We sat down with two of the best freeriders in Europe, the MacKay brothers, Gavin (from here on known as G) and Jamie (J). Since exploding onto the European scene with their epic win at the Columbia Ride week in 2008 (see video below, all shot over just a couple of days in the 3 Valleys), the MacKays have been building up their portfolio with more epic shots and footage.
OK Boys, so let’s start with the vitals. Names, ages, sponsors, etc.
G: I’m Gav, 29 from Inverness and I’m skiing for Columbia, Movement, BCA, Bolle and Dalbello.
J: Ditto, except my names Jamie. Oh, and I’m 32.
Tell us about your early days skiing, do you think growing up and riding in Scotland has influenced your riding?
G: My first run on skis was down the street outside the house when I was 6. My dad had bought some really dodgy second hand kit and me and my bro were hitting it up while all the other kids sledged. Whenever my dad wasn’t around, we would aim for a patch of road with no snow on it and see who could make the most sparks come off their skis. We’ve always egged each other on at everything we do which has really helped us to progress our skiing.
J: In Scotland you learn the hard way, there are no days when you get no pain powder snow to try things out for the first time, so you learn to get things right pretty quickly. Conditions and weather are often challenging and this has helped prepare me for what I’ve had to deal with as a skier. We also spent a lot of time on the lines and couloirs in the Northern Corries and many other non-lift accessed hills over the years. Most of the stuff in there is harder (steeper, exposed and firm) than we ski now so I guess that has really helped.
Best day on skis?
J: That’s a tough one. There have been so many and all for different reasons. Good days have to have a combination of good snow and weather, riding with old buddies and a sense of accomplishment. Winning the ride week in Courchevel last season would probably top the list for me.
G: Probably sticking my first backflip, what a feeling.
Worst day on skis?
G: I’d say one of my worst days on skis was during Columbia Rideweek last year. It was absolutely puking with snow and we were skiing in the trees. I’d been having issues with my shoulder dislocating and I was just skiing along the next thing I knew it had just ragged out when my pole hit a pillow. It hurt like a bastard and I barely managed to hold onto my lunch. I had to go home early that day and didn’t think I would be able to ski again for a couple of days. Turns out I was wrong though.
J: That’s a tough one. There has been so many and all for different reasons. I nearly lost my old man when he fell in a no fall zone above massive exposure. Fortunately he got held up between rocks and snow melt back and didn’t go over the exposure. He is still skiing strong today.
OK, so as you’ve been mentioning, you won the Columbia Ride week in 2008, What kind of impact did that have on your careers?
J: It did make a few of our sponsors sit up a bit but for the most part I think it has helped open doors for us. Due to the format of the competition we have something tangible to show people. It’s been great to randomly chat to people on chairlifts that have heard of the MacKay brothers exploits even if they haven’t seen the video.
Was it a good feeling whooping some seriously big names in the process?
G: Hell yeah! Especially as we won that competition on the strength of our skiing cause our storyline and acting were just terrible. We were determined to make a normal skiing segment showing complete lines instead of doing that editing thing where it looks like you’re skiing one big line, which seems to be really popular in Europe. The local boys in the comp were totally stand up. They made us feel really welcome in their home resort throughout the event.
So how do you prepare physically for the type of skiing you are doing?
G: In a word, squats, and lots of them.
J: I get to ski all year round so I’m pretty luck in that respect. Every day I’m not on skis though I am either in the gym or out on my mountain bike riding single track. Contrary to what people think skiing is a year round sport. You have to train your butt off in the off-season so that when the snow arrives you are ready to hit the ground running. There is no time for getting your ski legs back if the conditions are on, you’ll just end up hurting yourself.
Any words of wisdom?
J: Go a do a course on avalanches, wearing a transceiver and carrying a shovel and probe is nowhere near enough. I know many of the instructors are just a big bag of ego but you never know when it might help you.
G: Be nice to the delivery guy…
We’ve noticed you like to cover your food in dried chillies…any particular reason?
J: Fresh chillies are always the preferred option but it always pays to have some dried chillies on the go to get some life into your dinner. Chillies are good for you, haven’t you heard?
G: Keeps you regular!
Is Irn Bru really made from girders?
G: I don’t know what goes in that stuff. All I know is that you can clean coins with it so it can’t be good. I prefer I nice warm cup of milk.
William Wallace or Rob Roy?
J: Unfortunately the two characters have been turned into Mr Potato head by the film industries misconceptions and I’m pretty confused. I’m shooting for Rob Wallace.
G: Chris Hoy.
Right I suppose we better get serious for a second. Which skiers have been your greatest influences?
G: My bro is up there cause we’re a pretty tight knit team and seem to be able to tease the best out of each other. Other than my bro it has to be Seth boy. He just keeps on going big.
J: My bro (no shit).
What are your plans for the future, what are you looking to achieve from your skiing?
J: There are a few things in the pipe line at the moment mostly involving getting to good terrain with no people. As for achievements, I want to keep skiing as hard as I can for as long as I can and hopefully do it with a bit of style.
G: I’ve been keeping a lid on my skiing for the last couple of years because of my shoulder dislocating. I had an op to tighten it up last May and it seems to be holding out pretty good. I can finally start to do the kind of skiing I want to do (bigger, faster, more upside down action) without fear of body parts falling off. I’m feeling strong, fit and like the winter is my oyster. I’m just going to see where that feeling takes me, but I would say that big fast and inverted pretty much sums up my plans.
Anything else you’d like to add? Anyone you’d like to thank?
J: Movement skis, Columbia sports wear, and Bolle goggles. Thanks to my bro Gav and all the rest of my riding buddies, photographers and filmers. Lastly thanks to my wife Nic for putting up with me.
G: I broke a rib last week and I’d like to encourage it onto the fast track recovery programme. What do you say rib? Go on, lap up that lovely calcium, you love it.
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Interview Jamie Cameron, Photos Pally Learmond