For Scott Howard, skiing 35,000 vertical feet is just another day on the mountain. In fact, it's even less than his daily average over the 170-plus days he has skied this season. For this 65-year-old skier hailing from Bridgewater Corners, Vermont, bagging insane amount of vert is the name of the game as he hopes to set the record for the most lift accessed vertical feet skied in a season.
While the current official world record was set by Canadian Pierre Marc Jette, who skied 6,025,751 feet between November 22, 2014 and May 10, 2015 in Whistler, Howard says there are some rumors floating around of a guy who hit 6,575,000 feet in 177 days. Currently sitting at 6.4 million and change himself, Howard hopes to break the 6.6 million feet mark before his season comes to an end on May 31.
Killington has a 100 Club for people who have skied 100 days in a season. I thought how cool it would be to have a vertical club, and that's when it all started.
Over the last six to eight years on my birthday, April 6, I've tried to do my own vertical challenge. I wanted to break out of my normal ski routine and ask myself, ‘How many runs can I do today?’ I started doing that as a one-day thing—the first year I tried to do 50 runs. The next year, 55, and so on and so forth.
With the help of an app that tracks the number of vertical feet I've skied, Trace Snow, I set a goal for 5 million feet at the start of this season.
I've now skied 170 days, and on Trace I'm at 6,405,000 vertical feet.
There's no better place to get vert than Stowe. They've got a quad that gets you 2,100 feet and it only takes a little over 6 minutes. You can do six laps an hour, which gives you 12.6 thousand feet an hour. Stowe also opens their lifts at 8—7:30 on the weekends—and that extra hour/hour and a half is huge when you're chasing vertical. You can get 45,000 or 55,000 feet as long as you can hold on.
Five to seven times a year, Crotched Mountain in New Hampshire stays open for 18 hours, from 9 in the morning to the following 3 o'clock in the morning, and this year I was invited to do a vertical challenge. The record there was 111 runs of the 850-foot hill. When it was all said and done, I had 143 runs for 130,900 vertical feet.
A lot of my friends, some of them big skiers themselves, look and me and ask, ‘What's the point?’ They'll ski for two or three hours and rip the trees and the moguls, but I wanted to see what your body can do if you really push it. As you get older you're always wondering how much longer you can do it. So I told myself to just keep going.
Early on, I was able to take the top of the leaderboard on Trace at about 1.5 million feet. But there was this girl from Aspen who was coming up like a missile. She was logging 40,000+ feet a day, seven days a week. When someone's closing in on you with those kinds of numbers, it motivates you to get on your skis.
A couple times at Stowe, I got between 88,000 and 93,000 feet, but my best was 98,400 feet in an eight hour day. I took 45 runs off that quad. It was one of those perfect days—nobody there, fast snow, I was in the groove. Skiing conditions like that put you in a trance and take over what your mission on the mountain is.
There are downsides. I've got a tremendous girlfriend, but the challenge is definitely pushing the envelope with her. But I can't blame her, I'm skiing seven days a week. You have to get to the mountain early, be the first one in line, and you ski all day—it's a full time job. Definitely the best job I've ever had though.
I've applied to Guinness, but the process to get it all verified is incredibly arduous. You need really good documentation, first-hand witnesses, connecting with ski resorts to match vertical with what the app says, and there's also a big trust factor there. This isn't something like doing jumping jacks for 24 hours, it's a seven and a half to eight month thing where I'm skiing nearly seven days a week over the entire time. When I'm ending up with 179 days, there's a lot of data to pour over.
Even if I don't get the record, in my mind, it's still been a phenomenal year getting to ski as much as I possibly can. My advice to others is that if you've got other commitments, take care of them first, but if you've got the time, go ski.