After 121 ski days, 4,346 chairlift rides and more than 6.2 million vertical feet of skiing, Anchorage's Gary Mashburn is ready to call it a winter.
And why not? His winter tale is quite the winter tally, one that maybe no one else in the world can match.
Mashburn has exceeded the Guinness World Records mark for the most vertical feet of skiing in a single winter. For the sixth time in seven seasons, he skied more runs than anyone else at Alyeska Resort. He even won a national contest for logging the most vertical feet in a three-month span this year.
On Sunday, he will rest. It will be his 15th day away from the slopes since Dec. 1.
"I'm on my gentle descent," Mashburn said Friday, after returning home from yet another day in Girdwood.
Mashburn, a 66-year-old with two artificial knees, has been Alyeska's most frequent shredder for years. He moved his family to Alaska from California in 1975 so he could pursue his downhill obsession, and when he retired a few years ago he became an every-day skier, fulfilling the dream he had since he first strapped on skis while in his 20s.
[64-year-old skier is Alyeska's ironman]
In the several years since Alyeska began using a computer program to track the vertical feet skied by season pass holders, Mashburn has set a pace no one has been able to match.
"I'm at 30 million the last seven seasons," he said. "I've been the top guy six times. Last year I fractured my ankle and only came in third."
Mashburn's mania hit new heights this winter. He skied 26 days in December, 27 days in January, 26 days in February, 30 days in March and 12 of the first 15 days in April to hit the 6-million mark for vertical feet for the first time in his life.
The Guinness record is 6,025,751, set in 2014-15 by a British Columbia skier. Mashburn's total of 6,201,094 — recorded by Alyeska's tracker — tops that, but Mashburn said he can't meet the verification process required by Guinness.
From January through March, Mashburn logged 4,838,279 vertical feet to win a national contest co-sponsored by Freeskier magazine and Snocru, the creator of a tracking app for skiers and snowboarders.
Mashburn was in second place after January, which turned him into a man on mission in February.
"A girl in Utah was in first, about 300,000 feet ahead of me," he said. "In February I just decided I was going to ski bell to bell, although I took off for the Super Bowl, and one day the mountain closed. So in those 26 days I did a million-seven. I just creamed it, and I beat this girl by about 900,000 feet.
"… When I won the month of February, they sent me back a letter saying, 'Can you send screen shots of the app? Your vertical is just off the hook.' "
He clinched his victory in March. The month was bitterly cold, but that didn't hinder him a bit. He went skiing every day but one.
Mashburn's prize for winning the Freeskier/Snocru contest is a trip to British Columbia to go heliskiing, a pair of skis, gloves and a helmet. So far, however, he has never won a prize from Alyeska for being its most prolific skier.
"They gave me a whole lot of 'You're illegally parked' stickers the year I hit 5 million," he said.
That aside, Mashburn said Alyeska is the perfect place to pile up big numbers.
The key, he said, is the speed of the chairlift and the area it serves. Alyeska's Chair 4 and Chair 6 are perfect for the skier looking to rack up a lot of runs. On a couple of occasions this winter, Mashburn tallied 70,000 feet in a single day.
"I've skied all around the world," he said, "and Alyeska for vertical is really an easy place to get it because the best runs are serviced by two high-speed quads, enabling you to get 11,000 feet an hour. Which is unheard of.
"I went to Jackson Hole, and after seven hours of skiing you can only get 30,000. The chairlifts are slower, and to get to where you want to go takes several chair lifts."
Mashburn is one of the first people to arrive at Alyeska every day, and once there he skis practically nonstop, making run after run after run. He skis for five, six, seven hours a day and rarely takes a break. He keeps lunch in his pocket and often darts into the trees for bathroom breaks.
"If I had a relief tube to run down my leg, I'd do that," he said.
But as the days get longer and the snowpack thins, Mashburn's mania is waning. He said he's taking Easter Day off because his wife, Suzette, wants him to help with dinner. Truth be told, Mashburn is ready to slow down. At least for this winter.
"The rumor is the vertical counter will stop on Sunday," Mashburn said. "I won't be credited for any skiing I do after Sunday, so I'm like, well, the weather's got to be nice. I'm not going out if it's crappy.
"… I've had enough, and my wife has really had it with me by April."
Gary Mashburn’s epic winter, MONTH BY MONTH
Month Days Runs Vertical feet
December 26 724 1,071,905
January 27 871 1,232,265
February 26 1,175 1,659,154
March 30 1,187 1,681,670
April 12 389 556,100
Total 121 4,346 6,201,094
A look at Mashburn's last 5 winters
2016-17 — 6,201,094 (through April 15)
2015-16 — 2,222,562 *
2014-15 — 4,167,510
2013-14 — 5,123,839 **
2012-13 — 4,125.423
* Mashburn fractured an ankle in December, which limited him to 84 days of skiing — about 30-40 fewer than his average winter.
** Mashburn skied 4,827,839 vertical feet at Alyeska and another 296,000 at Wyoming's Jackson Hole....Read more