Every once in a while someone comes along in a sport and takes it to a level never thought possible. This is definitely true in snowboarding with breakthrough riders like Craig Kelly, Terje, and now Mike Michalchuk. Mike has truly emerged as the most innovative pipe rider going into the new millennium. While the rest of the field tries to see who can do the best and biggest McTwists or 720s, Mike does tricks no one else does. Not to mention he does them bigger than anyone else. When you’re watching one of his runs instead of saying, “Wow, that was a sweet McTwist,” you’re more likely to say, “Holy shit, what the hell was that?”

Mike’s reputation didn’t come without a price though. He has worked hard for years¿every day going out and pushing himself, not just to his limits, but beyond them and most of the time with one kind of injury or another. Until quite recently people never gave him the credit he deserves. When I first saw him ride I was guilty, too. It was at a contest in Calgary in ’96. It was 26 below Celsius (about eight degrees Fahrenheit) and Mike was wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt and ball cap strapped on his head with a shoelace. He dropped into the pipe and was catching huge air all the way down, but not really looking too stable on his snowboard. Then, at the bottom of the pipe, he busted a head-high Haakon flip that was so out of control I thought he was going to die. Of course, somehow he got his feet back under him and rode away clean (for lack of a better word). I was blown away. I thought this guy was more of a psychopath than a great snowboarder¿I was wrong, although he is a psycho.

Mike still blows me away, whether he’s riding or not. He’s constantly doing things that require commitment and physical ability so people watching are left with their jaws open. One day last summer we were at Lion’s Bay, B.C. Mike was truly in his element, doing double backflips off the 40-foot cliffs. There was a rope swing that seemed inaccessible since it was dangling about twenty feet or so off the edge of the cliff. Everyone was bummed because a rope swing from a 40-foot cliff would have been really fun. Mike decided he’d climb out on the branch, down the rope, and start swinging to get back to the edge of the cliff. Mike was left dangling 40 feet in the air with about five feet of water below. He had no energy left to climb back up the rope. Everyone was scared and didn’t know how to help. Then, Mike just dropped from the rope, brought his feet up over his head and went into a dive. Somehow he dove shallow enough to just graze the rocky bottom. When he came up, he said he had to dive or he would have hit the bottom hard¿that’s commitment.

On top of being constant entertainment as a one-man freak show, Mike is really a great guy. He is nice to everyone around him. He cracks jokes and always has his friends laughing. Mike takes the time to sign autographs or take a picture with someone. He realizes he’s living the dream life and is very thankful for it. Basically, he is a country boy done good. I sat down with Mike at his new place in Pemberton, B.C., Canada and asked him a few questions.

You changed sponsors this year.

Yeah, I switched to Burton and Nike. I’m super stoked to be part of the Burton team because when I started snowboarding these were all the guys I looked up to for inspiration. Now I’m looking forward to riding with them all.

But what about Nike?

One of the main reasons behind my decision was the fact that Nike is giving me the opportunity to design their boots. I’ve never been happy with the boots that have been made and Nike has the technology to take boots where they need to be. I’m going to be working with the clothing department, too. They’re ready to get behind me 100 percent. We’re going to work hard together to make the best snowboard clothing on the planet. They said we’d work at it until I’m totally satisfi with the product. It’s going to be sick.

So it wasn’t just a financial decision?

Laughs Well, that was part of it, but it just made sense. Salomon is based in France and it was hard for me to get the equipment I needed. The boards work great, but I’m pretty hard on equipment and break a lot of stuff. It’s hard to carry so much stuff around all the time. Burton is in both Europe and North America, so getting the gear I need isn’t a problem, no matter where I am.

Do you ever feel pressure to do a double backflip because that’s what everyone wants to see?

No, no pressure. The fact that the crowd wants to see a double or whatever just makes me more inspired to take things a little further. I want to see how far I can push myself and the crowd really motivates me to go a little higher or spin a little farther.

How was coaching at Glacier Snowboard Camp this summer?

It was great. We had an awesome pipe and everyone had a wicked time. It’s fun to help campers learn new tricks. They really remind you what it’s all about and how lucky we are. I’m stoked for next year. We have huge plans. We’re going to have a huge seventeen-foot transition Pipe Dragon, which is going to make it easier for everyone to learn. We’re going to only hire the best and friendliest coaches. We’re also going to limit the amount of campers because a lot of camps are just too crowded. With less people it’s way more personal and everyone gets to be good friends.

You finally moved out of Whistler and bought a place in Pemberton.

