Life as a 22-Year-Old Snowboard Cross Athlete

North Vancouver’s Evan Bichon works towards 2022 Olympics

Bridget Stringer-Holden // Associate News Editor
Janelle Momotani // Illustrator

You’re going into the jump really fast, and your jacket is flapping in the wind. Past a certain point, you can only see the jump, and the landing is nowhere in view. That’s the last point you’ll be able to pull off if you don’t think you’ll make it. 

Evan Bichon, a 22-year-old Snowboard Cross athlete, is currently competing in a World Cup event in Austria, where he hopes to qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Having just returned from another World Cup in Italy, his results will be combined and used toward the overall World Cup rankings, which also count towards the 2022 Winter Olympic qualifications.

“It’s pure adrenaline when I’m doing Snowboard Cross,” said Bichon. “It’s a lot of adrenaline because any second you could crash.” In Snowboard Cross, unlike other types of snowboarding, there’s four people racing at a time. It consists of a track made up of rolls to gain speed, big turns to take a direction change, large jumps and other obstacles that encourage passing opportunities.

The annual World Cup Tour is one of the highest levels of professional Snowboard Cross—the only two events above it are the World Championships and the Olympics. The World Cup acts as a qualification event for the World Championships, held every two years, and as qualifying events for the Olympics, held every four years.

Doing well on the World Cup Tour will earn spots for your country in the World Championships. Bichon earned two spots for the World Cup Tour—one personal spot and another from his results from last season, where he earned a country spot for Canada. “It’s kind of complicated how it all works,” he said. “But, pretty much, through competitions—if you do well—there’s a possibility to earn more spots for your country in each World Cup.”

The North Vancouver transplant got his start at five years old on a hill in Mackenzie, BC. Bichon describes snowboarding on local mountains as a very different experience than competitions. “It’s a feeling of freedom like nothing else really matters when you’re riding because you’re just having fun,” he said. When he was eight years old, his mother helped found a local snowboarding club with Bill Laing, a passionate local coach, and through that, he was introduced to competitions.

Competing has allowed Bichon a chance to travel the world. Since 2014, he’s been to over 20 countries for snowboarding competitions. “I’d never travelled before, outside of snowboarding,” he said. “I’ve seen the world because of it, and I just want to reach the highest point in the sport I can if possible before I finish. So I’m making one more push towards the Olympics.”

COVID-19 has produced challenges for the sport, including the cancellation of regional competitions, provincial-level events and North American Cup events. “The only people in my sport who’ve been able to compete so far this season are competitors at the World Cup level,” said Bichon. In order to go to the training camp in Austria and the World Cups in Italy and Austria, Bichon and his team were required to obtain letters from their national sport organization and from the countries they’re entering, allowing them to train and compete if they received a negative COVID test.

Bichon also has had to overcome funding hurdles since there isn’t much money in Snowboard Cross as a sport in Canada. However, through support from local sponsors, family, a summer job, and funding he’s earned from competition results, Bichon has been making it work.

Bichon has also experienced his fair share of injuries during his snowboarding career, including breaking his back and his left arm and separating his right shoulder. “For people who get injured, the hardest thing to overcome when you go back is fear of falling again or getting hurt again,” said Bichon, explaining how he’s always timid for the first few competitions after an injury. “But, once you can overcome that you might get hurt, then everything’s just like it was before, and you can get back into doing it how you loved in the first place.”

At the beginning of the season, he tore a disk in his lower back—which is stronger than before thanks to physiotherapy and gym work. “I just had to tell myself that I’ve done all the work I possibly can and that I’m as strong as I can be, so it’s either gonna work or it won’t and worrying about it is not going to change the outcome.”

Despite COVID and the other obstacles to overcome, Bichon won his first North American Cup last year. “That was pretty satisfying because I’d had many podiums of second and third place, so finally getting on top of the podium was a nice one,” he said.

The first big competition he ever won was the Canada Games in 2015, and he also made it to the final round of the Youth Olympics in 2016 in Lillehammer, Norway, where he placed fourth. “It’s hard to get on the very top with how competitive it is, competing against the rest of the world,” said Bichon, “but it’s a nice experience when you do well.”

You’re mid-air. The spot where you’ll land is five feet off of the jump. It’ll take anywhere from one to three seconds, depending on the jump—but it feels like time slows down. Hitting the ground in a squat, you feel some pressure from the landing. From there, it’s just happy sailing—you’ve made it, maybe even into the 2022 Olympics.

Leave a Reply