How many vertical feet have you ski or snowboard in your life? Let just say no way near as much as Fu man chu tele-skier Rainer Hertrich. Meet the man who smashing world records. Most people don't set goals that take eight-plus years to achieve.
Posted by Chris Runyon on January 5, 2012
With the New Year comes New Year resolutions. It’s important to start fresh 2012 and set goals. Maybe even set S.M.A.R.T. goals. You know the type of goals your physical education teacher was yapping about in class, specific, measureable, yahda yahda all that good stuff. Typical goals we hear normal people set are workout three times a week or eat healthier meals for lunch. Rainer Hertrich isn’t normal. Some people might even consider him a little insane. With a goal to ski 100 million vertical feet you just might agree. That’s right, 100 million, with an M. Now that’s a goal.
The birth of this wild idea, now a lifestyle, started in 2002 on vacation to Jackson Hole, WY. One day after skiing, Hertrich and some friends were in the Mangy Moose Restaurant and Saloon and saw a plaque honoring people that had skied 6 million vertical feet in one season. The 50-year-old telemark skier had been keeping track of his own vertical and his personal best was close to 4 million. Pretty close, right? Only 2 MILLION vertical feet until he would join the others on the wall. Hertrich had to let this unusual idea marinate in his mind over night. He knew skiing every day was the only way to reach the 6 million mark. What better place to ski than on the sweet slopes of Colorado.
Just as planned, on Cinco de Mayo that year Hertrich reached 6 million vertical skiing at Loveland Ski Area. Both Arapahoe Basin and Loveland stayed open later that year so he took full advantage and kept rolling.
“"I remember riding up the chair after I passed 7 million vertical and thought, 'You know what? I might be sitting on a record here.'"” - Hertrich
After that lift ride Hertirch life would never be the same. Since the beginning on November 1, 2003, Hertrich has logged 98 million vertical feet of descent and counting. Right now, Rainer’s goal is to reach 1 million vertical feet each month. If he succeeds for the next two months, he would have skied 100 million in 100 months. Two words come to mind when we heard this– totally radical. That’s about 15 runs from top-to-bottom on the Super Bee lift each day. Or skiing Mt. Everest from sea level plus 4 thousand feet! The Guinness World Record categorized his current vertical feet as "unofficial". But we’ve never met a skier so “official” in our lives. The actual title of the world record he’s setting is "Accumulated Vertical Descent in Consecutive Days on Telemark Gear" which will be certified by Guinness once he takes a day off. It hasn't happened yet and we wouldn’t count on it. Hertrich has kept skiing with separated shoulders, bruised ribs, and many days of knock-you-off-your-feet sickness. Nothing will stop this fu Manchu-skiing-machine.
Hertrich has been in some terrifying situations along his eight-plus-year journey. Having a machine-gun pointed at his face while a soldier walks away with his passport or nodding-off at night while driving down an unfamiliar road in a foreign country just to wake up to see a herd of black cattle would stop any skier in their tracks. Not Hertrich. “Someone is looking out for me. I’ve got some angels out there watching over me that’s for sure,” explains Hertrich.
To keep his streak going, he packed his BWM 1150 GS motorcycle (with a ski rack of course) and headed West. First stop was at Wolf Creek Pass followed by Park City Utah to find a couple splotches of snow. Then it was off to Guardsman's Pass and Tamarack in Idaho just on hop on a patch on snow. “It’s a harder goal just because snow isn’t everywhere,” says Hertrich. Eventually the winter season ended in U.S. so he headed down to South America to ski in Argentina and Chile.
Countless chairlift rides and hitch-hiking around South America has given him a chance to rub elbows with crucial amigos south of the boarder like local slope maintenance, ski patrols, coaches, Olympic athletes, and even another world record holder. “Eight years of chairlift rides allows you to get to know a ton of people,” says Hertrich. “They always wave and say ‘Hola gringo’ when I’m down there.” He has returned from his annual South America trip and in just two short months it will be all over. “Time to really focus on the finish line,” says Hertrich.
The best part is this record-breaker is he's also Copper’s most seasoned snow cat operator and condo owner for past 20-plus years. Hertrich started working at Copper Mountain in 1981. For the past 30 years, he has worked in snowmaking, lift operations, and now is one of the top groomers at Copper Mountain.
“"I've skied all over the world and Copper is still one of my favorite places to ski. The snowmaking is sick. Where better way to ski than on a Colorado sunny day, fast slopes, and trails that I groom." ” - Hertrich
Rainer Hertrich will be the first (and probably the only) person to ski 100 million vertical feet. When I asked him what he’ll be doing with all his free time he responded, “I’ll be skiing.”
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