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VT Voices: Mac Forehand

STORY BY BENJAMIN LERNER 

PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY RED BULL 


Mac Forehand is a World Champion Freeskier who started his winter sports journey on the slopes of Stratton Mountain Resort in Southern Vermont. He made history in 2019 by winning the overall World Cup Title in Slopestyle at the age of 17 – and he did it all while still enrolled as a full-time student at Stratton Mountain School. As Forehand continues to push the boundaries of his sport forward through groundbreaking film projects with Red Bull and Faction, he took the time to sit down with VERMONT Magazine. He reflected on his passion for freeskiing, the transformative power of athletic artistry, and how his time in Vermont continues to shape his professional trajectory. 

Q: Welcome, Mac! Thank you so much for joining us on VT Voices—we’re big fans of yours, and it’s been incredible seeing you rise to the highest levels of prominence in the international freeskiing scene. I’m excited to hear about all of the new projects you’ve been working on— especially the recent Red Bull film project with your gravity-defying, upside-down rail slide. Before we get into all that, I’d love to learn more about your connection to Vermont. I’ve read that you started out skiing at Stratton when you were very young. Can you share your earliest memories of skiing in Vermont with us? 


Forehand: I grew up in Connecticut, but I got my start skiing in Vermont. 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. I fully credit my sister, Savannah, with getting me into freestyle skiing. I started out racing for two years when I was young, and she was a mogul skier. I knew that’s where I wanted to go with my skiing, and I switched over to moguls, and eventually freeskiing because of her. To this day, I always love going back to Stratton. It’s such a fun resort, and it’s nice knowing the whole mountain and being back there. 


Q: How did your time at Stratton and at Stratton Mountain School help mold you into the skier that you have become today? 


Forehand: I started on the racing team through the Stratton weekend program. Back then, I always looked forward to going to ski the terrain park and the moguls. When I moved to Vermont, I went from the race program to the mogul team. I was on the Stratton mogul team for five or six years. I loved moguls so much back then, but I still looked forward to going to the park with my friends and spending the last hours of the day there. I linked up with one of my good friends who was on the park team there, and that’s how I met one of my first park coaches, Brian Knowles. He’s the Mount Snow Weekend Program Head Coach, and he has coached some big names in the sport from Vermont,  including Ben Smith, Parker White, and Chris Logan. I met him at Stratton, and I did one season where I split my time between moguls and freeskiing, and then I switched to the freeski team full-time when I was 13. I always loved skiing the parks at Stratton and Mount Snow. 


Forehand goes big in a daring stunt for a Red Bull project.

Q: Do you remember any specific breakthrough moments in your freeskiing journey at Stratton or Mount Snow? 


Forehand: A really big moment happened at Mount Snow when I was 13. I did my first double-cork 1260°. I was so ecstatic. I was at Corinthia, which had great jumps and rails. It was a mecca for freeskiing, and it was such a pivotal moment in my career. 


Q: After skiing for the Stratton Mountain weekend team, you went on to attend Stratton Mountain School (SMS), and you made history for winning the overall World Cup when you were 17. How did the environment at SMS foster your athletic skillset and creativity? 


Forehand: I came to SMS when I was 14, and I was skiing every day in the morning and afternoon before and after school. It was awesome to have that opportunity. You become a better skier if you’re on the snow as much as you can be. The SMS staff did a great job with keeping us 

regimented in all aspects of our work – both athletically and academically. If you didn’t finish your work on time, you couldn’t go skiing. You had to sit in a library and get it all done. The trampoline at their training center was so fun and next-level. You could learn a bunch of new tricks on the trampoline and go skateboarding, and that’s where I really found my love for skateboarding. I have such a good group of friends that I still talk to from SMS, including Zeb Powell. I still have videos on my phone of him doing crazy stuff at the skatepark. I truly believe that I would not be where I am today without SMS. My time there taught me how to stay dialed in to the athlete 

mindset. It doesn’t all happen out on the hill. A lot of it happens in the gym and in training. SMS taught me the importance of training and scheduling, and I still use that today. 


Forehand’s epic aerial stunt comes to fruition.

Q: One of my favorite things about SMS is the balance between academics and athletics that you just touched on. To that end, there’s a lot of pressure for student athletes who compete on the high levels that you competed at while enrolled there. What would your advice be for SMS students—or any young freeskiers—about how to adapt to the pressure of competition, balance academic 

responsibilities, and take care of their mental health? 


Forehand: I would say that it’s important to remember the roots of the sport. The whole reason we got into freeskiing is because it’s fun. As long as you have a good time, that’s where you’re going to find the most success in our sport. It always comes back to going out on a hill, skiing, and enjoying it. Those days when I was out there having fun with my friends are how I got better at skiing. That’s what I would want to emphasize to the kids that are coming up today. There’s so much young talent at SMS. I see them doing really well in competitions and getting on the podium, but I can also tell from seeing Instagram videos and talking to the coaches that they’re really enjoying it. As long as you keep your head in that direction, I think you’re going to succeed. 


Q: Absolutely. Passion and enjoyment are incredibly important, and that’s evident in the hard work that you put into the process of learning new tricks and planning them. Can you take us through the conceptualization of your most recent, historic trick, the upside-down rail slide? 


