Mikey Ciccarelli Interview | Winner YETI Natural Selection Tour 2024

The 2024 YETI Natural Selection Tour brought twenty-four of the world’s best snowboarders to Revelstoke, BC, on March 13th and 14th to compete in a head-to-head elimination format. On the resort, surviving the first round punched your ticket to the Selkirk Tangiers Heli-access finals, where Mikey Ciccarelli and Marion Haerty came out on top as the Natural Selection Tour Champions for 2024. You can see how it unfolded here
We sat down with Mikey at his home in Whistler, BC, for a debrief after the biggest competition win of his life. Get comfy and have a read. —Rob Lemay

[o]  Dan Stewart

Congrats, Mikey. This is huge. You are the Natural Selection Tour Champion. How does that sound, how does that make you feel?

It sounds insane. It's still just so surreal. It's crazy.

I heard a rumour that you had the NST trophy as your phone's wallpaper background this winter.

That is true. I can't exactly remember when I put it on my phone, but it would've been about six months ago. Maybe even ten months? I just thought, this is such a huge opportunity for me. I'm going to try everything I can. You saw me up there, I'm meditating, I'm visualising, and the phone background was just one other thing. If I can trick myself into believing this can work, then maybe it will. I think that's why I got so emotional. It all lined up and was all happening in front of me, and I just couldn't believe it, but I wanted it. It was this really weird feeling of it all falling into place right in front of me.

[The trophy background] was a little reminder throughout the last year. Looking at it, if I didn't want to go to the gym or wasn't motivated to go shred, I'd be like, okay, what are we working towards? And that was my little thing that I would think about. It's definitely a real thing. It's more of the self-belief of what I'm capable of. One of those tricks I used to get myself into that mindset.

[o] Dan Stewart

We rode up in the cat together during Revelstoke qualifiers, and you were listening to that song called "Breathe". Was that helping you stay calm and visualise? Is that all you were listening to all day?

It's funny because I've had "Balance" by Future Islands as my song since I was 15. I would listen to that every contest, but then I started listening to this song throughout this last year. It just says believe, breathe, and it repeats it. I was like, that's really good, it's a trigger for me. If I was getting stressed I would listen to the song and then I would realise how grateful I am, how cool it is to be there, and it would bring me back. There was so much stuff building up, the music definitely helped me. I know I ride my best when I'm having the most fun. Throughout the winter I'd go up solo and ride Whistler with that song and just rip the mountain, hitting side hits and have the best time. I was almost trying to mimic that even though it's so different, and more intense. If I can make it as fun as possible, that's what it's all about.

I love it. As you progressed throughout the day during finals, when did you really realize that winning was within reach? 

It was funny because every time I'd get through another round, I'd be like, I'm still here. This is crazy. And then honestly I felt like it hit me on my last run where I was like, if I land, there's a chance that I could win. I didn't even think about it until that moment where I was like, I'm going to try to send it as hard as I can and put it all on the line. Throughout the day, I was going through the process. When I got to the final, I remember thinking that all I wanted was a podium, so I'm like, well that's done. But then I had to reframe it. Whoa, I actually have a chance that I could take the whole thing. I had a lot of little mental battles throughout the day. I felt the highs and lows.

[o]  Dan Stewart

The photo I have when you hear the scores, you can see in your eyes how stoked you are and how taken back you are from it. Not in a surprised way, more like everything setting in. Somebody even said that you even jumped a bit. 

Yeah, I think it was T-Bird who said it looked like your soul left your body. I just couldn't believe it had all transpired as I envisioned. I didn't even look at the finals venue before I finished qualifiers. I wasn't thinking that far ahead. I was looking at whatever I was doing right now, and I'd worry about the next step when I got there. But then I was there and I was so overwhelmed, honestly. I was like, this is insane.

I made a five-year plan after I left the [Canadian Slopestyle] national team. I was watching the NST event at Jackson. I was like, damn, this is the coolest event in snowboarding. I thought, if in five years after transitioning to the backcountry if I got there, I'd be so stoked. It's only been four years, which is kind of insane that it all happened so fast. I still feel like it's a dream, and I'm very, very grateful that it happened. It's so insane.

[o] Dan Stewart

You put the work in. You got the foundation. You've got the right crews to mentor you in the backcountry. 

That's what's rad about our snowboard community here in Whistler. I learned so much from [Chris] Rasman, [Mikey] Rencz, [Mark] Sollors and Craig McMorris. They took me out a lot and showed me the ropes.

