Take 5: A-Basin enduro vet Linsey Hempel talks 10 hours of skiing Pali Chair
Some skiers never get to know Pallavicini Lift, the fabled two-chair leading to Arapahoe Basin’s finest black and double-black terrain. Others manage to get first chair at 7 a.m., take more than 60 runs in 10 hours, and, finally, sit down for a beer on the Continental Divide at sunset, all in the name of raising cash for a local in need.
Welcome to the Arapahoe Basin Enduro, an annual event that pits 35 teams of two skiers or snowboarders against 20 of the ski area’s most devious terrain: Grizzly, The Face, Main St. and, of course, the Pallavicini trail itself. Now in its 27th year, the Enduro is nothing short of a love letter to one of the last true local’s chairs.
“It’s really nice on the Pali chair to see this communal chair, to see people come together for the love of skiing Pali and the love of the community,” said Linsey Hempel, 25, a native of Taos who tackled her first Enduro in 2014 with Whitney Henceroth, a good friend of three years she met while riding (get this) the Pali chair — and the two nearly set the women’s team record.
In the 10 hours between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., the Hempel-Henceroth duo managed to finish 64 runs to end just one short of the record. They haven’t returned as a team since then — work tends to get in the way — but Hempel plans to drop by A-Basin for a few runs and the popular post-event party, which kicks off in the A-Frame at 5 p.m. and is open to anyone, competitors and spectators alike.
The Enduro is always a local favorite — keep an eye peeled for Edward Boardman, aka Dead Head Ed, the only competitor to ski in all 27 events — but this year it hits even closer to home. All proceeds from the Enduro, the Enduro Light (a non-competitive version) and post-party events go to Dave Repsher, the local Flight for Life paramedic who was injured in a helicopter crash outside of Frisco last July. It’s a cause everyone can get behind, and it’s one of the main reasons Hempel will still make an appearance, even if she’s not trying to break that elusive 65-run record.
“I think you’ll see lots of tears shed, similar to when it was for Leif (Borgeson),” Hempel said, referring to the longtime A-Basin ski patroller who died at Aspen Highlands in 2011. “The showings and the emotions that go into the Enduro make it such a cool and different event.”
On the eve of the Enduro, the Summit Daily sports desk talked with Hempel for a first-hand look at why 10 straight hours on A-Basin’s nastiest terrain is worth every ache and pain and beer.
Summit Daily News: Tell me about your first year doing the Enduro. What was it like to show up at this community event with so much history behind it?
Linsey Hempel: The first thing I liked about it is that it’s a fundraiser. It’s for any individual in the community they (Arapahoe Basin) decide is a worthy cause, so that was the first draw for me. I love skiing and I wanted to get more involved in the community. I always heard about the Enduro being this really cool event, where a lot of community members come out to have fun. The challenge is really: Can I ski this chair for 10 hours straight?
SDN: Talk about the team element. Not only was it your first Enduro — it was also your first time skiing as a team with Whitney. Did you have a strategy going into the day?
LH: There was zero strategy (laughs). It was get on the lift, get off the lift, and just see how fast you can go. I have no professional skiing experience — I come from kind of an elite ski community, Taos, but I never raced or competed — and Whitney is a former ski racer. We came from very different backgrounds, but we were able to ski at the same level all day and just rip. That same day I was joking with my boyfriend that I’m glad I didn’t do it with him because there’s something about doing it with a girlfriend, where you have someone to talk to, someone to eat sandwiches on the lift, someone to go and pee in the trees halfway through the day (laughs). It’s just fun with that one other person.
SDN: Was the 2014 Enduro your first experience with that type of event, where you just go-go-go for 10 hours straight?
LH: Taos does the Ridge-a-Thon and I’d done that before, but you ski the same run all day. It was just a little different, and the A-Basin event is nice because you have choice. It was also a nice introduction to the A-Basin community. It’s really nice on the Pali chair to see this communal chair, to see people come together for the love of skiing Pali and the love of community. Everyone has a little bit of a competitive spirit and I think all the locals who come out for this enjoy pushing each other just a little. You have to when you’re there for 10 hours.
SDN: You and Whitney came close to the record but not quite — just one run short. Was that always on your mind?
LH: Yes, we got 64 laps, which tied the women’s record. We didn’t talk about it before, but I think we were silently shooting for the record. Whitney and I talked about that after, actually, about how we were pushing for it the whole time. I was so worried that I wouldn’t meet her expectations — she just rips — and she was a little worried because we hadn’t done this together yet. At the time I still had a desk job, so I was commuting to and from Denver. We’d been talking with people right before the start and at the lift who had been training all day, every day, just to do this. I don’t think I’d been on skis in a week before then, so when I threw on the boots it was just like, “OK, let’s do this.”
SDN: At any point did you just want to quit?
LH: Skiing on Turbo (laughs). There are certain runs you just don’t want to ski, whether it’s because they’re bumped out or painful or you just hate it. That was challenging. To be honest, endorphins and camaraderie got us through it. We’d look at each other on the lift, talking about the next run, and we’d laugh when we came across one we didn’t want to hit. I don’t think I realized how tired I was until I got out of my ski boots and the endorphins wore off. A shotski was a bad idea after we were done.
SDN: When did all that endorphin energy start to wear off? No matter what, 10 hours on the mountain is long for anyone.
LH: You start early in the morning, watch the sun come up when you’re sitting on the chairlift, and you’re just pumped to be there. The endorphins start from the minute you get your bib on, then the day ends at the top of Pali. That’s probably when I first crashed.
But it’s cool. When you get up top you see the diversity of everyone there. Whitney and I were seeing how well we could do, when other people there dressed in tutus because they were just contributing funds, having a good day, participating with the community, not seeing if they could get the best line on the Ridge. It’s just so diverse.
SDN: You and Whitney haven’t been back since 2014 and it sounds like you two won’t get the chance to race for the record again this year. Any reason?
LH: We both had to work, but I’ll plan on being there for some of it. I think the local showing this year will be astronomically larger than it has in years past because of the cause, because of Dave. He was so connected to all the people out there. I think you’ll see lots of tears shed, similar to when it was for Leif (Borgeson). The showings and the emotions that go into the Enduro make it such a cool and different event. Pali is a two-seater chair where you just can’t throw your headphones in and ignore the person next to you. I even met my boyfriend on that lift.
SDN: Small world. How did you and Whitney get together?
LH: Through Pali, actually (laughs). She knew my boyfriend really well and he introduced us. He said, “You need to meet this girl. She rips.” So we went out one day, took a few runs and we’ve been best friends ever since.
SDN: Do you two have plans to get out there next season?
LH: Definitely. I would love to do it next year. We also just took five weeks off to just do the Grand Canyon. It was super warm, great to be on the water again, and I came back to great spring skiing. We might have a more competitive approach the next time, just because we know what we’re getting into.
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