Red Gerard’s journey continues with Burton backcountry film, love-hate relationship with contests
Olympic gold medalist continues to seek joy in his snowboarding
COPPER MOUNTAIN — The snowboarding journey — the balance between the contest scene and backcountry filming in the world’s best snow — continues in a new decade for Red Gerard.
Chatting candidly Friday afternoon at Copper Mountain, Red was in the middle of his latest successful life moment. The night before, the Ohio native and Summit County resident walked on stage with his older brother and filmmaker, Malachi Gerard, and pro snowboard friends to accept Snowboard Magazine’s Movie of the Year award for his first foray filming in the backcountry: “Joy: A Snowboard Film.”
The honor was validation that his time spent last winter delving into the deep backcountry of places like Japan was the best way to spend the season after his 2018 Olympic gold-medal win and rise to fame.
Red also was nominated — along with “Joy” co-star Sage Kotseburg and backcountry slayer Travis Rice — for Snowboarder’s Rider of the Year award, which Kotsenburg won. And earlier in the day, Red competed for Team Burton in the Dew Tour team challenge, two days before he drops into the men’s snowboard slopestyle final at 12:15 p.m. Saturday at Copper to face the world’s best snowboarders.
All of that followed Red’s trip last week to Japan. His second time in the legendary bottomless powder on the other side of the planet, Red was there with fellow Burton riders for his latest snowboard film project. Dubbed “One World,” Red said the film will take him and other Burton snowboarders to Jackson Hole and then “wherever the snow is good.”
“Just follow it,” Red said.
These past two weeks of globetrotting with his board in tow summarize Red’s snowboard life two years removed from his win on the Pyeongchang slopestyle course, which made the then-17-year-old the youngest American male to win a gold medal in an individual event in Winter Olympics history. On the competition side, Red is still warm to the contest scene. When a contest goes well, when he can lace a line through the puzzle of a slopestyle course like he did in winning the Burton U.S. Open last year, it’s like nothing else he can do on a board.
“It’s a high that you can’t get anywhere else,” he said.
That said, Red is not a fan of the other side of contest riding, when things don’t go as planned on landings or weather is not cooperating. He’s candid that contest riding often brings out the worst in riders like him. But Red has done a good job finding fun at competitions, and his clutch skills on a snowboard have helped keep things positive.
If Red learned anything last year, it was that he can find and create more fun for himself and his snowboarding friends in the backcountry when it might not be there at the contest scene. Japan doesn’t have the steep faces he’s used to here in the Rockies, but the natural jumps of Japan’s rolling terrain is bliss, he said. It’s perfect to huck fun tricks like back rodeos and 540s, the kind of riding he can’t do off contest jumps where bigger is better, even if it isn’t as beautiful.
It also is the perfect warmup to strengthen Red’s legs for all the backcountry riding to come later in winter and a contest like Dew Tour. Saturday’s Dew Tour final is the latest contest that features a long list of riders who are all elite and capable of winning. Defending champion Stale Sandbech of Norway made a statement in Thursday’s team challenge, popping off rails and onto redirect hips and wall rides in eye-popping fashion. Canadian Darcy Sharpe is riding the high of X Games gold at Aspen, Swede Sven Thorgren is snowboarding with amazing energy, and Canadian competitor Max Parrot is looking to make up for X Games struggles.
Then there are young American riders, and Red’s friends, Brock Crouch, Judd Henkes and Luke Winkelmann, all of whom are ready to shine in the podium spotlight. But if there’s one rider Red thinks will be ready Saturday, it’s accomplished Canadian and fellow Burton rider Mark McMorris.
Whatever happens Saturday, Red is ready to keep finding the fun — the joy — wherever his snowboarding takes him, whether it be contests mere miles from his family’s home near Silverthorne or powder pillows on the other side of the globe. He’s candid that he really doesn’t know what he still wants to accomplish on his snowboard. If anything, it’s to achieve what Kotsenburg did Thursday night
“I’d love to win Rider of the Year,” Red said. “I’d really like to do that.”
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