After being in Whistler for the last three or four summers and spending time there in the winter, I realized that with the terrain and backcountry there, there’s no other place in the world that can offer what Whistler can. I didn’t want to leave my friends and family in Calgary and if I was going to move, it had to be the perfect place. I finally found it in Pemberton.

Your place is sweet.

Yeah. It’s seven acres on the Lilloett River with a nice sandy beach. It has a main house, a guesthouse, and a barn. I’ve been building houses my whole life with my dad and now that I have my own land there is nothing more satisfying than building your own house and shaping the land into exactly what you want.

I also have a tractor with a front-end loader that I’m using to build a killer motocross track around the property. In the winter I’m going to transform it into a snowmobile-cross track. Maybe I’ll race Palmer at the X-Games.

You did tons of sledding this year, eh?

Sledding was one of my favorite things to do this year. I bought my first mountain sled, a Skidoo Summit 670. I bought it to film in the backcountry, but once I learned how to ride it, I spent more time sledding than snowboarding. I’m just learning how to drop cliffs and take big air.

So did you actually get some filming done?

Surprisingly, I got off my sled enough to film a decent part with Jörli Richer for his new film, Momentum. We built some of the biggest jumps I’ve ever seen. Some were too big. I think they were physically impossible to land, but we tried anyway. We would spend so long trying to get the shot off some of those huge booters that I’d bring my dog Ernie for company.

Ernie has become a bit of a local celebrity, jumping ten-foot cliffs and skateboarding. Don’t you think the truth about where Ernie came from should be known?

Well, I guess I can finally reveal the truth about Ernie’s background. I was working construction with my dad when I noticed a rottweiler puppy in a small cage a couple of doors down. At lunchtime I’d go visit him and feed him because he never had any food in his dish. When winter came, the owners still hadn’t put a doghouse, or any kind of shelter, in his cage for him to get out of the snow and rain. So, I built him a simple doghouse for the time being. I promised him if his owners didn’t get him a warmer house by the next snowfall I would take him from these cruel people. Two weeks passed and not only had they not built him a proper doghouse, but they had also taken away the doghouse I had built. That was all I could take, so I grabbed him, jumped in my truck, and took off. Now Ernie lives a good life.

Your truck is pretty much every hick’s dream. You obviously put a lot of work into it.

My truck is kind of a hobby for me. I love customizing it and making it into the ultimate four by four.

It’s definitely one of a kind. So what have you done to it?

I changed the motor into a 400-horsepower LT1 Corvette motor, put a three-inch body lift with a five-inch suspension lift, and 35-inch mud swampers tires with steel studs for extra winter traction. I even put a 12,000-pound wench on it just in case the swampers don’t pull me through. To top it off, I painted it plum purple.

Would you like to thank anyone?

I would like to thank my mom and dad; Cindy; all my friends; Kurt; and everyone at Salomon, Burton, and Nike.

 

I could tell you that Mike is the next big thing in snowboarding, but you already know that. Is there any point to overstate the obvious?

I’ll talk about Mike’s character instead. Mike is relentless in his quest to make everything as hard as humanly possible for himself. Every activity the average human performs on a daily basis is intensified a couple-hundred times with Mike. Say, for example, you are driving into a turn and you’re driving too fast. Your front tire goes off into the gravel and you don’t know if your vehicle is going to stay on the road. Every corner of every road is like that when Mike is driving. Every day you go snowmobiling with him you must write off three or four hours of your day to help him get out of the mess he’s gotten himself into. It’s easier to let him do what he wants and help him, than it is to discourage that stupid thing in the first place. He is so stubborn. Once he’s got an idea, don’t even bother trying to talk him out of it. Just sit back, smile, and get ready to laugh, because you know it’s going to be cheap, stupid entertainment at its best.

Thanks for letting me know I’m still alive, Mikey.¿Jörli Ricker

What can I say about the most balls-to-the-wall guy I’ve ever met. Hmmm … wow! I guess I just summed him up without even realizing it¿the most balls-to-the-wall guy. The guy who flirts with death in everything he does, somehow manages to stay balanced at the forefront of the envelope.

Another side of Mike that I saw on our travels was quite the humorous one. In April I tagged along with him for the ISF World Cup in Switzerland. On our way from Zürich to Davos we had to move our bags around a bit. Mike’s board bag was so heavy. Once, he seemed to mistake his board bag for mine and I mumbled, “I know you know which one is yours.” He must have taken a wee bit of offense to my comment, because boy, did he get me. After the parties, the contest, and the overall Euro madness, we packed our bags and got ready to leave. I’d forgotten to pack a drawer full of clothes so I ran up to grab them and ran back down.

