Bob Seto dominates Vail Resorts’ Epic Mix race this year
May 27, 2015
Bob Seto lives a life of passion and fanaticism.
So, it's no suprise that Seto was the winner of this year's Vail Resorts Epic Mix race. Epic Mix is a social media app that allows skiers and snowboarders to track their on-hill stats and compare them with others.
The purpose of the program is to encourage Vail resort visitors to ski as many different parts of the mountain as possible. Participants can earn points in a variety of ways, including ski area visits, total vertical feet skied and an accumulation of pins. Pins are the most lucrative and can be earned through performing individual challenges that are unique to each mountain.
The Epic Mix race is designed as a friendly competition — not a cutthroat race to death. And it was the social aspect that initially pulled in Seto. This season, though, he took it to the next level.
"I've always been a goal-oriented person, and I love puzzles. With all the pins and challenges, it's just like when you get a gold star in school," said Seto. "Plus, I've been a competitive person my whole life."
Saying Seto is competitive may be an understatement. This season, he racked up 151 days, 247 pins, and over 6.5 million vertical feet of skiing. That's not counting the days Seto skied at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, which he estimates will help him reach his goal of skiing around 220 days for the year.
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To have a chance at winning Epic Mix, resort officials estimate that skiing around 40-50 hours a week is a must. Bob not only had to have extreme dedication to earn first, but he also needed a serious strategy.
There are small nuances of the Epic Mix scoring system that make a big difference in total points. For example, one highly valuable award is the "Challenger pin," which is given for skiing every lift on a mountain in one day. Pulling this off in a single day requires a specific plan of attack.
Also, skiing a high number of runs in one day doesn't necessarily guarantee a lot of points; skiing a great amount of vertical feet does, however. That is why Seto and other Epic Mix leaders research and strategize which runs to focus on throughout a day. Seto estimates that around 20 skiers and snowboarders are actively pursuing first place, but most will hide their stats throughout the year, as not to give away their personal strategies.
On a typical day, Seto skis from first to last lift, eats his lunch on the chair and even goes to the bathroom in the woods. He estimates that there is only around five other participants that are as dedicated as he is.
But even so, it wasn't even close. He was able to beat out the nearest competitor by more than 200,000 points.
Seto is tight-lipped about how he exactly did it, but he does admit that he didn't figure it all out on his own. He enlisted the help of two-time Epic Mix champion and former overall points leader Charles "Mr. Epic" Alexander to help mentor him throughout the year. Alexander inspired Vail Resorts to create the Epic Mix program after skiing every day of the 2009-10 season and unofficially breaking the world record for vertical feet skied in one year. Alexander was hurt this last season, so with his title hopes dashed, he gave Seto full-disclosure to valuable Epic Mix secrets.
"I wasn't interested in winning it this year so Bob was kind of like my protégé. I gave him a lot of information and I trained him to win it," explained Alexander.
Bob is retired now, but was a successful aerospace engineer for many years. Alexander was also an engineer and it seems hardly a coincidence that the top two finishers both have such an analytical background.
"Being part of the Epic Mix race is like playing a game of chess, you have to be smart about when to win and go after pins, when and where to go after vertical feet…not making unnecessary chances," explained Alexander.
"As an engineer I will collect data on estimates of my competitors, my own stats, and the Epic Mix system, and then I will put those numbers into all sorts of charts and graphs," said Seto. "I'm lucky that I have an engineering background and actually enjoy doing this stuff."
DEVOTED TO THE SPORTS
When talking with Seto, it becomes obvious that the overriding motivation behind it all, though, is his genuine love for the sport of skiing. Seto will skin up the mountain, long before the lifts turn on, almost every day that he skis. Depending on the mountain, this trek can be over 2,000 ft. in vertical. In addition, Bob will often spice things up by skiing extreme terrain and moguls, as opposed to just taking the easy route of only skiing groomers.
"I'll ski Imperial chair at Breck 10-20 times in a day. No one in their right mind (that's trying to win Epic Mix) will do that. Skiing groomers just get's boring after a while" explained Seto.
The way that Seto carries himself on the mountain is synonymous with who he is as a person. As I watch Bob make beautiful arching turns with a constant grin on his face, I realize that he is a true master of the sport. He stresses that he would ski just as much if Epic Mix did not exist and I believe him. Going to the utmost lengths for the sport comes naturally to Seto because that's how he lives all of his passions. He's lucky to have an extremely understanding wife and family that supports him.
"My wife knows that I'm fanatical; I used to run marathons every weekend so she knows I'm not normal," explained Seto.
A RENAISSANCE MAN
Bob is an ambassador off the hill as well. He has a pilot's license and will often fly terminally ill cancer patients around the country. Walking through the ski lodge at A-Basin recently, he seems to know almost everyone. His personable, outgoing nature pulls people in, and one can't help but be charmed by his personality. He is also an avid surfer, spending almost everyday of the summer and fall on the beaches of Southern California.
It's hard to believe but Seto says that surfing is a larger passion for him than is skiing.
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