Local snowboard racer Steven MacCutcheon thanks God, good luck and hard work | VailDaily.com

Local snowboard racer Steven MacCutcheon thanks God, good luck and hard work

Vail native Steven MacCutcheon won a FIS North America Cup giant slalom race at Buck Hill, Minn. The win puts him on track for a spot on next season's World Cup circuit, and a shot at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Special to the Daily |

VAIL — Steven MacCutcheon is on track for the 2018 Winter Olympics, which means MacCutcheon’s miracle continues.

He won a FIS North America Cup giant slalom race at Buck Hill, Minnesota.

That’s his first FIS win, and he beat 40 men from five countries during the two-day event.

He got married to Hollie in August, so winning this FIS event isn’t the biggest thing to happen to him this year, but he’s still pretty darned thrilled about it.

“Hollie is super supportive of this process,” MacCutcheon said.

If he makes the top three in this year’s Nor Am season, he gets a full-time spot on the World Cup circuit next year. If he finishes in the top 30 in that, he qualifies for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Take a moment and let us explain to you why that’s a miracle.

Prodigy and tragedy

Steven “Speedy” MacCutcheon started snowboarding as soon as he could walk and was competing by age 8.

He won his first national championship at age 11 and began competing professionally at 15.

He had won four national championships by the time he was in high school.

He was working on his fifth national title when his world came crashing down from 30 feet in the air.

MacCutcheon was 17 and competing in a national championship boardercross event at Copper Mountain on April 6, 2005. The sky was that striking Colorado blue.

“It feels like a cloudy day for me,” he said.

In the finals he flew over a jump, missed a turn and floated in mid air for as long as a man could. He may have nine lives, but unlike a cat he did not land on his feet.

MacCutcheon plummeted to earth, landing on his head from 30 feet in the air.

His brain was hemorrhaging in two places and his breathing had stopped. The fall shattered his shoulder and broke his elbow. Doctors restarted his breathing, placed him in a medically induced coma and strapped him to a stretcher for the helicopter ride to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Denver.

His parents weren’t sure he’d leave the hospital alive.

“People were gathered around and praying right there at the base of the slopes,” said Pam MacCutcheon, Steve’s mother. “It was so chaotic. We were just in shock.”

The accident and everything afterward was evidence of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, Pam MacCutcheon said.

Doctors needed to quickly decide whether to drill holes in his skull to relieve the pressure on his brain. If they didn’t, Steven MacCutcheon would either die or live with significant brain damage.

His mother and others stood quietly by the life support machinery, praying, watching it keep her son alive.

Then, for no apparent reason, the pressure on his brain disappeared and he regained consciousness.

“He was on life support when he just lifted up,” Pam MacCutcheon said. “We were so excited and amazed that we all ran out of the trauma room.”

The Flight for Life pilot was still there and he came in to see for himself.

“He told us he transported people regularly with those types of injuries and that Steve was one lucky kid,” Pam MacCutcheon said.

“It’s about the prayers and the love, and Jesus,” she said. “I can’t explain it any other way. Billy Graham says that no matter how long we prolong life, you’re still going to die. We need to prepare for that by trusting Jesus as our savior.”

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us to South Carolina

It’s one thing to not die, but it’s quite another to recover.

Because they lived in Edwards and he was a teenaged professional snowboarder, Steve was constantly agitated to get back on his board.

“It was all I ever knew. That was my entire life’s goal; I wanted to snowboard professionally for as long as I could,” Steve MacCutcheon said.

The family’s move to South Carolina removed snow from the equation, but not Steve MacCutcheon’s frustration. Competitive snowboarding was over, he hadn’t finished high school and all his friends were on their way to college.

One night he’d been throwing stuff around their South Carolina home, venting some of that frustration.

His brother Michael MacCutcheon is a songwriter and Steven had heard him play the piano.

Late one night when the house was quiet and Steve MacCutcheon felt that frustration creeping back in, he got up, sat down in front of that piano and started playing. He had never played before.

“I had no idea what I was playing. I just started to play this riff, then the chord structure underneath. I was making music,” he said. “I was learning the importance of music as a form of communication.”

It’s a God thing, Steven MacCutcheon says.

He was playing only what he was making up, so they found a music teacher, Jo Ellen Langley, who helped him understand what he was learning on his own, playing by ear.

He plays constantly and got dandy on the keyboard. A church they were attending seated 3,000 people, meeting in what used to be Ronnie Milsaps’ theater. They were holding auditions for musicians, so he and his brother took a shot.

The next you know they were playing Sunday mornings in front of 3,000 people.

“It was God’s hand enabling me to do this,” Steve MacCutcheon said.

They moved back to the Vail Valley, attend Calvary Chapel Vail Valley and got to know John David Webster, one of Christian music’s top recording artists.

Back on the snow

Now he’s back on the snow with the 2018 Winter Olympics in his sights.

“I’m setting realistic goals and the Olympics is one of those goals. It’s more than being an Olympian for one year. It goes on for generations,” Steven MacCutcheon said. “It’s something your grandchildren can talk about.”

Steven MacCutcheon is unabashedly Christian, but not in a waiting-for-God-to-do-all-the-heavy-lifting kind of way.

“The main goal is trying to be a light in the world,” he said.

He trains twice a day and has a full-time job.

“I’m the ultimate weekend warrior,” he said.

He’s sponsored by WARDjet and works with Keller Williams, a local real estate company.

“I’m lucky and thankful to be working for a company that encourages those passions. They’re helping me be flexible with my schedule,” Steven MacCutcheon said.

He’s in The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa gym every morning and every night. When he’s not in the gym or earning a living, he’s training on the snow, two nights a week and every weekend usually in Steamboat Springs, when he isn’t traveling for competitions.

“I took a few years off after my accident, but that wasn’t intentional,” Steven MacCutcheon said. “I never won anything before the accident.”

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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