Tragedy drove woman to set ski record
Vail, CO Colorado
KEYSTONE ” A world record wasn’t enough for Freda Nieters.
Last year, at 74, she zipped up her pink, one-piece skiing suit and racked up 78,000 vertical feet on her skis in just over eight hours. That feat earned her a spot in the Guinness Book amongst the world’s tiniest woman and the biggest pizza ever baked.
But for Nieters, the 67 miles of terrain she skied last March 29 were far less important than the reason she was on the slopes ” Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.
“It’s all about SIDS,” she said. “It’s not about me.”
Nieters lost her grandson, Zachary Thomas Meade, to SIDS in January 2005. The heartbreak and grief were channeled into her marathon skiing event, where donors pledged as little as a penny per foot to support SIDS research.
“It was all I knew how to do,” Nieters said of her decision to try to ski more vertical feet in one day than any other human being her age.
It seems Nieters’ knowledge has expanded in just one year, or she’s made some great connections. Nieters believes it’s more of the latter.
“It’s not what I know, it’s who I know,” the native of Norway said.
Keystone Resort helped set up Nieters’ course last year, including the roped-off section where the self-proclaimed “flying pink fossil” skied faster than most people half her age.
At the post-event celebration, Chuck Tolton, former director of mountain operations at Keystone Resort, stopped Nieters as she came through the door. Nieters said she felt like she had just gone for a very long hike, but she was willing to listen.
“Let’s do it again,” Tolton said.
“Again” happens on Sunday, but there’s no world records up for grabs this time. Instead, Nieters and Keystone Resort have designed an event ” “Ski for SIDS” ” that’s open to individuals, groups and families, and even some competition.
“It’s open to anything that slides,” Nieters said. “Flying fossils ” they slide well.”
Ski for SIDS has some big skiing names attending this year, including ’98 Olympian Jason Rosener.
“I think she’s crazy,” said the former Keystone resident who has known Nieters since he was 5 years old. “It says a lot about her and her caring for kids.”
Legendary Olympic skier Steve Mahre is flying in from Yakima, Wash., to participate in this year’s Ski for SIDS. Mahre worked with Nieters when his ski camps from the Mahre Training Center came to Keystone.
“Freda’s a good communicator,” Mahre said. “When you coach, you have to be able to communicate across what the skiers are doing and what you want them to feel.”
And this year, by expanding Ski for SIDS to include a deep network of family and friends, Nieters has made her cause clear: SIDS is the reason, and the rest ” including world records ” are insignificant.