words :: Allison Kennedy Davies.
It’s been a long and winding road for Ontario snowboarder Baily McDonald. With indisputable talent in the park and an undeniable drive to succeed, McDonald has already had to overcome some huge obstacles in her career, including an injury that derailed her 2018 Olympic plans. After reuniting with longtime coach Sam Marcotte and his Mount St. Louis Moonstone–based The Senders team, McDonald found her mojo just in time to see the season derailed by the global pandemic.
But chatting with McDonald by Zoom, one of her five shar-peis making an appearance, I quickly get the sense that this won’t slow her down much. Like all of us, McDonald is anxiously awaiting her first runs of the season—and she’s focused once again on refining her style and creating some incredible video segments.
Mountain Life: Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Baily McDonald: I’m 22 years old and I’m from Barrie. I’ve been snowboarding since I was six years old but started skiing at three. My family and I live in the heart of all the resorts in Ontario, so snowboarding came naturally into my life.
ML: Can you take us back to the beginning? How and where did you start snowboarding and when did you start to compete?
BM: My first time snowboarding was at Horseshoe Valley Resort. I remember it clear as day. I was sitting at the top of the bunny hill just staring at the terrain park. I wanted to get in there so badly, but I couldn’t even ride down the hill yet (laughs). Once I was able to ride, and it came to me pretty quick, I went right to the terrain park and tried the features. I started competing when I joined The Senders at 15. That’s when I knew I could get to the next level training with them.
ML: You made the Canadian team back in 2017 and were poised to head to the 2018 Winter Olympics. Can you explain where that plan took a turn?
BM: 2017 was my best and my worst year ever. It started out amazing. I won the Canadian Nationals for slopestyle and had an all-around great season filled with progression and results. While I was at an Olympic qualifier in New Zealand at the beginning of September, I took a bad crash on the training day. The conditions we were riding in were not safe: heavy winds and flat light. It was my first Olympic qualifier and I wanted to push myself and be ready for the contest day. I ended up dislocating my left elbow and got helicoptered off the mountain. My heart was completely crushed and it took months to heal and for my mental game to recover. I missed the rest of the qualifiers for the Olympics, but I think it was a blessing in disguise for something better.
ML: By all accounts, you’ve worked crazy hard to recover, get back on snow and back to a competitive level. How difficult has that process been?
BM: It was so hard getting my mental game back. After the major injury in 2017, I had such a hard time trusting myself with jumps. I was so scared of the idea of getting hurt and not snowboarding again for months. Once I was cleared to be on snow again, Sam Marcotte was the coach for the Next Generation team for Canada. And because I was just getting back to training, the national team thought it was best that I ride with the NextGen team to get back into my normal self. Sam helped me through so much of my mental struggle with snowboarding and he had a big impact on the result of trusting myself again. I went back to the basics and built a better foundation for snowboarding than before—which led me to believing that if I hit any feature right, nothing bad would happen.
ML: At this point you’ve got a long history of working with Sam Marcotte and The Senders. How has that relationship helped you progress as a rider?
BM: I started with The Senders back in 2013/2014, but once I got onto the NextGen team for Canada in 2015, Canada Snowboard suggested we didn’t need to continue to work with our home teams. I followed that advice, but when I started working with Sam and the Senders again in 2019, my whole riding style changed for the better. Sam Marcotte and Andy Stewart were so helpful with their knowledge of snowboarding; they fixed my stance and the way I ride. I am so grateful to them. The whole team as a whole is just amazing. Everyone is super-nice to each other and supportive. It doesn’t feel like training when I ride with The Senders. We are all just having fun doing what we love, leading to progression and results in the end.
ML: Now you’ve got your sights set on the 2022 Olympics. What needs to happen for you to have a shot at making that a reality?
BM: With the pandemic being an issue all over the world, I’m not 100 per cent sure what’s going to happen for season plans. This year I want to really progress and showcase it through videos and content and work on making every trick more stylish.
ML: What will your winter look like and how will it be different because of COVID-19?
BM: Yeah, COVID really screwed up a lot of things but it also made me expand my horizons. This season I want to focus on giving back to my community and also doing more content stuff for my sponsors. I’ll be filming more this year and making videos with Sam for my sponsors. I haven’t really explored this avenue before so it will be new and different and I’m excited.