Mikkel Bang

Mikkel Bang has been a household name in snowboarding since 2002. He got his first cover that year. He was 12 years old. At the time, Mikkel was part of an elite group of tiny kids wrecking havoc in hotel rooms, riding in contests, and filming for videos while jetting all around the world. All of a sudden they were ripped from the mundane life, the lockers, the desks, the teachers, instead they were riding with their heroes, living a complete dream.

Mikkel was one of the few that stayed on track with that dream, ascending into the upper echelon of snowboarding. For years, he was a force in slopestyle snowboarding, a staple at the X Games and a US Open Championship winner. Outside of the competitive arena, Mikkel was drawn to the backcountry and when this decorated Norwegian graduated from the contest program he was already riding AK lines with the best of the best. It’s 2015 now, and Mikkel’s grown up. He rides a 169 at the resort and a 172 in the backcountry. He’s a certified Scandinavian charger. His video parts are absolutely savage. He’s cruising with Terje and filming with Travis. During a late summer trip, we sat down to talk about new projects, old friends, and a life on the road.

Bode Merrill
Mikkel Bang

It kind of feels like you’ve been a bit misty as of late. Where have you been? What have you been up to?

Ha! I don’t know if I’ve been misty. I’m going to be a part of Travis’s movie, in a little part of it. I’ve been in Hakuba, Japan spending the entire month of January there for the last two years. All their stuff is kind of secret, so I wasn’t really putting anything out there on Instagram or anything like that. Then after that, I focused on filming a part for Real Snow. I also think as I stopped doing contests things became a little bit different, it’s a different kind of spotlight.

When was the last time you competed? How did the transition to filming come about?

The last contest I did was in New Zealand three years ago and I broke my arm. It was one of those days where it was windy and flat light and I didn’t really want to do it, but I had just recovered from a different injury so I just felt like riding. When I broke my arm, it was right before the Olympics. I never really wanted to ride in the Olympics, but people wanted me to. I broke my arm and I was like, “This is not what I’m supposed to be doing.” I competed for twelve years. I changed a lot in twelve years and it just wasn’t really for me anymore. Filming was always what I wanted to do when I started snowboarding. The riders I looked up to, they were filming and it just made more sense. But I got into contests and it was good. I’m glad I did it. I learned a lot, I got to see a lot of places and it gave me the opportunity to film now.

The call from Travis was probably helpful in moving towards filming parts. Did he call right after that injury?

I got that call right before I got hurt. It was three years ago when Travis called and asked me if I wanted to be a part of his movie. I’m just in a small part of it, but yeah that was awesome. I think he also said, “Don’t break anything.” And of course, I did.

How did everything come about when you were younger? How did you get picked up and put on the teams so young?

I was in Hemsedal, that’s where I was riding all the time. I was friends with Lars, the park builder, and he brought me and two of my friends under his wing, showed us around the mountain, and taught us everything. He knew René, Burton’s Global Team Manager at the time, and when Burton went to Hemsedal for the first time to do their photoshoot, Lars introduced me to him and I was able to ride with the Burton team when I was there. When they left they came to my dad and me and asked if I wanted to be on the team. It was unreal. I remember I was like, “What the…? Burton? Are you kidding me?” That’s how it started. All of a sudden, boom, I was just on trips. Every year. It’s crazy. 2002 it started.

Bode Merrill

Second Q

Mikkel Bang

Such a dream scenario. Just like that, you’re a globetrotting professional snowboarder.

It was so crazy. I got my first cover when I was twelve, it was the Transworld Buyers Guide: halfpipe air, backside tail grab, photographed by Jeff Curtes. That’s when I started traveling a lot, when I was twelve. I’d be on trips all the time. It was hard, too, because I was in school. I remember the principle at school. He’d let me travel, but it was really hard to keep up with the other kids, you know, ‘cause I was on the road with homework. You think I was going to do homework on a snowboard trip when I was twelve years old? That didn’t really go very well. It was kind of crazy at that age, because I didn’t really understand what I was a part of at the time, I was just snowboarding, but I loved it.

What was your crew like - who were the kids you’d cruise with?

At that time it was me, Luke Mitrani, Frederik Austbo, Tommy Emanuelson and Olivier Gittler. We were just going everywhere on photo shoots and riding in contests. That was so fun, we were just kids and we didn’t have a worry in the world. We were in a different country? No parents? Snowboarding? It didn’t get better than that. We were just classic kids. We broke the hotel thermometers with bb guns, we’d be throwing fire crackers, eating so much candy, and just being so crazy.

As that crew dispersed, things changed. Was it strange to see those friends spread out over the years? I mean that was your crew you grew up with.

Freddy went to Quicksilver, and then a bunch of other stuff happened. People just went different ways and Luke and I were the two that stayed on the Burton Smalls team. Luke and I, we’ve been through everything. The first time I met Luke I was 12, it’s crazy to think about. We’ve been going through so much stuff--from snowboarding to girls and partying--we’ve been kind of growing up traveling. We’ve known each other for so long. But, it happened a bunch with me, where you become really good friends, riding all the time together, and then they change sponsors and you don’t see them as much anymore. You do what you want to do in life, but with who you ride with, you have to be with your teammates. But, then it’s always good times when you get to see each other.

Mikkel Bang

Mikkel Bang

“Getting into something like guitar is so fun. It’s social, it’s music, it’s so good. The cool thing is, when you bring it everywhere you learn more. You slowly get better and better and it becomes so fun.” ”

Mikkel Bang

What’s going on with your program in Norway? You’ve been tearing up Oslo for years?

Right now being on the road as much as I am, when I come home I only get to stay home for so long. This year it’s been two months. When I come home now, I go to the city, and this year I was feeling more and more like I want to go home and have it be quiet and have mountains. So I just invested in a new place in Hemsedal where I grew up riding. I’ll be on the mountain, I can make my own runs during the summer--move rocks! And work on the music. Right now, I live in an apartment with neighbors so I can’t really play too much loud music. I’m excited about this new place. In the basement I want to build a room where we can jam, maybe get a drum set and have our amps down there. That part is underground. The building is half-dug down underground, kind of on an uphill, right next to the mountain. Easy access.

What are your plans for riding this winter? What’s going on?

I’m really excited for this winter. I really want to go to Alaska. My first time in AK was a trip I’ll never forget and at the time I didn’t know how lucky I was. There was three feet of stable snow and it was sunny for over a week. It was with Marko Grilc, Kazu Kokubo, and Fredi Kalbermatten. I think I was 18. I need to go back, my riding has changed a lot, too, since that time. I want to go back there and relive some of those days. I’ll probably try to go back to Japan, as well. This past winter in Hakuba, it was so insane. I’ve never experienced that much snow before. And just how consistent it snows there, and the food and the people. That’s one of the cool things that snowboarding has given my life: being able to see different cultures and eat food. You learn so much from traveling, from seeing places, seeing how people live. You see the rich and the poor. You get a pretty good understanding of how things work. It’s a good way to live; I am so fortunate. Especially now, I understand how fortunate I am, more than when I was younger. To be able to travel and snowboard, especially right now filming, I’m traveling and searching for powder. It’s like a dream.