Forehand: I find the most inspiration in learning new tricks. I’ve always wanted to learn bigger and better tricks. That’s where I find the creative mindset, because I’m trying to push myself to a different level. When I’m trying to think of something new, the question I ask myself is, “How can I scare myself the most, and what is super-gnarly that hasn’t been done before?” A lot of trampoline time also helps with that. I was on the trampoline so much when I was at SMS, and it helps with air awareness and visualization. When it came specifically to the upside-down rail slide, I always wanted to do a Red Bull project. I’ve been on the Red Bull team for almost five years now. Ever since I came on the team, I had been trying to come up with what I wanted to do. I was actually inspired by a video I saw of a dirt biker who tapped on a shipping container upside-down while doing a backflip. I thought that a similar trick would be really cool on skis with a rail. I started drawing with a sketchbook and figuring out features, which I’ve always done ever since I was a younger athlete. I drew a sketch of a rail that was hanging on the side of scaffolding and pitched it to Red Bull, and they were really stoked about it. After that, we started the process of getting it finalized and figured out. The biggest hurdle for me was figuring out what I wanted to do, and what trick would work the best so I could slide upside-down. I thought of a couple of tricks, like a forward under-flip where I flipped it upside-down, a switch 540°, and a switch 720°. It was all predetermined that I was going to do those tricks. I didn’t know if it would work or not. 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. It was a really cool experience, and it all comes back to why I love the sport. I can push myself in directions like that, and I can take the time to plan it out months in advance, visualize it, and execute the trick in a way that’s in line with my vision. 


Q: Planning, manifesting, and visualizing are all core tenets of the artistic and creative process. In line with that, your new film project with Faction, Abstract, centers around the question of whether or not freeskiing is an art. It also explores the artistic range of freeskiing in beautiful ways. What was it like to work on that project, and how did it push your athletic artistry forward? 


Forehand: I like to say that freeskiing is certainly an art—the slopes are your canvas and your skis are the paintbrush. Whether you’re doing a trick on a jump, a rail, or anything else, it’s all about the conceptualization and figuring it out how to express yourself on the slopes. Faction makes films every two years, and I’ve been in a couple other ones, mostly with jump shoots and things that I’m familiar with. This year, I got an e-mail in the fall from Faction. They said they wanted to go to Japan to film a movie. When I think of Japan skiing, I think of powder. I said, “Oh, we’re going to go ski powder?” They responded by saying, “We’re going to go ski street there.” I had never done a street filming trip. I grew up watching ski films, and I’ve seen so many street videos. I thought, “This is my chance to go out there and do it myself.” Once we got to Japan, we had a really good time. We worked with this local kid, Koga, who was a really good skier. He showed us all the spots around there. A lot of hard work went into those days. We would go out early in the morning and try to hit two or three spots in a day. We went out there, shoveled staircases, and unburied the rails. I actually dislocated my shoulder when I was there. I took three days off, but I got right back out there and started filming again. There was also a big mountain scene in the Faction film, and I’m really new to big mountain skiing. Before I went out to film the big mountain part of the film, I was overseas in Georgia for the World Championships. The thing is, I didn’t really want to compete there—I just wanted to go film and express myself on a different side of skiing. I booked a flight home, got back to Park City, loaded my truck, and I drove right out to Wyoming. We filmed in Wyoming and Northern Utah for two-and-a-half weeks straight. We got blessed with good snow, so we had a really good time. I was with an experienced crew of guys that had been in the back country for a long time. It was nice how they pointed out lines to go ski, because I didn’t really know what I was doing. All these mountains are massive. You’re skiing out of bounds, and there’s pretty gnarly terrain that’s very avalanche-prone. We were out in the sleds on a lot of really early mornings, waking up at 5AM, going to the trailhead, skiing all day until 7PM, building jumps, and skiing lines. It was really cool, and I’m looking forward to doing a lot of that this year, as well. It was nice to get out of my comfort zone. I was out there hitting big, scary rails with staircases in Japan and hitting big jumps in the Wyoming backcountry. I’m blessed that Faction makes films like this, because a lot of ski companies nowadays don’t really do group projects for their teams anymore. Faction is still all about that. This is their fourth film 

now, and they’re continuing to push the boundaries of film and skiing. I’m going to keep pushing myself on these trips and in these situations where we’re going out into the backcountry and the streets. That’s what I want to do with my skiing. 


Forehand hitting the slopes during his time at Stratton Mountain School with fellow student athletes, including world-famous snowboarder, Zeb Powell

Q: I love to hear that Faction has been so supportive, and it’s been amazing to see your artistry flourish with your recent Red Bull project, as well. How did working with Red Bull on the upside-down rail slide film project help you to elevate your career and your athletic artistry?


