and a gold in South Korea.
He went on to win gold in men’s slopestyle snowboarding on the Winter Dew Tour before returning to the podium at the LAAX Open (silver in slopestyle) and the 2017 Winter X Games (bronze in big air and slopestyle). McMorris won gold three more times to close out his season — a big air World Cup event in Québec City, a slopestyle event at the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships and the big air event at the 2017 Winter X Games in Norway. In 2017, he won the ESPY Award for best male action sport athlete.
In March 2017, McMorris was snowboarding with Craig and friends near Whistler when he suffered multiple injuries, including breaks to his jaw, left arm, pelvis and ribs. He also suffered a collapsed lung and a ruptured spleen. Despite his injuries, he rebounded and, in November 2017, he won big air and slopestyle events in China.
2018 Olympic Winter Games
At the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, McMorris again won bronze in slopestyle. Teammate Max Parrot took silver in the event. McMorris also competed in big air snowboarding, which made its Olympic debut at the 2018 Games. He finished 10th in the event, while teammate Sebastien Toutant won the gold medal. McMorris’s inspirational journey from hospital bed to podium made the national and international news.
In 2012, Mark and Craig created the McMorris Foundation, which has partnered with the Canadian Tire Jumpstart program to help create a more affordable, accessible and inclusive sport culture for Canadian children and youth.