By Lyndsay Strange
More and more, Rainer Hertrich looks and sounds like The Dude. This extends to exuding that familiar "I-don't-give-a-shit" attitude as well.
I came across Rainer one afternoon early this summer while working in a ski shop in Government Camp, Ore. We talked as I helped him find some new ski pants. Like most customers, he revealed that he skis quite a bit. Unlike other skiers, though, he's skied 2,500-plus days in a row—a world record, and counting.
By the end of the 2011-2012 ski season, Rainer plans on racking up his total to 100 million vertical-feet of skiing. From lift-access to skinning, if all goes according to plan, he will have skied every single day for eight years and four months. A lifetime of season passes at Copper Mountain, where he worked and lived for 20-plus years, and a grooming gig at Timberline for the last eight summers, has helped Rainer’s cause. When Timberline closes and Copper hasn't opened, he hops a flight to Chile to keep the dream alive. In the spring, he drives his motorcycle to Timberline from Copper, stopping at any random patch of snow he can in Utah and Idaho in order to get his daily dose and keep the streak alive.
When asked if he has any favorite or memorable days, Rainer says, "Ah, that's so tough; today, yesterday, so many!"
The first day he began recording his vertical for the current world record was Nov. 1, 2003 at Copper. It was opening day and his boss gave him a hard time when he caught him on the mountain skiing… instead of working. Rainer admits he told his boss a bit of a white lie when asked if he was working while taking that run: "I said, 'Yes I am.’ But I really hadn't started grooming yet."
And he kept on skiing. "I hit six million vertical-feet that first year and come June I had seven million while skiing A-Basin—thought I might be sitting on a record here, and I don't even know it, [so] let's see where this goes," he says. The summer of 2003 was a dry year for most ski areas, especially Utah, where he drove through on his way to Timberline. He had to search and hike to patches of snow at Guardsman's Pass and Wolf Creek Pass in order to maintain his daily shred.
Very snowy seasons have also prevented him, slightly, from attaining a set amount of vertical per month to stay on track… as deep powder slows one down when going for maximum vertical instead of just happily swimming through it. For his current goal, it tends to get in the way. "I love powder but once it's chopped up from the weekend hack, not much fun," he says. He calculates he skis about one million vertical feet per month, roughly 33,000 vertical-feet per day.
"You don't stop, like, ever, huh?" I ask.
"There's no vertical standing around talking about it. I don't ever wait around," he replies. When I asked where he gets his energy and motivation, with no words he simply points a finger at his head: It's all mental for Rainer. Another inspiration is his uncle, Adolf Hertrich. Rainer recalls a day at Timberline when the mountain was socked in with thick rain clouds. He knew the mountain wasn't opening.
"You're not a quitter, are ya?" Adolf asked him. And that’s stuck with him ever since. "No, I'm not gonna quit just because I don't feel good or my knee hurts or my toe hurts," he says. I asked him why he's doing this? Why he skis every day? "I love skiing," he says. And The Dude abides.