Contests, street, the backcountry: Abstract star Mac Forehand can do it all
Mac Forehand is on a tear this year, with X Games podiums and spots in one of the coolest ski films in recent memory. Here's what he's learned from it all.
From slopestyle to street and backcountry expeditions full of big pow, skiing encompasses a whole range of expressive mediums. But is it art? That's the question posited by Abstract, the latest cinematic collaboration between filmmaker Etienne Mérel and Faction.
The film begins in black and white with a voice over asking the biggest questions about life and human creativity. From cave paintings to extreme sports, what constitutes creative expression? Cut to the likes of Alex Hall, Mac Forehand, Antti Ollila and Koga Hoshino shredding handrails in Hoshino’s native Japan and the answer quickly becomes clear. Watch the film in full at the top of this page.
"Skiing is definitely art," says 22 year old Forehand. "It's fully about self expression. That's what's so great about it; we can fully do what we want to do. You're creating a masterpiece on your skis. Films like this allow us to show art in our own way."
Skiing is definitely art. It's fully about self expression, that's what's so great about it.
The Connecticut, USA, native has steadily been building a name as one of the most exciting names in the sport. He was inspired to start freestyle skiing by his sister, Savannah, at the age of six and soon made history, winning the overall World Cup title in slopestyle at just 17 years of age in 2019.
"I love the film," Forehand says of his role in Abstract, which you can watch in the player at the top of the page. "I was really happy with my skiing. It was my first full season getting into the streets, in the backcountry and I'm stoked with how it all came together."
The high-octane, opening section features Forehand and friends tackling apocalyptic-looking stairs and handrails in the middle of all-white vistas of Yuzawa, Japan. It also represents Forehand’s first time in the country and one of his first times delving into street style.
With stairs you could land on the rail or you might fall 10m onto concrete, not snow.
"We were two hours north of Tokyo," says Forehand. “It was pretty cool, because there was no snow and then we drove through a tunnel for like 30 minutes, came out on the other side of the mountain and there were huge piles of snow everywhere. As for street-skiing, I'd done a trip in Denver a few years ago that opened my eyes to that kind of thing. It's honestly terrifying, so much gnarlier than skiing park on a mountain. There are so many different variables: with stairs you could land on the rail or you might fall 10m onto concrete, not snow."
Pushing himself into new areas led Forehand to develop a new appreciation of street skiers and he says it’s definitely something he wants to explore more of in the future. The lifestyle appeals, too. "It's a lot of work," he recalls fondly. "We were waking up early every morning, getting gas station food and then just spending all day out in the streets. And since there's so much snow, you have to dig out stairs and rails, because they're all buried. It was cool, but a lot of hard work."
As well as Japan, Abstract takes viewers out into the backcountry of Wyoming and Northern Utah in the United States. "I live in Park City, so it was driving distance for me," Forehand says of the latter. But, despite being a local, he says he didn’t actually have the hometown advantage over fellow featured athletes like Blake Wilson and Duncan Adams, as he hadn't really explored the area fully prior to filming. “Tim McChesney was kind of showing us all the small things, as he’s lived there his whole life and knows everything about that area," Forehand says. "It was sick to have him on the trip."
He also gives a special shoutout to Hoshino, who nails some of the gnarliest lines in the Japanese section. "He hits the biggest spots and has no regard. He's just sending his body off these massive street spots. It was really cool to watch that in person," Forehand says.
"Then, in the backcountry, we had McChesney do one jump called Early Grey; it's this 25m step-down between these trees. It's really narrow with a flat take-off. Tim had been looking at it for years and because it snowed so much he was able to do it, with Duncan spending four hours building a kicker the day before. We're like 'We have to hit it, there’s no option here.’ It was dope to have Tim show us the spot."
Alongside the laid-back hip-hop soundtrack, the big back country drops and the crunchy street style rails, the best thing about the film is the vibe. From the faux-doc voiceover to the cutaways of the riders goofing off, this is a funny film. For Forehand, depicting the après-ski lifestyle and the moments that don't go quite right was just as important as nailing tricks.
"I think it shows how much hard work we put into the film," he says. "There are lots of clips of us building stuff or trying features and not landing it. There's an outtake at the end where I hit this rail in Japan. We built a landing 10 feet away, but I came up about five feet short, three or four times," he laughs. "We all ate shit and it’s cool to show that, so everyone gets that this is a lot of work."
Alongside Abstract, 2023 has been a huge year for Forehand, with his first X Games win in freestyle big air, alongside a podium in slopestyle. "I didn't do great on the World Cup side of things," he says, never keen to dwell on his successes. "I'm going to go into the World Cup with a different mindset next year. I want to be top five at almost all the World Cups. That's my main goal."
He also managed to defy the laws of physics by nailing a world-first fully inverted rail slide on a specially built setup at Maine’s Sunday River Resort. Watch the incredible ride in the clip here.
There might be more film projects on the horizon, too. "I really want to push that and become a well-rounded skier. I want to do well in contests and on the film side, and just really try to do it all," he says. "I'll keep doing street, but especially backcountry. The satisfaction of landing a trick in the backcountry is so big. It's really scary out there, where you're looking at these lines from the top. That was all really new to me and I'm pretty excited to go do it again."