WARROAD, Minn. – Mick Olson is hoping the third time’s a charm.
Olson, 26, of Warroad, will compete Saturday, Jan. 26, in the Winter X Games, an extreme sports competition in Aspen, Colo., that includes a variety of ski, snowboard, snowmobile and snocross events.
Olson, who also qualified for the X Games in 2018 and 2019, will compete in the “Snow BikeCross” event, racing a machine that looks like a cross between a dirt bike and a snowmobile.
“Basically, it’s just a motocross bike with the front wheel removed and a ski and track kit added on to the back,” Olson said. “We race on basically a snocross track but more tailored to a motocross snowbike track.”
On a recent Friday afternoon, Olson braved subzero temperatures to put a motocross snowbike through the paces on an icy track east of Warroad with hills made from piles of snow. Every hill sent Olson and his snocross bike airborne, but it’s nothing like the course he’ll race in Aspen, he says.
“There was a jump last year that was easily a 70-foot jump,” Olson said. “These are just little ones to get the conditioning down.”
The track near Warroad was “icier than icy” on this recent Friday, and the brakes on the snocross bike Olson was driving didn’t work. It’s not the bike he’ll be racing in Aspen.
“Practicing with no brakes isn’t all bad,” Olson said. “If you can ride good with a bad setup, you can ride good with a good setup.”
Olson said he started riding snowcross bikes in 2011 when his dad, Pete, bought a kit for riding out west in the backcountry of Montana.
“At first I said, ‘What did you get one of them for?’ Because I didn’t think it would have enough power to go through the snow,” Olson said. “And obviously, it does.
“Then we just kind of progressed into racing once they started having a few races here and there,” Olson said. His dad and younger brother, Colton, 18, all have snowcross bikes.
Hard luck dogged Olson during his first two X Games. Operator error the first year and equipment trouble last year kept him out of the finals.
“The first year was totally my fault,” Olson said. “I just made a mistake and couldn’t get back up to place high enough where I needed to be.”
Last year, a bearing in the track went out, and while Olson finished the race, the track got “super loose” and began ratcheting.
“I couldn’t go anywhere,” he said. “That was frustrating. This year, we’re hoping, no broken parts.”
Olson qualified for this year’s X Games during a December race at the ERX Motor Park in Elk River, Minn.
In preparing for the upcoming games, Olson says he tries to ride at least three times a week while juggling family and work commitments. He and his dad made a trip to Elk River early this past week to spend a couple of days practicing on the ERX course, and he’ll get more practice on the track east of Warroad before leaving for Aspen on Tuesday, Jan. 21.
He credits his dad and his mom, Sandy, for their support in keeping his racing venture on track.
“If Dad and Mom weren’t supportive of it, it wouldn’t be happening,” he said. “Or very little of it would be happening.”
As race day draws closer, Olson says he’s feeling a mix of excitement and anticipation.
“It’s our third year, so it’s not a new thing. We’re not stressed out about it too much,” he said. “It’s crunch time for sure.”
Dokken reports on outdoors. Call him at (701) 780-1148, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1148 or send email to email@example.com.