Strapped in a straighjacket, Summit man wants to set speed-skiing world record at A-Basin
Straightjacket speed skiing
What: Summit local Jay DeBaggis tries to set the world record for speed skiing in a straight jacket at Arapahoe Basin, a fundraiser for Mountain Mentors of Summit County.
When: Monday, April 3, at 8 a.m.
Where: Arapahoe Basin Ski Area
The event is free and open to spectators. DeBaggis tries for the world record around 8:20 a.m. (before lifts open), followed by a post-attempt party at The Beach from 9 a.m. to noon. The party is a joint bash for DeBaggis’ beagle, Mabel, and includes bagels and beer. For more information on the attempt, or to donate to Mountain Mentors, see SummitCountyCO.gov/Mentor and click on the “donate” tab in the left column.
Support the cause
Can’t make it to the Basin on April 3 for Jay DeBaggis’ world record attempt? No problem, you can still donate to his cause, Mountain Mentors, online or through the mail.
Mountain Mentors pairs adults with local students to inspire, encourage and educate throughout the year. Mentors spend a minimum of eight hours per month with their mentees, ages 8-18, and each student is awarded a $200 scholarship for tutoring, music lessons, art workshops or any other service they can’t afford.
All funds raised by the straightjacket speed record go directly to the Mountain Mentors scholarship fund. To donate, mail a check to: Mountain Mentors, PO Box 4326 in Frisco, CO 80443. You can also donate online at SummitCountyCO.gov/Mentors under the “donate” tab, or by contacting Shawna Gogolen at Shawna.firstname.lastname@example.org.
You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find a straightjacket these days.
In 2014, when longtime Summit County local Jay DeBaggis had the wild idea to rip around Breckenridge on skis in a straightjacket, he called a psychiatrist friend to see if she knew where to find one.
“She told me, ‘Jay, we haven’t used straightjackets in 20 years,’” DeBaggis told me with a semi-serious face, and then burst into laughter. “I had to improvise.”
That’s when DeBaggis — a 50-year-old self-described ski bum who gets 100-plus days on the slopes each season, all with no poles — took a pinkish-red jacket from his bag and laid it out on the table. One arm reads “balance” and the front of the homemade straightjacket looked very, very familiar. It wasn’t until DeBaggis told me he’s a server at Relish in Breckenridge that it hit me: his straightjacket is actually a chef’s coat.
Or, more accurately, two chef’s coats stitched together by a good friend who “moves around a lot,” DeBaggis said. It might not be the real deal, but that hardly matters. He only wears the coat once per season, and it’s always for the same cause: Mountain Mentors, a Big Brothers, Big Sisters-style program overseen by Summit County that pairs adult mentors with nearly 120 youth mentees between ages 8 and 18.
DeBaggis started volunteering with Mountain Mentors in 2014 — the first season of his straightjacket skiing fundraiser — and hasn’t missed an opportunity to do something crazy for the cause. In three years, the straightjacket skiing fundraiser alone has collected roughly $18,000 for the Mountain Mentors scholarship fund.
This season, on April 3, at about 8:20 a.m., DeBaggis makes his wildest attempt yet: a straightjacket speed-skiing record at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area.
“Any crazy can tie himself up in a straightjacket and ski,” said DeBaggis, who would look the part of an escaped mental patient if his jacket weren’t tinged pink. “The real heroes are the people who donate to this cause or donate their time to Mountain Mentors. I’m just a clown in a straightjacket.”
Crazy good idea
It might only take a crazy to ski in a straightjacket, but it takes an inspired crazy to do it for a worthy cause. DeBaggis dreamed up the straightjacket skiing fundraiser soon after joining Mountain Mentors and meeting his mentee, Matthew. The two regularly meet up to just hang out and have fun — they go snowboarding and play soccer, golf, tennis and football — but DeBaggis wanted to do something that would give back to the whole organization.
“Jay is the one who goes above and beyond,” said Shawna Gogolen, program supervisor for Mountain Mentors. “He approached us first about this, and then he’s gotten more and more every year.”
For the first year in 2014, DeBaggis simply wanted to see how many straightjacket runs he could finish on Breck’s toughest terrain. He skied 10 laps on Imperial Chair in less than an hour — it was pretty empty that day, he says, but the snow was decent — and raised about $3,000.
For the second year, DeBaggis wanted to up the ante and ski as much different terrain as possible. He hit Imperial Bowl and Horseshoe Bowl before making his way to Whale’s Tail and, finally, the Peak 8 superpipe. He got his tips over the lip of the pipe, barely, and raised roughly $5,000.
“I’m calling that a success,” said DeBaggis, who noted the superpipe was probably the toughest run of the day. “Falling is not an option with this. I’ve found that the only time I hurt myself is when I fall.”
Last year, DeBaggis approached Breckenridge Ski Resort to see about making the fundraiser a legitimate event. The resort declined due to liability of some sort, and so the skier went to Arapahoe Basin’s Alan Henceroth instead. It was the biggest haul year: $10,000 in a day.
“Alan at the Basin is the nicest guy in the world,” DeBaggis said. “He told me, ‘If you’re going to raise that much money, maybe you should come work for me.’”
This year, DeBaggis opted for something new and daring. That’s how the world record idea came to be, but it hasn’t been easy. He contacted Guinness Book of World Records officials nearly five months ago to get the ball rolling and still hasn’t heard from them, but he still plans to record his speed and everything else needed for an official record.
“If I hit 60 (miles per hour) I’ll be euphoric,” DeBaggis said. “That’s the ultimate goal.”
Thing is, the record doesn’t exist, so no matter how fast DeBaggis is clocked, he’ll own the unofficial title. He’ll also draw much-needed attention to Mountain Mentors. This year, the organization doesn’t have enough mentors to volunteer with all of its mentees.
“We have a wait list of 50 kids and that’s absurd,” DeBaggis said. “There have got to be 25 people who can step up next week to spend time with kids.”
And even if DeBaggis doesn’t hit 60 miles per hour, the day won’t end on a low note. From 9 a.m. to noon, he and Mountain Mentors host a post-attempt party on The Beach, dubbed “Beagles, Bagels and Beers,” as a joint birthday party for his beagle, Mabel. There’s also the chance he could appear on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which might mean a matching donation for all funds raised this year.
“My dad told me, ‘Son, you can do or be anything you want to do,’” DeBaggis said after putting his homemade straightjacket away. “I told him a year later, ‘I want to be a ski bum,’ so he said, ‘Be the best damn ski bum you can be.’”
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