Forehand: From the beginning, the whole philosophy of the Red Bull team has been to support athletes who want to push themselves. Recently, I saw a Red Bull project where someone wake-surfed onto a roof and then base jumped off of it. I was blown away. It’s cool to see how Red Bull allows athletes to explore different aspects of their sports, and the upside-down rail slide was a perfect example. That feature would never be set up in a public park, and no one would ever set that type of feature up again. Working with Red Bull, I was able to push the boundaries of my sport in my own way. Without Red Bull, there is no way I would be able to do projects like this. That’s what I love so much about it. I’ve watched Red Bull videos of people doing crazy projects my whole life. I’ve only done one so far, but I have a lot of other ideas. I love being able to show what I like to do on the big screen. With skiing, there are so many different ways to express 

your love for the sport, whether it’s competitions, filming, or going to ski in the park for fun. It’s great to have Red Bull’s backing and to be a part of their team, and I’m excited to start my next project with them in the future. 


Q: Throughout your career, you’ve been community-minded in the world of skiing in every sense, starting with your years on the Stratton and SMS teams, and building up to today. You’ve also been involved in philanthropic programs, such as the Pan Mass Challenge, which connect you to 

different athletic communities. What motivated you to support that cause, and why is it important to you? 


Forehand: My mom and dad have been doing the Pan Mass Challenge for 15 years now. When I was younger, I was always there supporting the riders and working as a volunteer. I would help out with moving food and setting up tents for the riders and spectators. While I was going to SMS, I always wanted to push myself beyond skiing with my athletic achievements, whether that meant running my fastest mile time or experimenting with other sports, including skateboarding and mountain biking. It just came naturally that I wanted to go ride in the Pan Mass and push myself in that way. I’m a big mountain biker, but I’ve never really been a big road biker. I just had to sit down on the bike this summer, put my head down, and go forward with the training. The great thing about the Pan Mass Challenge is that you’re riding for a good cause. That’s what you think about when you’re riding. If you’re having a tough day on the bike, your head’s not in it, and you feel like you can’t keep going, you remember the purpose behind the event. You’re riding for people that are battling through cancer, and they’re facing something that’s much more difficult. We have a whole team for the Pan Mass, “Team Brent.” Brent was diagnosed with leukemia at a young age, and I see him all the time now at the Pan Mass. It’s amazing, because he’s there and we’re all there supporting him, supporting his cause, and supporting the causes of the other children, too. It’s very emotional when you cross the finish line. You realize that you just biked 200 miles in two days. It feels incredible to raise money for children that need it, and I definitely want to keep doing it for years to come. 

Q: I imagine those are memories you’re going to keep for a lifetime, just like the memories you have from the parks at Stratton and Mount Snow from your earliest years. Speaking of which, the memories that we make off the slopes can be just as powerful as the time we spend on them. What are some of your favorite memories from Stratton Village? 


Forehand: When I was growing up coming to Stratton, every one of my friends always loved the village. My favorite memories are getting done with skiing and going to the candy store with all of my friends when I was younger. I also loved going to Mulligan’s. My parents would take me there after I got done skiing. They’d be at the bar, and I’d be eating some chicken tenders or playing with my friends in the arcade. Stratton has such a cool culture compared to other mountains, because other resorts might just have a lodge, but Stratton Village is so engrained in Austrian ski culture and its history. It’s really cool to have the Village as a core part of my early memories.


Q: One of the most fun things I’ve read about you is that if you could choose anyone to play you in a biography film, you would choose Will Ferrell. What aspects of your story and personality do you think he would capture best, and how would you want that movie to play out?


Forehand: I’ve always loved Will Ferrell so much, and he’s so funny. If he were to play me, I would want him to play the future, retired me, trying to come back into professional skiing or something like that. He would bring a bunch of droll, dry humor and jokes into it. I think a skiing movie could be pretty funny, especially if there were scenes on chairlifts. I’ve had a lot of funny conversations with my friends while riding the lifts, and I think it’d be a good movie.


Q: Would it be kind of like Blades of Glory, but the Vermont ski edition?


Forehand: Exactly! That would be perfect. 


Q: 2023 was a big year for you with all of these amazing projects, and the future of your career is looking bright. What can we expect in 2024 and beyond? 


Forehand: I want to do it all when it comes to skiing. I like being a well-rounded skier, because I was taught the importance of that at a really young age. It’s good to do everything, whether it’s backcountry skiing, parks, or anything else. I’m going to keep doing that, and hopefully think of some crazy ideas to do in another project with Red Bull. I want to be invested in filming as much as I can and putting out content for people to watch. This year’s whole season is planned around filming, competing, and going on trips. I’m also going to keep thinking of crazy ideas to do for future projects with Red Bull. I want to compete and film at the highest levels, and with the support of Red Bull and Faction, I think it is possible to do it all. 


Q: Have you had the chance to come back to Vermont recently?


Forehand: I actually came back for Christmas. I was there for four days, and I wish I could have been home for longer. I definitely want to come back to Vermont some more in the spring. I love Vermont in the spring, and I love spending time at my house in Vermont in any season. I’m looking forward to coming back this Christmas, going straight in and skiing some groomers with some of my friends. Getting back to Vermont, being with my family, and going skiing at Stratton always takes me back to my earliest memories as a skier. 


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 I’m excited to hear about all of the new projects you’ve been working on— especially the recent Red Bull film project with your gravity-defying geometry dash

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