Passion, devotion behind Stratton student's success at Freeski World Cup

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STRATTON — Mac Forehand started freeskiing at age 12. Five years later - in Silvaplana, Switzerland on March 30 - he lifted the Crystal Globe as this season's overall Slopestyle champion in the FIS Freeski World Cup.

Outside of winning an Olympic gold, the Crystal Globe is considered the most prestigious title in the sport.

"Hands down most insane comp(etition) season of my life," said Forehand, a junior at Stratton Mountain School, on Instagram where he posted a photo of him on the podium with the second and third finishers. "Didn't put down the run I wanted to do today in finals but beyond hyped to get the overall win."

A member of the U.S. Rookie Slopestyle-Freeskiing team, he said his goal at the start of the season was just to participate in all the five Slopestyle world Cup events, land his runs and make it to the finals.

"I didn't expect to become the world cup overall champion at all this year as there as so many talented athletes I was up against," the 17-year-old said in an interview Tuesday while in France.

But after landing on the world cup podium four times this season, including placing first at Mammoth Mountain Resort in California last month, Forehand knew he had a shot at the Crystal Globe.

He has now become the first person in Stratton Mountain School's 47-year history to win the trophy while still a student at the school.

PASSION, HARD WORK, TALENT

That victory has come through passion and devotion to the sport.

Forehand, who lives in Winhall with his family, said he skis "enormous amounts" all year, practicing tricks on rails and jumps.

During the season, he hits the slopes seven days a week. Offseason, he skateboards, mountain bikes and works out at the gym. On his summer school breaks, he skis as much as he can in Mt. Hood, Ore.; Whistler, British Columbia; and New Zealand.

"I am constantly trying new tricks, skiing with my friends and having fun," Forehand said. "That is why I love the sport so much."

He also possesses natural talent, according to mentors.

The freeskiing program director at Stratton Mountain School, Jesse Mallis, said Forehand performs at a level he hasn't seen in other skiers.

"He is able to visualize whatever trick he wants to do and take all the steps to make it happen. It's been common over the years for him to land new tricks, first try," Mallis said in an interview from Breckenridge, Colorado, where the SMS freeski team is currently training.

"The possibilities for Mac are endless is my eyes," he said.

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Mallis, who has been working with Forehand since 2014, still remembers him as a young kid in braces. Now, his student is competing with Olympians and X Games-level athletes and "beating the guys that he had been watching just a few years ago," Mallis said.

FAMILY OF SKIERS

Forehand and his sister Savannah, 21, were born in Connecticut and grew up in the southwestern town of Fairfield. In 2013, when Savannah was a high school sophomore, she joined the SMS freestyle program in search of being able to balance competitive mogul

skiing with schoolwork, said their mother Ann Marie.

"The teachers teach and the coaches coach, which was so different than a lot of ski academies," Ann Marie said. "The children learn right away how to balance a very competitive athletic career while going to school and getting good grades."

Two years after his sister moved to SMS, Forehand also enrolled at the school as an eighth-grader and joined its freeski team. Ann Marie set up a home in Winhall, while the athletes' father Ray travels back and forth to Fairfield, where he co-owns a design firm.

Both Ann Marie and Ray have been skiing since they were young, and introduced their children to the sport. They know injuries go hand-in-hand with athletic endeavors, and the couple worry about their son's getting hurt while freeskiing.

This season, Forehand was invited to compete at the X Games in Aspen, Colorado, but a few days before the event, he cracked his scapula while training and had to miss it.

"We just pray every time he competes that he lands and stays healthy," Ann Marie said, adding she and Ray have confidence in their son's training. The setbacks he has experienced, she said, have made him a stronger person.

ON THE HORIZON

Forehand's world cup success will help solidify the SMS freeski program's reputation as one of the top in the nation, Mallis said. Caroline Claire, a recent graduate, became the first SMS student to compete in the Olympics when she joined the U.S. Freeski Team at PyeongChang 2018.

This year, nine prospective students interested in the SMS freeski program have already toured the school — the most Mallis has seen in his nine years with the school.

Forehand, meanwhile, hopes to compete in the next winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022.

"I just don't want to make that my only focus, but it would be so cool to participate," he said.

For now, he looks forward to skiing around Europe, the Western United States and Vermont until school resumes.

"Then I have to go home and catch up on my schoolwork," he said.

Tiffany Tan can be reached at ttan@benningtonbanner.com, @tiffgtan at Twitter and 802-447-7567 ext. 122.


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