Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy grads seek future success |

Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy grads seek future success

Graduate of the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy Class of 2015, Zachary Fedrizzi presents a faculty award during the graduation ceremony on Friday.
Chelsea Tuttle|Vail Daily |

Polar Explorer Eric Larsen’s guide to life

Life really is like a box of chocolates

For those who may consider the stock market, buy low and sell high.

A rolling stone gathers no moss

If you’re an artist and can’t come up with an idea, go back to the drawing board.

Don’t cry over spilled milk.

Do yourself a favor and make a long story short.

Don’t put all your eggs on one basket. Use at least two baskets.

The Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy’s 18 graduates are embodied in these two astounding statistics:

They excelled both athletically and academically, even though some of them have more than 100 absences — all excused for very good reasons — such as kicking ski booty in international competitions.

Their average ACT scores ranked them 13th among more than 150 Colorado schools.

All will attend some the nation’s finest colleges and universities; some now, some after they continue their international racing careers.

They’re most comfortable at full throttle. They’re also unconventional and creative, as one would be when you’re successful juggling so much of life. It also explains part of their senior prank, hiding an old-school alarm clock in the ceiling of principal Geoff Grimmer’s office.

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They engaged their teachers and each other, and they learned that sometimes their friends’ stories need to be fact checked. They promised they wouldn’t forget their teachers’ advice, including, “Real life isn’t this easy.” Also, “Be an electrical engineer.”

“Do kids these days have grit?” Grimmer asked.


Take graduate Florian Szwebel, who won a national championship ski race on two injured legs. He didn’t know there were broken bones in both his legs. He got listened to advice from his doctor and raced. He won, and then he found out his legs were broken.

Polar Star

Speaking of people you may not know, but should, that brings us around to Eric Larsen, the commencement speaker.

Larsen is the only human to hit the Summit Trifecta, summiting Mount Everest and reaching both the North Pole and South Pole — all in one year. You gotta listen to a guy like that. Also, he’s hilarious.

“A lot of people who give commencement speeches talk about success,” Larsen said. “My idea of success is being invited by a group of people who love a sport I know nothing about, and so I get to talk about myself.

His sport, polar exploration, occurs at about 1 mph, “So we have a lot in common,” he said.

The crowd fell out, so he added, “Thank you for laughing. I spend a lot of time by myself.”

The purpose of all the effort and strain is to get one thing out of that education, he said.

“That is … sponsorships. Could you pass me that Red Bull?” he said.

Larsen graduated from high school in 1989. He admonished the graduated to look around at one another.

“Take time to cherish this,” he said, “because everything from this point is going to be a huge disappointment. High school is the pinnacle, and the sooner you realize it the happier everyone is going to be.”

“OK, that’s not true. It’s the summer vacation after high school,” he said.

Larsen said he was “completely average,” not the strongest, smartest or fastest.

“All I wanted to do is go camping, and everyone knows it’s not possible to make a living camping. Is it?” he asked.

He said as a polar explorer, his current record is 72 days straight without a shower. But here’s the thing.

“More than 6,000 people have reached the summit of Mount Everest. Only 200 have reached the North Pole, and less than 50 without external support,” he said.

They had to fight every step, hauling gear 3 miles for every mile of forward progress. Arctic ice is constantly in flux, so they’d go to sleep and wake up a mile or two south of where they started. They were running out of food, fuel and time.

“I just lost it,” Larsen said.

They increased their daily travel time by cutting sleep to about two hours per night, and on May 3 they made it to the North Pole, “the biggest moment of anti-climax of my life,” Larsen said.

He slept for almost 36 hours; a plane picked them up and took them home.

“Then I was invited to give a commencement address,” he said smiling.

We are all explorers, Larsen said, leaving the VSSA Class of 2015 with this admonition:

“Our job as explorers in the 21st century is not to conquer the world, but to protect it.”

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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