[o] Dan Stewart

How do the nerves compare to a slopestyle event? How do you adapt as you move on from heat to heat?

The nerves are much different because there's so much more unknown with this event. With backcountry riding, you can have an idea or a plan of what you want to ride, but then once you get there, it can be completely different from what you thought it was. I think it's the ability to be okay with changing a plan mid run or adapting while it's happening in front of you. Where slopestyle was like we'd have practice on the course for two, or three days. You knew exactly what each feature was like. That's what makes this event more exciting. You have to be able to like, okay, shit, what am I going to do now? When I'm in Natural Selection, I'm not worried about the tricks as much. When I would compete in slopestyle, I'd be like, oh man, I don't even know if I'm going to get this 1440 around. Out there the nerves come from the unknown of what the landing is going to feel like, what that take off is going to feel like. What's over that blind roll that you can't see?

Can you take us through your final run? 

Nils was ahead. I think I got a 60 on my first run. He got an 80, so he was leading. That was kind of the moment where I was like, there's nothing to lose now. I'm here. Just try to go for it. The run before I tried to do this cab five similar to where Travis did one but didn't go fast enough. I remember being up there and just going as fast as I can, pop a180, ride switch through the pow and then get into the track that was set from my run before. I popped, and I didn't think I had it. I yelled, "Oh no!" I was spinning so slow, and I didn't think I had enough momentum. But since I went fast enough I held onto the grab and then I landed. I did the backrodeo seven off the next hit. After that I was like, okay, keep'er together. Don't fall on the next thing. Then I did that toe jam back three to pillow on another feature down low. Being down at the bottom when they told me my score, I just kind of froze. It was a lot to compute. That was when T-Bird was like, dude, you just locked up. Then I came back to, and. I was like, "Holy shit!"

[o] Dan Stewart

Your two best results before this were winning the Stoneham World Cup in 2015 and then second place at the US Open in 2017. You quit competing in 2021 and filmed for The King Snow Movie. Do you find it ironic to get your biggest contest result a few years later?

I remember that the US Open felt weird in a way. I was like, this is the best result I think I'll ever get, and then full whirlwind when Jesse [Fox] and Crispin [Cannon] from King Snow actually helped me so much when they came to me and said: "You should film for the King Snow video." At that point I was like, damn, I definitely should, and then I quit the national team. I have the most respect for the team. They got me to where I am. So for the fact that now that I've had my biggest professional win in the backcountry, I don't think it would've happened if I didn't trust those guys at that time and being like, this is the right move. I remember even calling my mom when I quit the team and she was like: "Is this really what you want to do?" It was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and what I needed to do. This feels like the ultimate "Holy shit" to have this. This wouldn't have happened without you guys [King Snow] instilling that confidence because I hadn't filmed a part in the backcountry before. I had filmed a couple of clips for One World. But it was so cool that those guys were like, "We think you got it." That really made me think, okay, maybe I can. 

I got one last question from Jody Wachniak. He asks, "Mikey, I know you were very close with your dad. Were there specific moments during the competition where you felt your father's presence or influence?"

Yeah, for sure. It was really nice. During my second run in qualifiers, Chad Chomlack and I spotted an eagle flying over us. Birds flying around always feel like my dad. Chad looked up at it, and I looked up. I just knew he was with me. And especially at the very end when I got down to the lot. I saw Tyler Ravelle, and he had lost his dad, too, and I just started crying. I knew that if my dad were there, he'd be the most fucking hyped dude ever. 

He made it possible for me to be a professional snowboarder. It was strictly out of his, "Hey, you got this. I'm going to back you." Driving my brother to hockey games, my sister to hockey games, and then turning right around and driving me to a snowboarding event. He was so invested in us. I'm so grateful and mad that he's not here, but I know he is with me. I knew he was with me that day, throughout the whole contest. It was so strange. Throughout the day, I was on the verge of crying in the finals, even between runs, because I was thinking about him and how stoked he would be. It was very emotional. I was almost crying in the helicopter, like, I can't believe he's not seeing this, and then just kept thinking that he's here with me. I fucking miss him to bits. He's an absolute legend. He would've partied with me all night long. It would've been awesome. We would've drank the bar dry of all the Bud Light. 

The whole week, though, we talked about feeling his energy and how it was a lot more present than usual. When I called my mom after, she was just losing her mind, and just saying how proud he would be. My dad was the biggest motivator of people. He wanted everyone to succeed no matter who they were. I just love that his presence was there like, "You can fucking do this, man!" 

[o] Rob Lemay 
[o] Rob Lemay


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