Long live the ski bum!
VAIL, Colorado – Jon Lilyquist was sick a couple of days last winter. Business took him to Denver a couple more. Other than that, he skied Vail every day it was open last season.
Vail is often portrayed as a grown-up resort, one that’s shaken much of the wildness and weirdness of its early days. In that view, the ski bum is a diminished species.
Lilyquist – who’s lived in the valley nearly a decade – puts the lie to that staid image. Lilyquist tunes skis at night so his days are free to ski. He works a landscaping job at Johnie’s Garden in summer, then goes back to his night-shift ways as another season approaches.
“I’ve been skiing since I was 2 years, 2 months old,” Lilyquist said. He grew up skiing mostly in Minnesota and Wisconsin, ski raced a bit as a young man, and started coming to Colorado with his family when he was in the fifth grade.
While he originally targeted Breckenridge, Lilyquist caught a ride to Vail, spent his first season as a lift operator and has been here ever since.
Ethan St. Germain is another proud member of the 100-day (or more) club. He works a split shift at Buzz’s Boards – as do several other employees – so he can hit the hill as much as possible. Last season, he rang up 104 days on his pass.
St. Germain moved to Vail in 1998 with a girlfriend. The relationship didn’t last, but his love affair with the mountain remains.
“I mostly ride Vail,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ve been to Beaver Creek five times last year.”
How does he do it?
“It’s not tough at all,” he said. “You just have to have the dedication – and not be in the bars every night. The toughest part is putting on your gear.”
While St. Germain’s a dedicated Vailie, co-worker Nick Kettinger spreads his days out a little. Of the 100-plus days on skis last season, about 85 came at Vail, with rest spent at Silverton, Keystone and elsewhere. In the eight years he’s been in the valley, he guesses he’s hit the 100-day mark six of those seasons.
“I probably hit 125 the year I worked as a liftie,” he said.
Anyone who skis or rides that much has to love the sport, but everyone has a slightly different way of describing that love.
“I moved here from Michigan,” Kettinger said. “Why wouldn’t I want to be on the hill as much as possible?”
As big as Vail Mountain is, it doesn’t hold many secrets for people who ski or ride this much.
Lilyquist said he doesn’t have any particular favorite runs, but said he spends most of his time on the back side of the mountain, “but I do keep toward Blue Sky,” he added.
Asked for his recommendations, Kettinger was quick to mention Rasputin’s Run.
“On a powder day being the first one out there is just the gnarliest,” he said. “But on Red Square you can drop off the cornice and that’s great.”
The hard core all revel in their time on the slopes, whether they’re riding one board or two.
“Over the last five or 10 years the skiers and boarders have really bridged the gap,” Kettinger said. “Everybody gets along these days.”
And everyone’s looking forward to another season on the hill.
“I’m pretty excited,” Lilyquist said Wednesday. “I haven’t gotten out yet, so I’m excited for Friday. And this year I want to get out even more.”
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or email@example.com.
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