Leadville man has skied every month for 42 years, vows to keep going ‘until I can’t go anymore’
Tom Szwedko has taken skiing to a whole new extreme. The Leadville resident — who will be 75 years old in March — will have skied at least one day a month for 506 consecutive months at the end of December, and he has no plans to stop anytime soon.
Szwedko said he started his illustrious streak in October 1979, when he used to live in Pennsylvania. He traveled to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia after a snowstorm blanketed the area in over 3 feet of snow.
“I started skiing then and started skiing every month after that,” Szwedko said.
Szwedko hasn’t missed a month for a little over 42 years, even finding a way to ski in the summer.
Szwedko ended up moving to Colorado in 1980 during the same winter in which he started his skiing streak. He said the move helped him be able to ski in the summer by trekking up mountains to find at least a bit of snow.
“There’s slope fields in Colorado that you can get to, some of them you can drive to, like Jones Pass or Hagerman Pass,” Szwedko said. “You can find snow until June and July, then it gets harder. September is the hardest.”
Szwedko said it was especially hard this year to find summertime snow due to the dry conditions in Summit County and surrounding areas.
Despite the conditions, Szwedko hiked and found a patch of snow to ski in order to keep his four-decade streak alive. Szwedko said he has kept the streak going in large part because of his deep love for skiing.
“I like skiing,” Szwedko said. “Some people will only ski one day a month, but I generally ski almost every day, especially this time of year. In the summer if it’s not absolutely terrible, I may get 215 days” in a year.
Szwedko said skiing and getting out to enjoy the outdoors on a regular basis became commonplace for him when he lived in Aviano, Italy, while serving in the U.S. Air Force. He would climb, spelunk and ski throughout the Alps and Dolomites.
Szwedko said his love of skiing originated as a child when he would ski tiny circles in his yard while living Pittsburgh.
Even though Szwedko lives in Leadville, he enjoys skiing at a few Summit County spots, including Mayflower Gulch off of Highway 91. He also used to ski in Montezuma quite a bit when he lived in Englewood before moving to Lake County.
The majority of the time though, Szwedko is in the forest by himself.
He has even found a way to keep up the streak while battling through a string of health challenges, including suffering an aneurysm and being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Szwedko received radiation treatment for 7 1/2 weeks, five days a week and went through three rounds of chemotherapy in order to eradicate the cancer. Szwedko said he would often ski post cancer treatment in Edwards at Machine Gun Ridge or Tennessee Pass in order to escape from his illness to get some laps in.
It is when Szwedko is outdoors, moving his body, that he finds an innate sense of solace.
“I like hiking and climbing, so skiing gave me both,” Szwedko said. “I like the thrill of skiing downhill, making turns and going through the woods, down the slope.”
Szwedko also goes on routes that are not overrun by people so that the majority of the time it is just him and his skis gliding down the slope.
To this day, Szwedko is cancer free. It’s going to take much more than cancer — or the COVID-19 pandemic — to prevent him from skiing.
“I am going to keep the streak going until I can’t go anymore,” Szwedko said with a laugh.
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