Taking outdoor adventuring to the extreme (sponsored)
The lifestyle at 9,000 feet attracts like-minded people looking for their next big thrill
The sun isn’t up yet but Frisco resident Mark Koob is already skinning up a mountain so he can launch himself off it — with or without skis attached to his feet — to enjoy a frigid flight over Summit County before he heads to work for the day.
When Koob isn’t teaching band at Summit Middle School, you can usually find him speed flying. It’s kind of like paragliding, but it’s a lot faster and the skiing element always keeps things interesting.
Some days, he’ll even speed-fly to work. How many people can say they commute to work like that?
“There are a lot of like-minded people here. I’ll wake up and think, ‘what do I want to do today? I think I’ll go for a run — I wonder which runner friend hasn’t worked out yet today,’” Koob says. “In Summit County, when you say you like running up mountains, you don’t get looked at like a weirdo.”
From his home in Frisco’s Peak One Neighborhood, Koob can skin up Mount Victoria, fly down and land in his front yard — all before the work day begins.
“After running up mountains you have to run down them, and that wears on your knees and legs,” Koob says about how he first got hooked on speed flying. “With the lightweight harness and light paraglider, I can run up the mountain with a 5-pound backpack.”
Koob says there are about 5 or 6 people in the county who speed fly pretty regularly. It’s just one outdoor adventure out of a seemingly endless amount of options in winter, spring, summer and fall. Living at 9,000 feet also helps him in his other adventurous quests, such as his “little sea-to-summit project” where he bike tours from sea level up to base camps where he then mountaineers. Last year he biked across Chile, up and over the Andes Mountains before summiting Aconcagua in Argentina, at nearly 23,000 feet.
“I’m going to Denali in June and doing a big ski traverse there. Living at 9,000 feet means we can get there and go camp at 12,000 or 13,000 feet, whereas others have to get climatized at 7,000 feet first. It saves us a lot of time,” Koob says.
One thing that isn’t hard to do in Summit County is find friends who are into some of the same extreme adventures. Koob says the skimo racing community is especially tight.
“You see people out on the trail doing fun things — harder, steeper, more remote lines,” he says. “You think you’re the only one out there and then you find these people.”
Sport as a career
Joe Howdyshell’s athletic journey led him to create the Summit Endurance Academy, an endurance coaching company that provides “badass coaching” to private athletes, junior racers and teams. Howdyshell grew up in Wyoming playing baseball, basketball and soccer. He also swam and was a cross-country runner and skier.
He accepted a job in 2009 at the Summit Nordic Ski Club in Frisco before “dabbling” in mountain biking, road biking and a handful of triathlons. That’s when he got into ski mountaineering (skimo) and racing.
A typical week for Howdyshell includes plenty of coaching, but he also makes time for about 20,000 to 30,000 vertical feet of skimo. That’s about 90 minutes to two hours worth most days, plus a bigger day on the weekend.
Living in Summit County surrounded by the Rocky Mountains provides daily motivation for people like Koob and Howdyshell, for whom the mountains are always calling. Howdyshell, who lives in Breckenridge, finds himself skinning up the resort a lot these days due to his busy schedule. In the summer, he says Frisco’s Mount Royal is one of his favorite places in the whole world.
“You can basically stand on top of the Town of Frisco and it feels like you’re looking straight down,” Howdyshell says.
Those kinds of rewards are exactly why locals and visitors climb these mountains that test their endurance, strength, willpower and fitness.
“It’s a very easy test for us — ‘I’m going to climb up it or run down it.’ That’s the solo part of it — it makes us feel good about ourselves having done that,” Howdyshell says. “And I also think we like to be part of a group — we’ve very social animals. It’s very easy up here to find people you get along with socially and who also value that accomplishment of running up that mountain.”
Mike Minor moved to Frisco in 2013 with one goal: become a professional snowboarder. He worked at Copper Mountain as a liftie for two seasons and got hooked up with the Adaptive Action Sports crew. He started racing and immediately winning — a lot. Within three months, he had his first invite to a major international competition in The Netherlands. Minor also picked up two medals — gold for banked slalom and bronze for snowboard-cross — at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
Minor, who was born missing his right forearm, won the banked slalom World Cup title in his first season of international racing.
A Pennsylvania native, he says Summit County is his new home. He’s been to 15 countries in three years to compete, but there’s no place like home.
“The mountains, the people, the lifestyle — there’s something healthy and holistic about it,” he says. “Everyone you meet here when you’re living this kind of lifestyle, they believe in the same things and they want to help you succeed in the goals you’ve set for yourself.”
Howdyshell says the entire Summit County community welcomes and encourages the pursuit of outdoor passions.
“We’re supported incredibly well by local government and local businesses,” he said. “The ski areas are all really good about participating in the community and hosting races, and having very kind uphill policies. It feels to me like everybody’s in it.”
Find your next adventure in Frisco
In Frisco, there’s no shortage of places for adrenaline-pumping fun. Here are a few favorites:
Winter at the Frisco Adventure Park
A multi-lane tubing hill, beginner ski and ride hill, horse drawn sleigh rides and 27 kilometers of Nordic ski trails and 10k of snowshoe trails make the Frisco Adventure Park a hub of winter sports action. This is the ideal place to learn to ski and snowboard with the assistance of a Copper Mountain instructor, or if you want to take a turn at cross-country skiing, the Frisco Nordic Center has you covered with daily lessons and even some specialty clinics. A 4,000-square-foot day lodge provides respite on cold days.
Summer at the Frisco Adventure Park
Summer at the Frisco Adventure Park uncovers miles of trails that wind through the forest and along the shores of Dillon Reservoir and are ideal for hiking, mountain biking and trail running. There are also campgrounds, picnic facilities, chuck wagon rides, a ball field and multi-purpose field.
Frisco Skate Park
The Frisco Skate Park will open this summer with a $600,000+ redesign and build by Evergreen Skateparks. This park checks in at nearly 30,000 square feet and showcases elements ideal for every level and type of skater. This will be the perfect summer skate destination with a campground, disc golf course and Dillon Reservoir nearby.
Frisco Bike Park
The Frisco Bike Park has four different park amenities for riders of all sizes and abilities: a pump track, a slopestyle course, dirt jumps and a dual slalom course. Even if you are not looking to get off the ground with your bike, this park has a lot to offer the average mountain biker who wants to get better at riding trails.
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