Endless winter: Silverthorne 67-year-old Steve Plummer skis Summit County for 120 consecutive months
When Arapahoe Basin Ski Area tested out some of its snowguns on the High Noon trail last Thursday night into Friday morning, the snowmaking crew probably didn’t anticipate the season’s first skier would be carving turns in mere hours.
That man, Silverthorne’s 67-year-old Steve Plummer, was there to put the finishing touches on 120 consecutive months of skiing solely in Summit County.
For Plummer’s quest to ski for a decade straight, the ski area’s decision was a godsend. At 119 straight months of skiing natural and man-made snow within the county’s boundary lines since his start in October 2008, month No. 120 seemed like it would prove impossible just days earlier.
Plummer’s initial plan earlier this month was to tempt the last little patch of lingering snow on the Fourth of July Bowl in Breckenridge.
“It was on a very steep scree face,” he said. “And I didn’t even know if it was hikeable, so that was kind of in the back (of my mind). I had some other insane ideas as well, but thank goodness for snowmaking.”
“I prayed for snow,” Plummer added. “I prayed for cold weather.”
Low and behold, on Thursday night it got cold enough at Plummer’s familiar A-Basin, where he’s worked as a part-time ski instructor, to strap on his Fischer RC giant slalom racing competition skis and ride. They’re the same pair of planks on which he took turns in the snow during his previous 119 months of Summit County skiing.
“I went up with my friend,” Plummer said of Friday morning, “hiked up to where they actually made snow — much to the chagrin of some of the safety people there. I kept it cool and they didn’t bother me too much. So that was my 120th month consecutive.”
In previous lean snow years Plummer has had to get creative in finding snow to ski in summer months. Recently, he had to turn to skiing at Copper Mountain Resort’s summer-long Woodward man-made terrain to officially ski within the county. But unable to access Copper’s snow in the past couple of months due to the warm, dry weather and Copper’s construction, Plummer had to go to Plan B.
In August, that Plan B was to ride alongside mountain bikers, skis in-hand, to the top of Keystone Resort’s Dercum Mountain. There, Plummer took the best turns he could on the patch of snow left over from the resort’s tubing hill.
“Consistency wasn’t that bad,” he said, “but there was a lot of melted dirt and mud on top of it. It was pretty crappy.”
In July, for month 118, Plummer also found himself at A-Basin, this time skiing down whatever snow was left on the ski area’s Ramrod trail.
“And as I got down to the base, some of the staff was there saying: ‘What are you doing?’ And I told them about my plan, and they said, ‘You’re a nut.’ And I said, ‘I can’t deny it.’”
Months 118 through 120 capped his full decade. But how and why did it start?
Plummer said years ago he was smitten with the movie “The Endless Summer,” a 1966 documentary that chronicled two young surfers searching for the perfect wave and traveling the world in order to surf all seasons.
With that in the back of his mind, Plummer kind of accidentally stumbled into his quest for a decade straight of skiing. At first, he merely skied the token nine months at the county’s ski areas. Then during that first July in 2009, he climbed up to Loveland Pass and found a very long ice gully of snow. So he made a few runs there. August was pretty much the same thing, and then in September he found some patches of snow, thereby getting his first year in.
Fast forward nine more token ski months, and with “The Endless Summer” in the back of his mind, Plummer had a novel thought. In essence, it was for his very own endless winter.
“I did not set out to try to set a record or to set any kind of goal,” he said, “but it just kind of evolved year after year after year, and I thought, ‘What the heck, let’s try to keep it going.’”
Besides this summer, there were other lean years, including one painful situation at Loveland Pass.
“I made a one-hour hike behind Loveland Pass,” Plummer said. “There was a small piece of cornice left behind The Professor. And I climbed up there, put my boots on and had to hike down to the remaining piece of cornice, skied across it, skied out of the snow into the scree, fell down, rolled down the scree and cut my leg. And I had to use my skis to claw my way back up to my hiking boots and another hour hike out of the bowl.”
Whether it be at Loveland Pass or Woodward at Copper, Plummer says his standards as to what constitutes a full ski are “pretty much dictated by the snow.” If there is snow, even if it’s just a patch 30 feet long and he is able to ski it, he counts it.
As for the planks he takes his rides on, he prefers to call them not “rock skis,” but “summer skis.”
To Plummer, there are several different categories of skis. There are your “nice skis,” your “powder skis,” and then, of course, your “rock skis” you’d normally use for early or late-season riding.
Then there is that last classification of “summer skis.”
“Rock skis are when you may hit a rock or two,” Plummer said. “Summer skis is when you may miss a rock or two.”