World Champion freeskier and Stratton Mountain School alumnus, Mac Forehand, speaks on his gravity-defying stunts, passion for freeskiing, and deep ties to Stratton.
STORY BY BENJAMIN LERNER
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY RED BULL
In the world of freeskiing, few names resonate as profoundly as Mac Forehand’s. His journey from a young, emergent skier to a respected World Champion is an inspiring tale of heartfelt dedication and indomitable spirit. Forehand, a Connecticut native, first found his calling in the snowy mountains of Vermont. His early years on the slopes at Stratton Mountain Resort and at Stratton Mountain School ignited a lifelong love for skiing. Forehand shares: “I have many early memories of waking up, going to school on Fridays, driving to Vermont in the afternoon, skiing on Saturday and Sunday, and being so in love with it.”
Forehand credits his sister, Savannah, for originally steering him towards freeskiing. Initially engaged in ski racing, Forehand transitioned to moguls, and eventually freeskiing, during his earliest years at Stratton. Forehand’s weekends at Stratton weren’t just routine skiing trips; they were the crucible where his fundamental skills were forged. His attachment to Stratton Mountain Resort runs deep to this day. “I always love going back to Stratton,” says Forehand. “It’s such a fun resort, and it’s nice knowing the whole mountain and being back there.”
After skiing at Stratton Mountain Resort for several years, Forehand’s family moved up to Vermont. His subsequent enrollment at Stratton Mountain School (SMS) marked a significant evolution in his skiing. At SMS, Forehand’s emergent talent was chiseled into professional prowess through rigorous athletic training and academic discipline. “The SMS staff did a great job with keeping us regimented in all aspects of our work—both athletically and academically,” says Forehand. In 2019, Forehand made history as the youngest person to ever win the overall World Cup Title in Slopestyle. He did it all at the age of 17 while still fully enrolled at SMS. In the years that followed, Forehand continued to build a name for himself as an established talent in freeskiing. His ongoing partnership with Red Bull serves as a springboard for his athletic creativity, which was beautifully manifested in the conception and execution of his gravity-defying upside-down rail slide. This marvelous athletic feat stands as a consummate embodiment of Forehand’s courage, as well as Red Bull’s commitment to pushing the limits of extreme sports.
According to Forehand, the idea for the upside-down rail slide was borne from his relentless pursuit of athletic and creative challenges. “When I’m trying to think of something new, the question I always ask myself is, ‘How can I scare myself the most, and what is super-gnarly that hasn’t been done before?’” Forehand’s partnership with Red Bull provided him with the necessary support to bring his daring vision to life. “I’ve been on the Red Bull team for almost five years now,” shares Forehand. “Ever since I came on the team, they’ve been incredibly supportive.” Their collaboration was more than a sponsorship; it was an alliance that fostered fearless innovation. “Without Red Bull, there is no way I would have been able to do projects like this.”
The conception of the upside-down rail slide was a blend of meticulous planning and sheer audacity. Forehand drew inspiration from a video of a dirt biker performing a similarly ambitious stunt. This spark of creativity led to a spellbinding athletic performance that took the freeskiing world by storm. The planning process involved both physical preparation and detailed conceptual work. Forehand elaborates: “I started drawing with a sketchbook and figuring out features, which I’ve always done ever since I was a younger athlete.” This methodical approach combined physical dexterity with creative visualization, transforming the initial idea into a tangible feat. Forehand shares that the execution of the upside-down rail slide was both daunting and exhilarating. “The scariest part was looking at the rail right at my feet when I was upside-down and having to deal with it feeling so wrong.” Still, Forehand rose to the occasion, channeling his bravery and overcoming seemingly impossible odds.
Forehand’s recent film project with Faction, Abstract, explores the artistic dimensions of freeskiing in a different way. His perspective on freeskiing closely aligns with the film’s overarching concept. “I like to say that freeskiing is certainly an art,” says Forehand. “The slopes are your canvas and your skis are the paintbrush.” The groundbreaking film project took Forehand around the world, breaking boundaries in street and big mountain skiing while elevating his career to new heights.
To that end, a significant portion of Abstract was filmed in Japan, a location not traditionally associated with street skiing. “When they first told me that we were going to Japan, I thought that we were going to be skiing powder. They told me that we were going to be skiing street, and I knew that the project was going to be different.” The novel and unique choice of location beautifully reflects the film’s aim to challenge conventional perceptions of freeskiing. In Japan, the filming process was intense, involving laborious preparations. “We worked with this local kid, Koga, who was a really good skier,” shares Forehand. “He showed us all the spots around there, and we spent hours unburying rails, shoveling staircases, and getting everything ready.”
