Mac Forehand poses for a photo with his crystal globe at the FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup on March 30, 2019 in Silvaplana, Switzerland.
It wasn’t long ago that Mac Forehand’s favorite memory as a freeskier was getting into the finals at a world cup big air competition in November 2017 in Milan.
After his unexpected success as a rookie team member in 2018-19, however, he now has a few more moments that far exceed making the finals at a world cup competition. Forehand, 17, is this year’s world cup crystal globe winner in men’s slopestyle skiing.
“I want to put (the globe) in my room but my dad will probably want to put it in the family room,” Forehand said of the trophy.
Forehand’s rapid rise in the sport checked off a lot of the usual boxes, though in some cases he checked through them very quickly.
Born in Norwalk, Connecticut, as the child of two skiers, Forehand was on snow by age 2. By 6 he was skiing moguls, but he always loved heading into the park to ski with his friends. At age 11 he entered his first slopestyle contest at Mount Snow, Vermont, and by 13 he’d given up moguls entirely.
Before long he was invited to attend a Project Gold camp, where top juniors are chosen to train with U.S. Freeski and Snowboard Team coaches. It was there that Dave Euler first met Forehand. Euler, the U.S. Freeski Team’s slopestyle and big air national development team coach, was impressed not only by Forehand’s strong foundation but also his pure love of the sport and willingness to work hard to get better.
After success on the second-tier NorAm circuit and getting his first taste of world cup competitions in 2017-18, Forehand was named last May to the U.S. Rookie Team.
“Making the finals at every big air he entered as a 16-year-old was super impressive,” Euler said. “He was one of the only Americans at a lot of these events, so it was exciting. I personally expected (that as a rookie) he’d make a bunch of finals and maybe snag a podium, but the crystal globe and winning a world cup was certainly not the expectation at the beginning of the season by any means.”
Being on the rookie team meant that last summer during training camp, Forehand had access to the air bag, where he could really work on learning some new tricks, and that helped a lot, he said. On the first day of camp he landed his first-ever switch triple flip. He kept grinding from there, said Euler, who also credits the work Forehand did over the summer with his success.
The season started with the world junior championships last August in Cardrona, New Zealand. Forehand went in more focused on slopestyle than big air, but the more he hit the big air jump the more he liked it. He started playing with some new tricks, and a few days before the competition he landed his first switch triple cork 1620. He decided to break it out for the big air final and won with a score of 185.00, beating out teammate Ryan Stevenson by less than a point.
That willingness to push his limits and try things he may not have had consistent success with in practice became a theme for Forehand.
“He definitely took some risks in his runs this year that really paid off,” Euler said. “He seemed to always put it down under pressure when it counted. He definitely has a special mindset when it comes to contest runs.”
Three months later Forehand earned his first world cup podium, finishing second in slopestyle in Stubai, Austria. He followed that up with a fourth-place finish in slopestyle at the world cup stop in Font Romeu, France, in January as well as a fourth-place finish at the senior-level world championships in February in Park City, Utah.
Then in March, in the second-to-last world cup of the season at Mammoth Mountain, California, Forehand qualified for the final in fifth place. The finals were later that day because weather on the mountain had wreaked havoc on the competition schedules.
He’d been struggling on the rail sections, but he felt like if he could get through that section he could get a pretty good score on the rest of the course. He scored a 90.95 to win, almost five points higher than the second-place finisher.
“I landed my last jump and I really didn’t expect the score I got,” he said. “I thought maybe it would be an 85, or an 87. It came out as a 90 and it was just insane. It was a crazy feeling.”
With his first world cup win, Forehand was in the lead for the crystal globe heading into the finale in Silvaplana, Switzerland. He qualified for the final and ended up in 12th, but his actual finish didn’t matter.
“After qualification I was at dinner with the coaches before the finals even happened and they were like, ‘We just want to let you know you won the crystal globe by making the finals,’” he said. “I really wanted to land my runs (in the final) better, but I was so happy I got the globe.”
Next, the junior at Stratton Mountain School in Vermont will focus on finishing his schoolwork for the year. The 2019-20 team nominees won’t be announced until later this spring, but Forehand certainly made a strong case to be part of the pro team for this coming season. Three years from now he could well have the title Olympic medalist attached to his name, but Forehand isn’t focusing on that just yet.
“For now I just want to keep learning new stuff and competing at the level I’m at and having fun,” he said. “But when I was young I did say I wanted to be an Olympian. It would be amazing to go.”