As we headed toward the train station I said, “Man, my bag feels heavy.” Mike must have been laughing so hard inside. When I got back home, I unloaded my gear to realize I’d traveled 10,000 miles with two huge rocks stuffed under some of my clothes. I couldn’t help but laugh. I owe you one, Mike.¿Abe Teter

Whether you ride one board or two, watching Mike ride pretty much blows your mind. He’s all about full commitment all the time. So many skiers watch Mike for inspiration to learn new tricks and riding transitions.

Mike’s never really skied before, so we set him up with some twin tips. He was the fastest learner I’ve ever seen. After about ae being. I promised him if his owners didn’t get him a warmer house by the next snowfall I would take him from these cruel people. Two weeks passed and not only had they not built him a proper doghouse, but they had also taken away the doghouse I had built. That was all I could take, so I grabbed him, jumped in my truck, and took off. Now Ernie lives a good life.

Your truck is pretty much every hick’s dream. You obviously put a lot of work into it.

My truck is kind of a hobby for me. I love customizing it and making it into the ultimate four by four.

It’s definitely one of a kind. So what have you done to it?

I changed the motor into a 400-horsepower LT1 Corvette motor, put a three-inch body lift with a five-inch suspension lift, and 35-inch mud swampers tires with steel studs for extra winter traction. I even put a 12,000-pound wench on it just in case the swampers don’t pull me through. To top it off, I painted it plum purple.

Would you like to thank anyone?

I would like to thank my mom and dad; Cindy; all my friends; Kurt; and everyone at Salomon, Burton, and Nike.

 

I could tell you that Mike is the next big thing in snowboarding, but you already know that. Is there any point to overstate the obvious?

I’ll talk about Mike’s character instead. Mike is relentless in his quest to make everything as hard as humanly possible for himself. Every activity the average human performs on a daily basis is intensified a couple-hundred times with Mike. Say, for example, you are driving into a turn and you’re driving too fast. Your front tire goes off into the gravel and you don’t know if your vehicle is going to stay on the road. Every corner of every road is like that when Mike is driving. Every day you go snowmobiling with him you must write off three or four hours of your day to help him get out of the mess he’s gotten himself into. It’s easier to let him do what he wants and help him, than it is to discourage that stupid thing in the first place. He is so stubborn. Once he’s got an idea, don’t even bother trying to talk him out of it. Just sit back, smile, and get ready to laugh, because you know it’s going to be cheap, stupid entertainment at its best.

Thanks for letting me know I’m still alive, Mikey.¿Jörli Ricker

What can I say about the most balls-to-the-wall guy I’ve ever met. Hmmm … wow! I guess I just summed him up without even realizing it¿the most balls-to-the-wall guy. The guy who flirts with death in everything he does, somehow manages to stay balanced at the forefront of the envelope.

Another side of Mike that I saw on our travels was quite the humorous one. In April I tagged along with him for the ISF World Cup in Switzerland. On our way from Zürich to Davos we had to move our bags around a bit. Mike’s board bag was so heavy. Once, he seemed to mistake his board bag for mine and I mumbled, “I know you know which one is yours.” He must have taken a wee bit of offense to my comment, because boy, did he get me. After the parties, the contest, and the overall Euro madness, we packed our bags and got ready to leave. I’d forgotten to pack a drawer full of clothes so I ran up to grab them and ran back down.

As we headed toward the train station I said, “Man, my bag feels heavy.” Mike must have been laughing so hard inside. When I got back home, I unloaded my gear to realize I’d traveled 10,000 miles with two huge rocks stuffed under some of my clothes. I couldn’t help but laugh. I owe you one, Mike.¿Abe Teter

Whether you ride one board or two, watching Mike ride pretty much blows your mind. He’s all about full commitment all the time. So many skiers watch Mike for inspiration to learn new tricks and riding transitions.

Mike’s never really skied before, so we set him up with some twin tips. He was the fastest learner I’ve ever seen. After about an hour he was skiing the halfpipe, landing switch, busting big floater 360s over the tabletop, and doing grabs out of the quarterpipe. He is basically super talented and really down to Earth, too.¿Trennon Paynter, Canadian World Cup Mogul Team

Pull Quote

On top of being constant entertainment as a one-man freak show, Mike is really a great guy.

ut an hour he was skiing the halfpipe, landing switch, busting big floater 360s over the tabletop, and doing grabs out of the quarterpipe. He is basically super talented and really down to Earth, too.¿Trennon Paynter, Canadian World Cup Mogul Team

Pull Quote

On top of being constant entertainment as a one-man freak show, Mike is really a great guy.