Summit snowboarder Michael Mawn readies for Freeride World Tour debut

Antonio Olivero
Summit Daily

BRECKENRIDGE — To Michael Mawn, big mountain snowboarding is all about reading the terrain and intensely riding something you’ve never ridden before.

That’s what brought him out to Grizzly Peak near Loveland Pass early this summer. He joined coach Brennan Metzler and fellow big mountain snowboarder Warren Doyle to climb a couloir on Grizzly Peak with ice axes and crampons to access a face he’d never ridden before.

On and off snow, the 21-year-old Mawn has been training as best he can to get ready for his rookie campaign on the esteemed Freeride World Tour. The Montana State University student and Breckenridge local was the highest-scoring male from the Western Hemisphere at the Freeride World qualifiers. The qualification means Mawn will be one of just two rookie snowboarders on the Freeride World Tour this season, which is slated to begin Feb. 22 in Andorra after the tour’s first two stops in Japan and British Columbia were canceled.

Mawn — a former Team Summit halfpipe rider and Method Free Ride Team alum — hopes to bring unique lines to the big mountain setting at the anticipated European stops on the tour.

“If there’s a narrow couloir, or a really exposed area of the face, you’ll find me there,” Mawn said. “Surfing has always inspired my snowboarding, and if someone is watching me, hopefully they’ll see the surf influence. Big, carvy turns are part of my style. I look to link up a bunch of double cliffs — one into another — ride in and out of couloirs. I just want to ride well through exposed areas of mountain faces.”

Mawn said he’s tried to see the COVID-19 situation as an opportunity to grow, physically and mentally. He’s been training in the gym three to four days a week. And when he’s not in the gym, he’s been watching reruns of previous Freeride World Tour stops.

“Seeing what others do and imagining myself in that position,” Mawn said about why he watches the film. “Just visualizing a ton, so when I do show up to this mountain in, say, Switzerland, I’m ready for the comp. I’ve put myself into a mental, emotional state that I’m ready when I get there.”

Mawn knows as well as anyone that repetition on snow is crucial to being ready for the season. So while he’s been doing mostly Alpine and ice climbing, he hopes to get back on snow at his family’s home mountain, Breckenridge Ski Resort, when he comes to spend time with his parents for Thanksgiving.

But how much Mawn will be able to train on snow is up in the air. As a “lone cowboy” athlete, Mawn has to put in reservations to ride Vail Resorts mountains just like the rest of the public. In the perfect scenario, Mawn would love to see some early-season storms fill in big mountain terrain off Breck’s Peak 6 so he can get ready for Freeride World Tour.

If snowboarding in Summit County doesn’t work out, he hopes to dial in as much as he can at Bridger Bowl Ski Area in Bozeman. And he won’t hesitate to head into the backcountry if in-bounds, big mountain terrain isn’t there yet.

“I plan on using my splitboard quite a bit this season,” Mawn said.

As for the Freeride World Tour schedule, Mawn said there’s a lot of uncertainty with parts of Europe going into lockdown.

He and others hope to receive an update at the end of November, but he’s remaining reserved with his expectations.

“I would be personally surprised if it happened,” Mawn said. “I have no doubt that they could maybe make it work for European residents, but being from the U.S., it’s really tough to get over there right now. But I hope so.”