Eugene Buchanan: Tallying ski days but who’s counting? |

Eugene Buchanan: Tallying ski days but who’s counting?

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It happens every year. I start out the ski season painstakingly counting the number of ski days I’ve amassed. I don’t go so far as to make a list a la Santa Claus, but just mentally tally my days — especially if, like this year, I get off to a decent start. 

And I’m not alone in the affliction. Plenty of others have their wires mixed up also — whether it’s notching their days skinning up to Thunderhead or ripping Steamboat Resort, letting the turnstiles do the tallying. Skiing’s unique in this regard; making tracks just lends itself to keeping track.

I certainly don’t monitor my hiking, fishing, biking, paddling or pogo stick days, nor know many who do. But click into your bindings and the clicker begins, as if there’s some Greater Being up there keeping tabs on us schussing minions. 

But I veer from the masses. because I’m an equal opportunity counter. I tally everything, so as long as I’m gliding — skate skiing, cross country skiing, snowboarding, teleing, skinning, resort days, kick-and-gliding for a Christmas tree and even snow blading (yes, embarrassingly, I have a pair). The only things I won’t include is sledding, snowshoeing or Yak Traxing, which, for my pride’s sake, I don’t make a habit of anyway. 

And I have scruples; I won’t count the cross country machine at the gym or roller skiing, not that I do those either. Otherwise, if I’m sliding, I’m scoring.

And the results haven’t been too shabby so far, thank you. With an arbitrary cutoff date of Dec. 16, after a four-day run skiing Stormageddon, I stood at 25 for the year — and that’s after a five-day drought the week before. Not bad for an office stiff with an even stiffer back.

The scoring starts out easily enough. It’s relatively simple to keep track of the early skate ski days on Bruce’s, which this year happened in October. I always lose track after day four or five, but I can usually recollect (“Let’s see, that third day was when I hurled on the lower loop…”).

In the early season I also break out the double-camber, toothpick-thin cross country skis a few times, at places like the West Summit, Spring Creek, Dry Lake and Emerald. I might not make any “turns” — and couldn’t, even if I tried — but I’m gliding, which counts in my book.

The skin days are also easy to remember, largely because they’re such sufferfests. That early season skin to the top of Mount Werner? Awesome snow and sizeable blisters. That semi-poach with the gondola-assist, daughter lap up Howelsen and shrapnel-filled, stupid-to-be-out-there outing on the pass? Yep, remember those also. 

The resort days are a gimme, with technology keeping track. While this year’s weren’t that great early on — a day with three bullet-proof runs on Vogue, another with two boiler-plate laps on Heavenly Glaze — they count in the total every bit as much as a bottomless bell-to-bell session later in the season. My resort tally clocked in at six by my arbitrary day of reckoning.

Then come the gray area days — the twofers or even threefers. Like when you switch from your Alpine gear to your snowboard, that November skin with the gondola assist, or that early season day we were bored and skinned a backcountry shot on Rabbit Ears, switched to skate gear for a lap on Bruce’s and finished it off with a lap on the gondola, straight into Slopeside. Technically, all that only counts as one ski day, but in the individual discipline reckoning, it goes down as a skate, skin and resort day. 

And that complicates things later. If I were to keep track for the entire year (hopefully, I have better things to do), the end results won’t match up — my discipline tallies would out-notch my total ski days. By Dec. 16 this year, I was at 12 resort, six skate, seven cross-country and a paltry four skin, totalling 29, but that includes the triple and two double switcheroos. But that’s minutia I’ll leave to more well-versed, ski-counting scholars. 

More important is the question of what actually constitutes a ski day? Just going to Slopeside doesn’t count (unless you, heaven forbid, skied there from your car). Perhaps there’s no better expert on the matter than Copper Mountain snowcat driver Rainer Hertrich, who, ending in 2011, skied — on teles, no less — a whopping 2,993 straight days in a row. That’s every day for eight years, two months and 10 days, from Nov. 1, 2003, when the Marlins won the World Series, on up to when cardiac arrhythmia ended his quirky quest just seven days shy of 3,000.

Anything counted, he said, “as long as your skis are underfoot on snow” — even though some days it was just a lone strip somewhere. Jumping between Colorado, Oregon and Chile every year, he amassed nearly 100 million vertical feet and a record in the Guinness Book of World Records to tell the grandkids.

Most of us — even those who get out every single day this season — will never come close to that. Or even bother counting for the whole year.

Personally, even with the best intentions, I always lose interest and keeping track around the same time. Nevertheless, preprogrammed with an early season clicker, every year it’s always the same: I come out of the gates swinging and then let the scorekeeping fizzle. And I suppose that’s good; it’s kind of a nerdy pastime anyway.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll snow blade the driveway for day number 22. 

To reach Eugene Buchanan, call 970-871-4276 or email

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