Vail Daily column: Superman doesn’t have a cape |

Vail Daily column: Superman doesn’t have a cape

I always suspected that Superman would have great hair, a bright cape and large muscles. Meeting your hero is often disappointing; they’re usually not as glamorous as you’d hoped. Apparently Superman is a wiry 170-pounder, doesn’t have great hair, and his cape is a dull-blue, Marmot hard shell that glimmered years ago. Shawn, that shell previously fit you a whole lot tighter around the gut, too. That jacket’s getting dull, loose.

Shawn Jones, who is the best soldier in my army, has cancer. I remember that autumn day when Michael Warmuth called and asked if I had spoken to you, Shawn. He sternly said, ‘call him.’ Unfortunately, my apathy hasn’t served me well throughout time, and when you told me the news, my heart ached that day. I cried, and I hadn’t cried in years, my friend.

Shawn and I started skiing together many years ago at Beaver Creek. Shawn, a native to Eagle County, is the best skier I’ve ever witnessed. I’ll never forget that bluebird, cold powder day in January ’08. I followed Shawn down Osprey at Beaver Creek, and during the last two steep pitches, Shawn drove the stick into sixth gear. He skied through bumps the size of hay bails at an unreasonable, irresponsible speed. He never faltered as I fervently chased; I was sure to die as I gathered all of my resources to maintain a resemblance of postural integrity and mental clarity as my life flashed in front of my eyes. By the way, you’re the only one I know who does that up-unweighting movement at really high speeds. You surely know how to dance down the fall line.

Last week, Paul Kulas and I drove to Aspen Highlands to ski with Shawn, a formidable patrolman on duty at the legendary ski area. The past year has been challenging both personally and professionally for yours truly, and it was time to get out of my own head and go ski with my friends. I hadn’t seen Shawn in too long; embracing my friend for a moment put me into the right perspective. We are skiers who delight in the majestic adventure of the hill and life. I knew the day ahead would be special.

We ascended the Highland Bowl at a nerving pace. Shawn, how are you able to ski and hike with the same vigor of your healthier years? During our second hike up the bowl, I will never forget that conversation we shared. Shawn and I are men of the Christian faith; for both of us, the redemptive love of God came through living a life of poor choices and painful circumstances. My faith has faltered in the last several years. Shawn, your uplifting words have re-ignited life into me. I will never forget the miracle that happened atop the bowl on that last hike. That was the most powerful moment in my life I have ever experienced.

Without Limits

Here’s the rub: Shawn knows who he is. He knows what he stands for, and he stands in it. Shawn is a man with an unshakable spirit. His hope shines through the dark days ahead. Shawn knows where he’ll end up. Shawn Jones is unstoppable because of the outreach, love, support and selfless generosity that has filled his family during this difficult time. He is overwhelmed with the support. I am humbled by the community of people that have surrounded his family at this time. All of you are world class.

Superman is without limits; he can fly; a light in a dark world; full of hope; girded in strength; bound with integrity; a wise counselor. I wasn’t disappointed meeting my hero, I just thought he would’ve had better hair. You’re the best. I love you more than you’ll ever know.

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at or 970-401-0720.