Forehand’s experience in Japan immersed him in a new aspect of freeskiing that required both resilience and adaptability. While filming there, he faced a significant setback when he dislocated his shoulder. However, Forehand powered through with dedication and persistence. “I took three days off, but I got right back out there and started filming again.”
Abstract also features scenes of big mountain skiing in Wyoming and Northern Utah, showcasing Forehand’s versatility as a skier. For Forehand, this was a foray into relatively unfamiliar territory. “I’m really new to big mountain skiing, so it took me out of my comfort zone and pushed me forward.” The filming process for the big mountain section of the film involved early morning wakeups, building jumps, and skiing challenging lines, all of which factored into a bold and enriching experience. “We were out in the sleds on a lot of early mornings,” says Forehand. “It was really cool, and I’m looking forward to doing some more big mountain skiing this year.” Forehand is excited about his future in skiing, and he plans to continue collaborating with Red Bull and Faction while exploring all facets of the sport. “This year’s whole season is planned around filming, competing, and going on trips,” adds Forehand, outlining his aspirations for the months to come.
Forehand also plans to continue his involvement with the Pan Mass Challenge (PMC), a fundraising bike-a-thon that benefits the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through the Jimmy Fund. His participation in the Pan Mass Challenge (PMC) offered an opportunity to extend his athletic endeavors beyond skiing while contributing to a greater cause. Forehand’s connection to the PMC is deeply-rooted in family values and community involvement. His parents’ longstanding ties to the event played a significant role in inspiring his participation. Forehand began working for the PMC as a volunteer during his early youth, helping with logistics and aiding the riders. As he grew older and sought to challenge himself in different athletic arenas, his participation in the PMC allowed him to contribute meaningfully to a noble cause. “It just came naturally that I wanted to go ride in the Pan Mass and push myself in that way,” he explains. Forehand embraced the challenge of road biking, viewing it as another avenue to test his limits.
According to Forehand, the PMC is both a physical challenge and an emotionally-rewarding experience. Raising funds for cancer research and treatment added a profound dimension. “You’re riding for people that are battling through cancer, and they’re facing something that’s much more difficult than you are,” says Forehand. Forehand’s emotional connection to his biking team, “Team Brent,” provided additional inspiration. The team is named after a young leukemia survivor, who cheered on Forehand and his team members from the sidelines. “You see them in the crowd as you’re biking by,” shares Forehand. “It reminds you what you’re riding for.”
Crossing the finish line of the PMC was a moment of triumph and reflection for Forehand. “It’s very emotional when you cross the finish line. You realize that you just biked 200 miles in two days,” he recalls. The physical feat, coupled with the knowledge of contributing to a significant cause, brought a deep sense of fulfillment and purpose.
Forehand’s experience with the PMC extends beyond personal achievement; it symbolizes his commitment to leveraging his athletic platform to aid in meaningful philanthropic efforts. His participation in the challenge is a testament to his belief in the power of sports as a conduit for positive change and community impact. As Forehand’s career continues to blossom, his emotional connection to Vermont only grows stronger. “Getting back to Vermont, being with my family, and going skiing at Stratton always takes me back to my earliest memories as a skier.” Stratton Village, with its unique Austrian-inspired ski culture and vibrant social scene, played a pivotal role in Forehand’s early years. The village was more than just a place to unwind after skiing; it was a cultural hub that enriched his experiences and broadened his understanding of skiing. Forehand’s heartfelt memories of Stratton Village are reawakened every time he returns to the Green Mountain State. “I loved going to the candy store in the Village with all of my friends when I was younger.” Forehand also fondly recalls trips to Mulligan’s with his family, symbolizing the warmth and camaraderie of the Stratton Mountain community. “My parents would take me there after I got done skiing. I would play arcade games with my friends, and we would all have so much fun together.” For Forehand, returning to Vermont is a journey back to his roots, regardless of the season. “I love Vermont in the springtime, and I’m looking forward to coming back this Christmas, going straight in and skiing some groomers with some of my friends.” No matter how far Forehand travels, his heart remains anchored in the mountains of Southern Vermont.
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