It’s another beautiful day at Alta, Utah. Photographer, Cam Mcleod, is standing in place. The light is just right. The moguls are pristine. And Marcus Caston is coming in hot like a bat out of hell.
Wrapped in a denim vest and jeans, Caston is blazing through the bumps towards McLeod with impeccable focus and, just in the knick of time, pops a left-hand turn up into the air. His hip elegantly floats parallel to the ground. His skis—a pair of 210-centimeter Blizzard Thermo V20s from the mid-1980s—cross ever so slightly. His pole valiantly pierces into the sky.
McLeod seizes the moment and snaps a phenomenal photo. A photo which ends up on the cover of FREESKIER Magazine’s November 2018 issue. And while Caston has been on his fair share of covers, this one feels different.
“When I saw that cover, I was just over the moon. Like, holy sh#t,” says Caston. “I’ve put so much effort into this particular idea and I’ve been talking a big game. It feels really good to have something like that cover to show for it.”
The idea Caston speaks of is not skiing bumps in denim with 210-centimeter Thermo V20s. The real idea he’s put so much effort into, at its core, is making turning cool again. For years, the ski world has been mesmerized almost solely by massive backcountry cliff drops and triple flips in park, while the appreciation for skiing’s roots has seemingly vanished.
“Watching ski movies for a while, there was just nothing that I could relate to,” says Caston. “I would watch these kids and there always seemed to be more focus on one big line or one big trick that they were doing, rather than just the art of skiing or the the dynamic of the turn. And that’s something that I’ve always loved: the turn. Throwing a hip in, floating in the transition.”
Caston grew up ski racing in Utah, on the Snowbird team. And he was damn good—yet always one of those athletes who looked faster than he actually was. The aesthetics were all there but the speed sometimes wasn’t. He kept at it, though, eventually lowering his points into the 30s and 40s across multiple disciplines and gunning hard for a spot on the University of Utah Ski Team. But that spot not would ultimately not be granted.
“I was pretty angry and bitter about ski racing at that time,” says Caston. “I gave my life to the sport and it felt like I got nothing out of it. But looking back on it, now that I have perspective, I realize that getting rejected from the team was really what I needed to hear. That was my perfect excuse to quit because I was just so burnt out.”
Just like that, Caston quit ski racing. And the following season, feeling lost, he barely skied at all. But when you love to ski deep down, the sport always manages to make its way back into your life. On a whim, he entered a race on Daron Rahlve’s famous Banzai Tour and, somehow, won. Then, while on the tram at Snowbird, he ran into pro skiers (and siblings) Angel and John Collinson, who connected him with photographer Mike Schirf. So, Caston and Schirf shot some photos. After that, Caston shot more photos with more photographers. Then came videos with videographers. And, well, you can probably see where this is going…
Today, though he’s too humble to admit it, Caston is one of skiing’s biggest and brightest names. He’s a beloved star in Warren Miller films every year. He’s plastered on magazine covers—sometimes in denim, sometimes in modern outerwear. He’s a top-level sponsored athlete for major brands like Blizzard, POC, and Helly Hansen. The 30-year-old skier is on the up and up, now making a full-time living on snow. And whether you’re watching his film segments or drooling over his cover shots or finding him in one of his sponsor’s catalogs, there’s a common, very noticeable theme: He’s always arcing hot, nasty, race-influenced turns.
Capitalizing on his growing notoriety, Caston co-founded Party Beach Ski Camp, a summer racing program at Mount Hood that goes against the grain of most traditional race camps. The name really says it all.
“It’s been my way to implement my philosophy in ski racing, and my way to change ski racing in my own little way,” he says. “We go out and we just have tons of fun. And my goal is to not make the fastest skier in the world—I mean, if you have that goal to be the fastest skier in the world, we can certainly help you achieve that—but not everybody’s going to be an Olympic champion. I just want to create skiers for life.”
Along that same entrepreneurial vein, Caston has also put together a remarkable video series that really encompasses his bird’s-eye-view of skiing as a whole. It’s called “Return of the Turn.” Again, the name really says it all. In sum, the series captures Caston and his friends demonstrating skiing’s most beautiful, old-school aspects—from slithering through bumps at Squaw Valley with Jonny Moseley to arcing race turns at Snowbird with Robby Kelley to just about everything in between.
“It was really nerve-wracking when we came out with the series,” Caston admits. “We didn’t know how it was going to be received. It’s something different—something little bit backwards than most most stuff out there. I thought people might just hate it and think it’s lame, but it’s been quite the opposite.”
The moral of this story is not that everyone should quit ski racing in hopes of being on magazine covers and starring in Warren Miller movies. The moral is that, no matter who you are—whether you’re currently a ski racer, or you just quit ski racing, or you’re the parent of a ski racer—you need to make sure skiing brings you joy. If it doesn’t bring you joy, something needs to change.
“There’s so much more to skiing than just being ultra focused all the time,” says Caston. “You’ve got to have fun. My belief is that, if you’re having fun, you’re going to enjoy what you’re doing and you’re going to take it seriously. And when it’s time to work hard, yeah, you need to work hard. But when it’s time to play, just go play.”