Breckenridge man who died mountain biking near Whistler remembered as a passionate athlete
BRECKENRIDGE — A Breckenridge man and founder of Great Western Lodging died while mountain biking in British Columbia, Canada, earlier this week.
On Sunday, Oct. 27, 54-year-old Chad Christy was mountain biking on a trail near Wedgemount Lake, just north of Whistler Mountain, when he suffered a cardiac event, according to a Pique News Magazine report of the incident.
Christy received medical assistance from witnesses and emergency responders on scene — including the Whistler Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Whistler Search and Rescue — but didn’t survive.
For family members, it was somewhat of a relief that Christy got to spend his last moments atop a bike and pushing his own limits, which was certainly one of his life’s greatest passions.
“He got his first bike when he was just 4, and his dad put training wheels on it,” his mother Anne Christy said. “And he was really upset about that, so he made his dad rip them off for him. He rode a bike for 50 years, and he died riding a bike.”
Christy was born in Berea, Ohio, but grew up primarily in Columbia, Maryland, with his mother and three brothers: Joel, Colby and Erik. His mother said he was a friendly kid who was well-liked by his teachers growing up and who always shared whatever he brought for show and tell with his classmates.
But even from his early years, biking was a way of life for Christy. He went pro as a BMX rider when he was just a teenager, traveling around the country to compete. Soon after, he began using the sport as a means to fuel his entrepreneurial spirit and connect with friends and family. By 16 years old, he was operating his own bike shop out of the family home.
“We lived in a row-home, and it was a very basic house,” Colby Christy said. “The basement had an around-the-back entrance, and that’s where kids would come in. At 16 years old, he had his own account with UPS, and they’d show up every day with new stuff. It was surreal. In the racing circuit, he’d travel to go to these races, and then people would come and buy bikes from him or get tuneups. This was a legitimate bike show being run out of a row-home, and all while my mom was working doubles to try and make ends meet to feed four kids.
“I remember being a kid, and he’d teach me how to build bikes and things. And it was my 12th or 13th birthday, and a frame shows up. And I’m like, ‘Somebody is getting a really cool bike made.’ He asked if I could help him make it, and I was griping because I didn’t want to. But we put the bike together — and you know the end of the story — it was my birthday present. That was the kind of brother he was.”
Christy later attended the University of Maryland but quickly dropped out to pursue bigger passions, like surfing. He took off for a small town called Waves in North Carolina, where he integrated himself into the community at the Hatteras Island Surf Shop. It was there he met a couple of business owners from Breckenridge who offered him a job at a property management company, and he moved to Summit County in 1986.
After a few years working as a carpenter and handyman, he decided to start his own business and founded Great Western Lodging in 1997, a property and rental management company based out of Breckenridge. The company was successful and is still up and running today, though Christy left around 2016 to enjoy his retirement.
“He decided he was going to live his life and be a wind surfer and do things like that,” his mother said. “He liked anything that made his adrenaline rush.”
In retirement, like in most of his life, Christy spent his days outside surfing, windsurfing, mountain biking, skiing and traveling. When he wasn’t hitting the slopes in Summit County, he spent time in a second home he built for himself in La Ventana, a small fishing village in Mexico on the Sea of Cortez, where he liked to kite surf. Christy was also in the process of building another home at Whistler, but he never finished.
“He was an amazing athlete,” Colby said. “Watching him ski was like watching water flow down the river. He was flippin’ smooth. And he was bigger than life.”
Christy also loved his two dogs, a pair of border collie German shepherd mixes named Axle and Rufus, and was a proud uncle to eight nephews and two nieces.
But for those close to him, it was his kind and daring personality, and his ability to connect to people that they’ll remember.
“It’s blown me away that people from all over Canada and the United States and Mexico are responding, calling in and saying your brother was a mentor to me, or your brother was like a big brother to me,” said Colby. “That was Chad. … It’s been more than 36 hours, and I’m still sad. This life sucks without him. It does. But I’m trying to go down another road. I picture him 12 feet off the ground coming off a hill in Whistler. … That was him. Go big or go home.”
Christy’s mother said the family wouldn’t be holding a traditional service but instead plans to cremate his remains and spread his ashes on Peak 10 in the spring when the mountain flowers bloom — next to his old dogs, Juno and Ranger.
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