The Man. The Mac. The Legend. Photo: Nic Alegre
For the last 17 years, we’ve had the distinct opportunity to witness many of legendary big mountain skier Ian McIntosh’s conquests. What’s nearly more astonishing than his skill set on-snow is the unique beginning to his career as a professional skier. Mac’s passion and gratitude for skiing is inspiring; then, the camera’s roll and we get to watch him dissect harrowing lines across the globe—some of them first descents—as he continues to inspire and progress not just his own abilities in the mountains, but the sport as a whole. Watch Mac's episode of Legends In The Making.
Sometimes, Mac's just a speck of dust (Alaska). Photo: Nic Alegre
Mac, where’d you film for Legend Has It?
We traveled up to Alaska’s North Chugach Range. Alaska had a low-tide year, so conditions were a bit challenging. We were limited to small pockets of the range because a lot of the lines we wanted to ski weren’t in, but nonetheless we persevered. It was still super fun, though, and we managed to ski some cool lines. It was really fun having Maggie and Parkin up there, too.
Let’s take it back to your origins. You grew up skiing at Panorama Mountain Resort. What was it like growing up skiing there and how did your upbringing mold you into the big mountain icon you are today?
Panorama is incredible! It’s the best resort you’ve never heard of, it’s got around 4,900’ of vert. Growing up ski racing there was where it all started for me, discovering the passion I have for the sport. It’s a race-oriented resort, but when I was a teenager they started to expand the freeride terrain and I began exploring. My family are avid backcountry skiers—they started bringing me into the backcountry around eight years old—and that’s when I began falling in love with powder skiing. Panorama is located in the Purcell Mountains, so to have that in my backyard was pretty amazing. You know, I was surrounded by positive familial influences to explore the sport of skiing when I was growing up and yeah, that place is completely responsible for helping mold me into the skier I am today.
Mac making it look easy. Photo: Nic Alegre
So, you built your foundation at Panorama. What was the catalyst for your pro career?
Well I quit racing around 13 or 14 years old. Powder skiing became a focus for me and I thought I wanted to be a guide so I could ski pow everyday. At 19 years old, I was a tail guide at Purcell Heli Skiing. The following winter, I moved to Fernie, and the next winter I moved to Kicking Horse. My first year at Kicking Horse fueled me to pursue the endless winter, so I sold everything and went to New Zealand. Skiing down there was incredible. I met a group of pro riders from Whistler who, after seeing me doing really well in some competitions there, encouraged me to move to Whistler the following season to pursue skiing professionally. I’d done well competing against a field of professional skiers and they thought that I had what it took to get into films and go for the dream. So, after that season down there I moved to Whistler with just a suitcase, no plan, no money, but a lot of fuel in the tank to pursue that dream of mine.
Mac follows his passion for big mountains and burly spines. Photo: Nic Alegre
And here we are almost two decades later. Sum up your journey thus far with TGR.
It’s been a dream come true. Making a career in the sport you love is one thing, but having a long career is a blessing, it’s been so fun and I’m just filled with gratitude. TGR is such a family brand of a media partner, they’ve stuck by me over these last 17 years and I’m stoked to keep it going!
Surviving 17 years of TGR? Photo: Jeremy Allen from Magic Hour
Who were your legends when you were coming up that helped inspire your skiing?
For sure, some names that come to mind are Jeremy Nobis, Rick Armstrong, Micah Black…you know, Seth Morrison, Shane McConkey, they definitely helped shape my skiing. When I was competing on the Freeskiing World Tour, I evolved my style into skiing hard and as fast as I could. Fast-forward a few years and I’m flying in a heli sitting next to my idol, Seth, I mean it was just a surreal experience to be skiing with my childhood hero.
Describe what a first descent feels like during and after skiing the line.
Growing up watching my idols check off first descents in ski movies, my dream mirrored that. The first time that I’m skiing a line, it’s special, regardless if it’s been skied before or not. It’s an extra level of special if you’re the first person ever to ski a line, and it’s only getting more difficult to do that. Leading up to skiing a first descent, I’m feeling the nerves, fear, excitement, I’m excited for the opportunity. Pulling it off is what I live for, it puts me in the moment to the utmost and gives me like a ‘cloud 9’ feeling. It’s addicting, for sure.
TGR film legends, Ian and Sage, doing what they love while filming Magic Hour. Photo: Jeremy Allen
In Anomaly (2006), you’re up in AK for the first time with none other than your long-time friend Sage Cattabriga-Alosa. You two have been legends-in-the-making for some time, what’s the journey been like to grow with Sage?
Truly amazing, it’s such an awesome friendship. There’s nobody I’d rather be in the mountains with today. Our styles compliment each other so well and we both have so much experience that when we roll into zones, we can pretty much pick each others’ lines. You know, it’s funny; when I first met Sage, he was already making a name for himself. I rolled into that shoot pretty hot and heavy, lots of ego, and I think Sage was pretty off-put because he’s such a laid-back guy. Like, totally opposite personalities. But. I quickly learned to reel in my ego and approach thing more methodically, which helped Sage accept me and our friendship bloomed from there. Flash forward to our segment in [last year’s film] Stoke the Fire, and we’re being ridiculous, it’s just so fun. Yeah, amazing friendship.
Do you have any advice to the next generation of aspiring big mountain skiers?
You can’t rush big mountain skiing; It’s an experience game. It comes down to gaining as much experience as possible, period. You don’t need to film everything, you can start by doing it with your friends, but be wary of all the dangers, get educated, make smart decisions, and leave your ego at home. Mother Nature is in charge when you’re out in the mountains. You can practice linking features together around your resort or in less-consequential backcountry terrain. Experience with dropping into lines with blind rollovers is huge. Looking down at lines and identifying features you need to ski the line well, and then learning how to flip the mental map around in your brain is crucial. Don’t rush it. I’ve gotten lucky several times. You really need to make sure you’re playing it smart, and the best way to do that is to grow your confidence by starting small and working up from there.
Mac doing what he loves in AK. Photo: Nic Alegre
Excellent advice! What’s your preparation process like when you’re on a trip and you’re there to ski some burly lines?
Every trip, you’re building. I don’t go on trips expecting to score the best line day one, that usually happens later on. I like to start small, build confidence, learn, and as time goes on, build towards the line(s) that I really want to hit. All the lines leading up are super important. I’ve used this same recipe for my whole career.
What’s next for your career? How will you keep progressing your skiing?
Staying busy! I’m getting into producing, guiding—I got my guide license recently—and working to combine those things. I still want to go to places that I’ve never been to before and find some inspiring and challenging terrain. Keep pushing on more first descents that’re either foot powered or in a heli, things like that. Doing more ski mountaineering. I’m going to continue to ski in a way that progresses my skillset and is safe. My line closing out Stoke the Fire is a dream line that’s probably in my top 10 ever, so I’m always looking for that line, something on par with that is always the goal. Those lines only come around every couple of years, so I’m going to be ready to strike when the time is right. Looking forward to the future and more missions with TGR!