U.S. Ski and Snowboard
With nine World Cup podiums, including three victories; two Olympic appearances and one crystal globe spanning his 12-year career, aerialist Mac Bohonnon (Madison, Conn.) has decided to hang up his proverbial U.S. Ski Team hat.
Although growing up in a beach town, Mac learned to ski at just eighteen-months-old. The Bohonnons were weekend warriors and would pile into their family Vermont home, along with Mac’s aunt and cousins, to ski Bromley Mountain. After progressing through the mountain’s ski school program, Mac started out in the Alpine program. “I really did not like it,” he reflected. “Although I think the issue was that I was always wearing hand-me-down speedsuits. They were either too tight or too loose.”
Freestyle came casually to Mac at first, he and his brother and cousin would build jumps in their backyard, over the road, on the side of ski runs (much to the chagrin of Bromley’s ski patrol) and would “do all of the things parents hate,” Mac said. When he was about six or seven, Mac remembers his brother and cousin participating in Bromley’s first freestyle program, started by Brian Knowles. “Naturally I wanted to do whatever they were doing,” he added. “I just fell in love with freestyle from there.”
During his time at Bromley, Mac skied everything: moguls, slopestyle and big air (the name then for upright aerials). He started competing regionally in southern Vermont and grew to love the jumping aspect of freestyle. Mac’s brother eventually went to the Holderness School in New Hampshire to ski with the Nick and Wes Preston. The Prestons ran a highly-regarded freestyle program, especially in aerials, and Mac began to go to their Freestyle America camps. He eventually made it to Lake Placid, N.Y., to jump in the pool when he was old enough (at age 12). It was in Lake Placid that Mac learned to do a backflip.
Mac was recruited by Dmitriy Kavunov, the aerials development coach at Lake Placid at the time, who ran a program that would eventually become the Elite Aerial Development Program (EADP), to move to Lake Placid in October 2008.
Mac joined a class of aerial skiers that included Ashley Caldwell (Ashburn, Va.), Jon Lillis (Pittsford, N.Y.), Mikey Rossi (Long Valley, N.J.), Kiley McKinnon (Madison, Conn.) and Alex Bowen (Springville, N.Y.) who would not only all become his teammates, but his family.
In the summer of 2011 Mac’s aerials career almost came to an end. “I sucked, honestly that’s the only way to put it,” he said. “I was growing like crazy, I think I grew four inches and gained about twenty-five pounds. And I was really crooked, which is not good in aerials.” Mac struggled through the summer, working on correcting his form, but then finding his body had changed again a month later. In September of that year Mac remembers Dmitriy sitting him down and telling him he might want to stick to moguls. “I had already committed to not going to school that year. It’s hard when your coach of three years tells you you’re not cut out and never going to be successful at your sport.” But timing can be everything, and around that same time, Eric Bergoust, new coach for the EADP, stepped in. “He saved my career hands down. Bergy took me on as a kind of project and worked tireless with me.” But the summer of 2011 would always linger with Mac, “I was always a little bit crooked and it was something I always had to work on.”
Mac lived and trained in Lake Placid for four and a half years before he was recruited to the national team at age 16. Although resistant at first, Mac moved to Park City full time the summer of 2012.
Mac was unexpectedly shot into the spotlight during the 2013-14 season, the season he describes as “mind-blowing.” He recalls, “I did my first triples on snow in December 2013, and competed in the Olympics that next February.” Mac and his coach at the time, Joe Davies, had made the conscious decision together to work on fundamentals and stick to harder, double jumps, rather than go for triples during the 2012-13 season. Instead of gunning for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, they would focus on becoming the best for the four years following Sochi, leading into the 2018 PyeongChang Games.
“I had no expectations of going or competing in Sochi,” Mac says. “There were six guys on World Cup that season and I was not one of them. I don’t even think I had any World Cup starts that season.” But fate had other plans and after winning the first two Nor-Am events of the season, Mac earned two World Cup starts for the domestic stops at Deer Valley and Lake Placid – two of the three Olympic qualifying events. The third qualifying event was the Val St. Come World Cup in Quebec, Canada. “It was Friday night: Deer Valley, Tuesday: Canada and then Saturday: Lake Placid. One of the national team members had hurt themselves and bowed out of the Canada event. So at midnight before the team left for Canada, I got the call and bought a ticket.” Mac finished second in Val St. Come, the only podium for the men that year.