Lately, when Silverthorne resident Sheri Paul heads up the ski lift, she’s not alone. Tucked snugly in her jacket is Lamb Chop, a little lamb puppet whom Paul has adopted as her mascot during her 2013-14 winter season.
Along with more than 300 skiers (representing 23 states and eight countries), Paul signed up to be a part of the Epic Race, a competition put on by Vail Resorts. The challenge: ski all 26 resorts on the Epic Pass (from Vail and Breckenridge to France and Switzerland) in one season and document each step of the way. The twist: the first 10 competitors to check off all 26 destinations will win a Lifetime Epic Pass.
With such a prize at stake, it didn’t take much convincing for Paul to decide to sign up and take a stab at it.
“It’s so fun, the idea of winning an Epic Pass for life,” she said.
The field moved fast, though, and now 17 skiers are on the verge of completing the challenge. Though Paul knows she’s not going to win, she said she’s certainly had fun competing so far, and plans to keep at it throughout the rest of the season.
She took her very first Epic Race run at Breckenridge Ski Resort, which she claims is her favorite place to ski.
“I like the Y Chutes, they’re really fun,” she said. “I also love, under 6 Chair, they have the Bone Yard. I think Bone Yard is just a blast.”
Each Epic Race competitor must take several photos and at least one 15 second video at each stop. Paul’s Breckenridge video shows Lamb Chop peeking out from her jacket.
“My goal of the season is to ski 80 days, and I’m up to 12, and (to ski) at least one new resort,” Paul said. She’s already taken care of Keystone Resort, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and Vail Mountain, and is looking forward to heading to Canyons, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in Utah, none of which she has skied before.
This is the part of the Epic Race that Paul hopes not only to enjoy, but to savor.
“I figured there would be some people who were super aggressive and (finish) it at the beginning, (but) I thought a lot of people would take a whole season to do it,” she said. She had planned to do the European section of the race — Verbier, Switzerland; Arlberg, Austria (St. Anton, Lech, Zürs, St. Christoph and Stuben); and Les 3 Vallées, France (Courchevel, La Tania, Méribel, Brides-les-Bains, Les Menuires, Saint Martin de Belleville, Val Thorens and Orelle) — during the spring.
“I still love the idea. I think it would be fun,” she said. Though she hasn’t made any concrete plans yet, she might still make it across the pond. Paul has visited Europe before, but never to ski.
When she does make it to those places, however, she wants to be sure she takes the time to truly enjoy them, instead of rushing through.
“If I were going to Europe to ski, I don’t want to just check the box, I really want to enjoy it,” she said. “Sometimes the long route can be good, too. Because I love skiing, I just love it. So when I go some place, I really want to enjoy it.”
Surprisingly, the most difficult aspect of the race, for her, was working out the logistics of getting over to Afton Alps in Minnesota and Mt. Brighton in Michigan. Originally from the Midwest, she hasn’t skied there since moving to Colorado as a high schooler. Looking at the cost of plane tickets, rental cars and hotels, the financial facet was another consideration. Making it to each of the 26 resorts isn’t cheap, and requires planning.
“The cost definitely had a component to it,” she said. She began calculating the odds of her winning with the cost of visiting every single resort. “If there were 40 instead of 10 (winners),” she reflected, then she might have gone for the whole list.
Still, it’s the excitement and the opportunity to see some new places that have kept Paul involved. Additionally, the lifetime pass is just the grand prize. There are various other prizes given throughout the season, including next year’s Epic Pass to the first 100 finishers, and gear from brands such as GoPro and Helly Hansen.
“It’s felt a little bit like the Amazing Race. It has that component to it,” she said.
According to the latest news release, about 50 people are expected to complete the race when Brides-les-Bains, France, opens on Dec. 20. But all competitors will have the remainder of the season to complete their goal.
“It’s fun,” Paul said, “and I want to keep plugging away at it.”