Lone Tree man skis 12.4 million vertical feet this winter at Vail Resorts

Brad Blacketor skis 66,000 vertical feet, nearly 40 chairlifts, per day on hill

From left to right, Brad Blacketor, Tom Fralich and Mike Wright ride a chairlift together during this past winter.
Photo from Brad Blacketor

A Lone Tree man and part-time Breckenridge resident recorded 12.4 million vertical feet in 188 days this winter on the Vail Resorts EpicMix application.

The achievement by 62-year-old Brad Blacketor of Lone Tree equated to an average of 66,000 vertical feet of skiing per day.

“During ski season I blow off everything,” he said.

Blacketor’s total chairlift rides from Keystone Resort’s Nov. 6 opening day to his final day on snow at Breckenridge Ski Resort on May 16 are astounding: Nearly 40 lift rides each day on hill for a grand total of 7,363 for the season.

“None of us are as fast as him,” Blacketor’s skiing pal Tom Fralich said. Fralich himself skied 5.6 million vertical feet in 124 days this winter.

“He’s technically very good at skiing bumps and trees and all kinds of stuff,” Fralich, a part-time Breckenridge resident from Fort Collins, continued. “He can ski some of the hardest bump runs in Colorado top to bottom without stopping at the very end of the day — which is not something I can do. Sometimes we feel guilty that we are holding him back. He doesn’t feel too bad about splitting off when he knows it’s better for his vertical.”

Blacketor’s total of 12,421,058 vertical feet is more than 2 million more vertical feet than his 2018 season, the last full season he skied. In 2020, Blacketor said he was on pace to ski 13 million feet before the novel coronavirus pandemic shut down ski resorts in mid-March.

Blacketor is a native of northern Indiana who typically remains to himself on the hill and hasn’t promoted his accomplishments up to this point. He learned to ski when he moved to Colorado after college in the early 1980s.

Tom Fralich, left, and Brad Blacketor take one of many chairlift rides together during their more than 17 million combined vertical feet skiing at Vail Resorts mountains this past winter.
Photo from Brad Blacketor

It wasn’t until his retirement five years ago when Blacketor ratcheted up his number of days on hill. He recorded 4.3 million vertical feel on EpicMix that first year of retirement. Each season since, Blacketor has set out to best his previous year’s mark.

Along the way, Fralich observed Blacketor’s skiing via the app and set out to find him one day at Beaver Creek Ski Resort in 2017. Fralich spotted Blacketor’s ski attire at the top of the Birds of Prey Express lift.

“We could see this guy was skiing a ton and doing it legitimately, and we wanted to meet him and let him know he was skiing more than anyone else on the planet,” Fralich said.

The new friends exchanged information and often found each other in line ahead of 8:30 a.m. first chair at one of the the local Vail resorts.

Brad Blacketor skis at Kirkwood Ski Resort in California.
Photo from Brad Blacketor

Despite Vail Resorts’ reservation system this season, Blacketor skied all but four days in late February and the final week of the season at Breckenridge Ski Resort in May.

Vail Resorts’ EpicMix this winter did not feature a way where users could see other users’ information and statistics, like in years past. Blacketor and Fralich said they can’t verify 100% if Blacketor’s accomplishment is the most vertical feet skied in the application’s history because of that. However, Fralich said he believes it is.

“There was a guy at Heavenly (Ski Resort) in Tahoe who believably skied 7 million in a season,” Fralich said. “And there were some people at Whistler who were also in the 6 million range. But the unfortunate thing is with the website gone, you used to be able to go back and look at the leaderboard for all of the previous seasons. The highest I’ve ever seen I think, done legitimately, is in the low 7 million range.”

Blacketor missed time in February due to a ruptured ligament and broken bone in his thumb from a ski crash when another person ran into him from behind. When Blacketor returned to the hill, against his doctor’s original advice, he skied with only one pole to prevent aggravating the injury.

Blacketor skied the most days in 2020-21 at Keystone Resort. He said when he’s chasing vertical feet he targets the groomed Starfire off the Santiago chairlift at Keystone’s North Peak.

Blacketor said he doesn’t really take any long breaks during his days on hill, choosing to eat whatever he brought from home on the chairlift. He rotates between nine different pairs of skis, though he said his go-tos are his Stockli Stormrider 105s.

Brad Blacketor, left, and Tom Fralich wait for the chairlifts to open at Breckenridge Ski Resort's Peak 8 base area.
Photo from Tom Fralich

As for any special physical therapy, rehab, or yoga, he doesn’t carve out time for it specifically, because he’s always skiing.

“I don’t do anything,” he said. “It must be good genes, or something. At the end of the season I don’t have any ailments. I’ve been fortunate. I have no knee issues, no joint issues and no back issues — nothing.”

Blacketor said his approach to skiing that many days each winter is to do so “because sooner or later we are all going to run out of time.

“It’s important to get outside and make every day count,” he said. “I don’t think you realize that when you’re young. When you get older you do realize you are going to run out of time. I’m not going to be able to do this forever. But, until that day comes, I’m going for it.”

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