Who skis every day?
February 28, 2008
We begin with The Numbers Man.
Jay Brossman, two years shy of his 80th birthday, has this thing about skiing. He says it saves his life on a daily basis. “I got diabetes,” he says, “and for that there’s no cure except exercise. As long as I keep skiing, the doctor tells me I’ll keep breathing.”
Brossman also survived a heart attack on a ski hill nearly 20 years ago, as well as the quintuple bypass surgery that followed. Every morning save a few each winter, he wakes up with his wife, Sally, eats breakfast in their Frisco home, then heads to the mountain for three hours of wide-stance alpine turns down the middle of every groomer in sight.
It seems simple enough until Brossman lurches into his spiel on how many days he’s skied. Last year he got 212 before a knee replacement in May cut his season short.
Five years ago, he recorded 255, his all-time high (he didn’t start skiing until he was 50). He’ll have more than 140 this season by the time you read this story, with at least three more months of lift-served skiing to come.
Brossman identifies himself as a member of both the Summit County Seniors and the Over the Hill Gang ” two groups with plenty of active-minded citizens. But he has a disclaimer he likes to note, too.
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“Them people,” he says of his peers, “they only do three, four days a week. And none of ’em do seven days a week. … They say, ‘You mean you go weekends?’ And I say, ‘Yeah we go weekends. We go to Loveland. There’s no big crowds there.'”
In a county with four world-class ski resorts and endless Nordic and backcountry skiing options, Brossman represents just one of the many ways Summit residents approach the concept of everyday skiing.
He counts his days in a journal, hates the powder ” “We’re from the East,” his wife says. “We can ski 4-6 inches, but I’m too old of a rabbit to hop” ” and paid a total of $331.50 for three different season passes this year.
Brossman’s approach is at least somewhat similar to that of Rainer Hertrich, a telemark skier and groomer from Copper Mountain who holds the world record for consecutive days skied. Hertrich is nearing 1,600, having skied in most western states as well as South America to get there.
It isn’t often another skier will pipe up about how many days he’s skied in Hertrich’s presence, but when it happens, Hertrich says, “I’m like, all right, that’s a good start.
When you get to 1,000, let me know.”
Hertrich makes mostly alpine turns on his freeheel bindings before calling it a day around 1:30 p.m. so he can get ready for work. He wastes little time, focusing instead on how much vertical he can record (approximately 52 million feet and counting) while his consecutive-days streak grows ever larger.
“Every now and then I’ll get the ‘who gives a s***’ look, but that’s really pretty rare,” he says.
Breckenridge resident Mike Zobbe probably wouldn’t be one to deal Hertrich such a look, even though the two employ vastly different outlooks on everyday skiing. The first time Zobbe, a five-days-a-week skier from October to May, skied at a resort last winter was on closing day.
“Whenever I go to the ski area,” Zobbe says, “it’s almost always this kind of culture shock. Because there’s all these little niches at the ski area that don’t exist in the backcountry. But it’s good, you know. You don’t want to become too much of a curmudgeon. You don’t want to get too isolated from the wide world out there.”
It helps that he works as the executive director of the Summit Huts Association, a job that keeps him in the backcountry far more than most. He is a Buddhist who listens to his jones and his body; if he gets sick of skiing, he doesn’t stay that way for long.
Zobbe has no idea how many days he skis each winter. “You know,” he says, “I just … I ski.”
Still, he acknowledges the urge can be natural to watch the numbers grow. “There’s always going to be a certain amount of ego involved, but who among us doesn’t have a healthy dose of ego? Maybe not the great bodhisattva or the Dalai Lama or any cats like that, but most of us, we all have our trips that we like to play out to make things meaningful.”
George Casaletta, 30, finds his meaning in risk. He is a professional big-mountain skier who trains with a group of six other top guns at A-Basin. They meet at a local bakery every morning and then they rally, oftentimes skiing their last run just before dark in the hairy backcountry chutes adjacent to the ski area.
“Sometimes our warmup runs ” if it’s a good powder day at the Basin ” will be right to the biggest cliff on the mountain,” he says. “Just go get it done.”
Casaletta estimates he skis at least 110 days per season at A-Basin as well as an untold number at other ski areas across the West. He works at a ski shop, embraces large air and feels that tracking one’s ski days robs the soul of it all, “at least a little bit.”
Ellen Hollinshead and Jeffrey Bergeron can relate. “If you spend all that time counting,” says Bergeron, a Summit County skier of 30 years, “it’s more of a competition than a lifestyle. Sort of like asking people how many times they make love. I wouldn’t have a clue how many times I’ve made love this year, but I could look at a calendar and probably get you a number.”
Hollinshead, Bergeron’s wife, is considered by Zobbe to be the most ardent skier in town. She skis twice a day multiple times per week ” a session at the resort often followed by either a ski tour or Nordic skate to achieve a cardiovascular workout ” and estimates that she takes only three days off per month. She usually continues skiing four days a week through June, when the long, sweaty dirt-road approach finally starts to outweigh the reward.
“I probably have seven different styles of ski that I can pick from every day,” Hollinshead says. “I think that’s why I last so long.”
She adds, “May and June are my favorite times to ski. That’s when I love skiing the most. It’s just climbing peaks ” which is something I don’t even do in the summer, because I don’t like walking down peaks. You have the freedom to ski wherever you want.”
“It’s addicting,” she says, and no matter one’s style, that may be the one thing about everyday skiing which all of its disciples agree on.