VAIL — Your EpicMix doesn’t have a badge for riding Mount Everest. Frontside chutes in Vail or Golden Eagle in Beaver Creek may be the steepest terrain you’ve faced. Stephen Koch, a snowboard mountaineer, enjoys runs like these, just multiplied in steepness, difficulty and risk.
Koch coined the term snowboard mountaineering, defining it as an activity that takes snowboarding to unprecedented locations. Doing exactly that, Koch has snowboarded down all of the Seven Summits — the seven tallest points on every continent.
Descending these monstrous peaks, Koch has learned how to thrive under pressure and when up against fear. He will speak on this subject and share his experiences with the Vail Symposium as a part of its Unlimited Adventure Series on Friday at the Donovan Pavilion in Vail.
“Our last panel on mountaineering was focused on going up the peaks,” said Tracey Flower, the Symposium’s executive director. “Now we will have Stephen Koch to tell us about descending these massive mountains on a snowboard. You won’t be able to ride up the chairlift without thinking of his much wilder routes. The places he has been are unprecedented.”
Koch’s list of alpine ascents and descents are among the most notable of any mountaineer — many on his completed list have never been repeated.
The descents haven’t always been smooth, and Koch has survived near-death situations. In 1998, he was caught and carried over 2,000 feet in an avalanche on the North East Snowfields of Mount Owen in Grand Teton National Park. He recalls complete silence at one point — realizing that he had gone over a cliff and was, at that moment, flying through the air.
Koch would return to the Tetons, of which he is the only person to have snowboarded all of the major Grand Teton Peaks. He has faced fear and learned how to perform in the midst of crisis and chaos.