The highs of sobriety: Sober & Stoked helping people ski and snowboard into recovery
Special to the Daily
from addict to Ironman, Scott French’s life has been a roller coaster of DUIs, speed and speed bumps. Clean and sober since July 2013, French wants to share the highs of being straight with other recovering addicts and alcoholics.
French, 40, a year-round Edwards resident, and fellow partner in sobriety Eugene Stiltner, who is based in Virginia, are shooting a documentary in 2018 about how sobriety can be uplifting in the outdoors.
‘What are we going to do?’
In April 2017, the two started the Facebook page Sober and Stoked: https://www.facebook.com/soberandstoked/ in order to link up with others and provide encouragement while enjoying Mother Nature. French is inviting all recovering addicts and alcoholics to join him skiing and snowboarding on Tuesdays in Vail and Thursdays in Beaver Creek throughout the season. Sundays, the group will alternate between Vail and Beaver Creek.
“I’ve reached out to other sober people in the valley that more or less don’t have an outlet. And I thought we should start this ski group,” French said.
So like many other social organizations before them, Sober and Stoked was founded to fulfill a need.
“Eugene and I bartended together years ago outside of Washington, D.C., at a club called the Blue Iguana. We pretty much drank a lot, got in trouble and got DUIs,” French said.
Stiltner went through rehabilitation and began surfing as a pastime. Although French was still drinking and “doing every kind of drug you could imagine,” he kept in contact with his now clean friend Stiltner.
A subsequent DUI provided French with not only jail time but also a wake-up call.
“I called him (Stiltner) and said, ‘I want to do the sober thing. What are we going to do?’”
Stiltner encouraged French to surf with him and that led to French snowboarding in Jackson Hole in the winter of 2007.
“I was just crying because I was so happy and I said, ‘This is what is going to save my life.’ A bunch of friends went sober but didn’t really do anything. They think that life is boring and wonder if sobriety is even worth it,” French said.
“We (French and Stiltner) say go outside, go skiing, hiking, surfing whatever you need to do. I went to Alcoholics Anonymous, but really I was just listening to stories. And what I wanted to do was go outside and get that adrenaline rush,” he recalled.
After returning multiple times to board at Jackson Hole — one trip lasted an entire month — French decided to spend a season in Colorado. He moved to Edwards and never looked back. However, he does spend his offseasons surfing in the Atlantic Ocean with Stiltner.
In a strange twist, French returned to bartending and works his trade at The Black Diamond in Beaver Creek.
“I have no urge to drink. I know it is the ultimate temptation and I throw myself into the fire everyday, but I am a people person and really like the job,” he said.
He did, however, wait two years before returning to his prior profession.
As French and Stitlner’s Facebook page nears 1,000 likes, French is amazed by the local and national support they have received especially within the ski community.
“I have people sending messages from around the country saying, ‘I can’t wait to come and ski with you in January.’ I also have local people who say they are so grateful that this group exists,” he said.
“When you are an alcoholic or an addict, you are going at it hardcore. What we are doing is taking those people and giving them a sport where they can go hardcore. If we can get somebody off the couch and into a sport that they love and enjoy, we are saving lives,” he continued. “One of the reasons people lapse out of rehab is they get bored, they think there is nothing to do.”
After French did his first Ironman competition, which was not even a blip on his radar when he was drinking and doing drugs, his parents were at the finish line.
“They said, ‘I’m so glad that I can see you at the finish line of an Ironman and not a courtroom or jail cell,’” he recalled.
Looking further down the road, French would like to get Sober and Stoked ambassadors, “just an informal group of people trying to get addicts and alcoholics together.”
His friends in Park City, Utah and Tahoe are waiting to see what he can accomplish in Vail and Beaver Creek. Long-term goals include snowboard and ski camps as well as an annual trip to a different resort.
French is also working on a Rocky Mountain grocery delivery service, looking to hire those who are clean and sober but have trouble passing a background check.
“I want to hire these people and give them a hand. Everybody deserves that chance,” he said.
For more information on Sober and Stoked, visit http://www.facebook.com/soberandstoked.
To contribute to the Sober and Stoked video project, visit http://www.indie gogo.com/projects/sober -and-stoked-the-documentary-inspirational.
Ferreira is a Ski & Snowboard Club Vail alum who is from Aspen. In accepting his gold medal, he shouted out boot fitter and ski tuner Dano Bruno of Gorsuch in Vail.