This weekend’s Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain is a homecoming of sorts for 22 year-old Brock Crouch, who grew up riding Mammoth from a young age. He’s one of a number of athletes with local ties vying for a shot in the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
Crouch’s snowboarding journey began at Mammoth Mountain at three years old, when his parents signed him up for a lesson.
“I barely remember learning how to snowboard,” Crouch said, “All I kept saying [that day] was ‘I want to hit a jump.’”
He was told that he wouldn’t be allowed to until he was able to snowboard down Discovery Chair both regular and switch. Which he did with ease.
The instructors built a one foot jump and three-year-old Crouch hit an indy grab off of it.
“Ever since then, it took off,” he said.
Crouch’s instructor told his parents to bring him back the following weekend, and by the time Crouch was 6, his parents and grandmother had purchased a condo at Sherwin Villas to aid his growth in the sport.
At that point, he started competing in USASA slopestyle rail jam, and halfpipe contests.
Originally from Carlsbad, Crouch would spend January through April in Mammoth every year for training.
Mammoth, he said, is “one of the best places in the world to grow and become a snowboarder. It’s definitely how I’ve gotten to where I am now.”
Crouch grew up hanging out with and watching snowboarders like Tyler Flanagan, Danny Kass, and Spencer Link throw down all over Mammoth’s parks. The group, he said, “took me in like a littler brother.”
Crouch said that he doesn’t remember the point where he decided to become a professional snowboarder, “I don’t really remember snowboarding the first two years,” he added with a laugh.
When he was back in Carlsbad, snowboarding wasn’t the focus. “My parents didn’t want me to get burnt out, so I was always doing other sports,” he said, adding “I was always kind of skate rat in the summer.”
“I never really got into surfing until 11 or 12, one of my friends got a surfboard and our dads were into it,” Crouch said. Since then he’s served as an alternate for the US team at the World Junior Surfing Championships and competed in National Scholastic Surfing Association events.
But snowboarding remained his number one passion. And when his career got started, it escalated quickly.
Crouch said, “I was 12 and 13 doing the rev tours, you do those, you get into the Grand Prix’s, land some runs there, you start getting invites to Dew Tour, X-Games. That was all super crazy to go through all that.”
“13-15 [years old] was when I kind of really fell in love with [snowboarding] and said ‘I’m going to do this for the rest of my life’,” Crouch told The Sheet.
Crouch’s family sold the condo a few years ago as his career took him around the globe.
“I’m now on the World Cup program, trying to qualify for the Olympics,” Crouch said, “The last few weeks have been a grind, a different contest in a different country every week. I’ve got a flight to Europe on Sunday [after the Grand Prix].”
In 2018, Crouch was caught in an avalanche while riding in the Canadian backcountry, resulting in fractured vertebrae, a ruptured pancreas, missing teeth where his knee hit his face in the avalanche. He was buried for more than five minutes and there was no guarantee he would even be able to walk again, let alone ride.
“I remember sitting in my ICU bed asking the doctor, ‘When’s the next time I can go and snowboard?’”
“Dude, you’re dead right now,” Crouch recalled the doctor telling him, “It’s going to be 8-12 months.”
“Alright, I’m gonna chop that in half,” Crouch responded.
Getting caught in the avalanche “opened my eyes to the mountains,” Crouch said, “I guess I underestimated the mountains.” He credits his sponsors for letting him take a year off from competition to get back into competitive shape.
“I took a year, learned about the mountains, learned about snow storms, weather patterns, snow safety, everything like that,” Crouch said. The entire experience, he said, “kind of just fired me up.” He recalled going into his gym, 2 weeks out of the hospital, and telling his trainer, “Dude, I’m on a cane, but I need to be snowboarding as soon as possible.”
Why? It’s pretty simple.
“I get to make the sickest snowboard and surf videos you could ever imagine,” Crouch said, “That brings me so much joy.”
“I’m so stoked to still be here and get to snowboard every day,” he continued, “It’s just too damn fun.”
Competing and traveling during a pandemic has been trying. “Last year was crazy … this thing seems like it’s never going to stop,” Crouch said. He tested positive for Covid-19 right before the holidays; people he’d been around on Dew Tour were testing positive and he figured he should test just to be safe. “Alright, they got me,” he said of testing positive; Crouch had few-to-no symptoms and was able to test negative a number of times prior to the Grand Prix.
Mammoth, he said, was one of his first Grand Prix competitions; he was in his early teens, and the mountain helped to get him a spot in the field. Four years ago, he snagged a podium spot at Mammoth during Olympic qualifiers but needed to win the competition in order to make the Olympic team.
This go-round, he said, “I’m a little in that situation right now, just trying to land runs here, and there’s an event in Europe to solidify that fourth and final spot [on the Olympic roster]. A win here and solidifying things would be pretty damn awesome, that’s for sure,” he adds laughing.
“It’s so crazy getting to drop in here,” Crouch said of competing at Mammoth, “You look at Minarets… there’s nothing better.”
“This is home,” he continued, “I just need to go out there and have fun. These are the jumps I learned to snowboard and spin on.”
“One run at a time, one feature at a time, one day at a time, getting me to where I am now. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be,” Crouch said, “If it’s not, I’m excited to go work on some really cool projects. I’ve good relationships with all of my sponsors, we’ve got projects we’re gonna be working on the next few years.”
“At the end of the day, I’m so thankful I still get to snowboard,” Crouch told The Sheet, “I could be paralyzed watching my friends from the bottom in a wheelchair.”