On December 20, 2013 in Bride-les-Bains, France, the first ever Epic Race winners skied into victory. For the previous month, several hundred skiers had been battling to see who could ski every resort offered on Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass—26 ski areas total spanning four countries and five states. Whoever did so first, and documented their travels for proof, would win a lifetime Epic Pass.
Exactly 132 people showed up to the final day of competition. But only 10 would win. The concluding battle was full on, with competitors racing between three French towns via gondola, checking off required stops on the way. Even after they crossed the finish line with photos to prove they reached all of the stops on the race, participants had to wait a full nail-biting week before Vail Resorts confirmed the 10 winners who would be officially ordained as lifelong Epic passholders.
Surviving rental car breakdowns, hopping between opening days, missing flights, dealing with bulky ski luggage (while flying internationally), using all the allotted sick days at work, and waking up to get an early start after weathering a European Après the day before—the road to lifetime Epicness was not easy. But the ten winners have no regrets.
"Totally worth it!" says winner Devin Rhinehart, engineer by workday, King of the Daffy by ski day.
Winner John Victor, a Vail ski patroller for three years, says the Epic Race "was an excuse to ski Europe." Rookie Joe Jenson won even though it was his first season skiing. "I was like, you know this gives me an opportunity to check out all the resorts, so why not?" says Jenson. Winner Steve Sacco thought there would be 20 or 30 people competing, as did Vail officials. But when 300 people registered, expectations were exceeded.
"Just to have that experience, to say you skied 26 mountains, in four countries, five states, in under a month is pretty exciting," says Sacco.
Living up to the title of Epic, Rhinehart and his partner in crime, Greg Hyde, flew to Mount Brighton, Michigan in onesies and snowblades, convenient because they didn't have any checked luggage. Following suit, competitor Adam Warot brought a piece of 'Merica to Europe by importing two liters of Fireball and toting a portable shotski—we're talking hinges and all—across the Atlantic.
Celebrating a competitor's 60th birthday at a French bar, competing with your dad, meeting up with long lost high school friends, downing cinnamon "whiskey" in European gondolas, skiing Austria, and now having a lifetime pass to forever ski these places, Victor says it best, "It's going to be a tough one to beat for one of my favorite lifetime experiences."