Steamboat skiers accomplish once-in-a-lifetime feats, logging millions of vertical feet
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — If there has been one benefit of working from home and hybrid school models, it’s been the ability to get out and log more days on the mountain. Many local skiers have been able to spend more time on Steamboat Resort than ever before, racking up impressive numbers.
Through 101 days on the mountain, second-home owner Joe Brougher leads Ikon passholders across all locations with just under 4 million vertical feet. He’s on track to hit the mark Friday, less than a week before he and his wife, Kelly, head back home to Indianapolis.
Brougher is averaging one million vertical feet a month, becoming the first to hit 1 million vertical feet on Dec. 31, 2020.
Not far behind him is Jeff Gebauer, who is in second across all destinations with a little over 3 million. Five of the top-seven skiers across all locations are from or live in Steamboat Springs.
Steve Hayes, David Kinnear and David L. ski together frequently at First Tracks. Gebauer and Brougher often ski together as well. One morning, the two groups ran into each other and posed for a photo.
“We got off of Storm Peak (Express), and we were all there,” Gebauer said. “It was our first time meeting each other. It was great.”
The five likely would have ended the season as the top five, but Hayes suffered an ankle injury more than a month ago and hasn’t been able to ski. Still, his early season effort has kept him in the top 10.
“We’re all a little bit crazy,” Gebauer said. “We all love skiing and ski pretty much any condition and just love coming out and finding the fun in skiing if it’s a hard pack day or a powder day.”
‘Internal fist pumps’
The Gebauer family has spent more time skiing together in the 2020-21 season. Gebauer has logged 112 days on Steamboat Resort this year and more than 3 million vertical feet. It’s the most skiing he’s ever done in a winter.
After falling just shy of 3 million when resorts closed early last year, Gebauer was elated to hit the mark this winter.
“I thought, that was it, I’m not going to have a chance to do that again,” Gebauer said. “It felt fantastic. Last year, when I hit a million, the first to hit a million, there were a lot of internal fist pumps. It felt like that.”
His young kids have joined him many times on the mountain. They attend Steamboat Montessori School, which has half days, so in the afternoon, after wrapping up some homework, the Gebauers head up the mountain.
Liam, 9, is on track to hit 120 days this year, already eclipsing the 100-day mark. Siblings Roman, 8, and Fiona, 6, have 92 days as of Thursday, so they’ll likely hit 100 by season’s end. Then there’s Eric, who at 4-years-old, has skied 65 days this year.
Last year, when Gebauer celebrated becoming the first Ikon passholder to hit 1 million vertical feet, Eric was on his back in a bag. This year, Eric skied Chute 1.
“He was a little worried when he was into it,” Gebauer said. “But when he was done, he started talking about doing other chutes.”
A million a month
Brougher was the first Ikon passholder to hit 1 million vertical feet this winter. He thought after that he would settle down but soon realized he would hit 2 million by the end of January. He implemented an accelerated schedule to hit the mark Thursday before taking a few days off to celebrate his 30th wedding anniversary with his wife.
Then, in mid-February he realized he could hit 3 million by the end of the month. After averaging a million a month, he felt obligated to do so in March before heading home April 1.
On top of that, on Wednesday, he hit the 100-day mark for the first time.
“For me, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said. “Everything just came together the right way with the season. … I’ve been able to accomplish something I never thought I’d do.”
Typically, Brougher and his wife get more visitors during their winters in Steamboat, but with the pandemic, they had few. So, he got to spend more time on the mountain and obsess over vertical feet.
The winter wasn’t effortless though. Around day 65, in early February, Brougher got into a funk. So, to help get through his feeling of “ughhh” he signed up for a lesson.
Even with years of skiing to his name, Brougher developed some bad habits. In a motorcycle accident three years ago, he broke his collarbone and crushed his left ribs, which collapsed his lung. Ever since, he’s favored or dragged his left shoulder a bit.
“When I have a lesson, I feel like a beginner,” Brougher said. “He really breaks my stance down and makes me remember the basics. It helped me out of my funk, because it gave me some new things to think about.”
Shelby Reardon is the assistant editor at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach her, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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