How a world file holder ski day by day for over eight years
Would you like to try to set the world record for the most consecutive days of skiing? It could cost you an ankle or two as well as a hip.
This is the victim of Rainer Hertrich, a long-time snow groomer for Colorado’s Copper Mountain, who drove a whopping 2,993 days in a row – and is now paying the price in the appendix.
“The injuries are simply due to too much skiing,” says Hertrich, 59. “I worn out the cartilage in my ankle and got Charcot’s foot. The bones ground together so I had to have them amputated. “
As in his book The Longest Run: How a Colorado Ski Fan Has Skied Every Day for More than Eight Years (thelongestrunbook.com), co-authored by MJ contributor Devon O’Neil, Hertrich skied eight years, two months, and every day Ski 10 days. At the request of his doctor, he had to end his world record streak on February 12, 2012 after he was diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmias.
Even so, he did one last run that day, bringing his record just seven days to 3,000 – every day since his bizarre search began on November 1, 2003, when the Marlins won the World Series.
Hertrich began his series after seeing the tire created by some Jackson Hole skiers who notched 6 million vertical feet in one season. After exceeding 7 million verticals in 2004, he moved on. And going through bouts of flu, injuries, weather, and logistical hurdles.
During his work at Copper Mountain, he went skiing six months a day each year. Then he’d spent shoulder days in Loveland and the Arapahoe Basin near Colorado. From there he went to Mount Hood, OR, where he worked as a snowcat driver during the summer.
“You have to stay committed,” he says. “Some days were tough and there was a lot of logistics to do. I have also ridden through some miserable conditions as well as pain and illness. You just have to get up and act. When I parted my shoulder I was still skiing the next day; I just didn’t plant my perch. “
He etched the last notches on these poles every year by traveling to South America – still somehow on consecutive days.
“Switching hemispheres was difficult,” he says. “Santiago is three hours later than Oregon, so I packed up my gear before the flight and did a run with other equipment before dawn and then looked after another one when I got there. Once I got lost driving in the fog and barely made it in time. When I got back to Colorado, my flight usually arrived in the morning, so I met Loveland on the way back. “
Everything counted, he said, “as long as your skis are in the snow under your feet” – although on some days that meant just a single strip of corn.
Along the way, he accumulated nearly 100 million vertical feet as well as a special record in Guinness. “For me, the vert is more important – the record is a vertical descent on consecutive days,” he said. “That’s a million vertical feet a month, which is a lot.”
He admits that anyone trying to mimic his accomplishments in today’s COVID era may have a harder time. “The resorts in South America didn’t open until early September and missed most of their season,” he says. “If COVID had hit while I was doing it, it would have been over.”
Climate change also makes it more difficult. “It makes it harder in both hemispheres,” he says, still watching the weather around the world. “Having to hike a 14er to get to a small patch of snow is kind of ridiculous.”
With the kind permission of Rainier Hertich
The injuries increased immediately after his streak ended. That spring he took a group of friends on a raft trip on the Grand Canyon and walked barefoot in the sand for three weeks. It was too much for ankles that were used to being locked in ski boots. one of them “swelled to the size of a football,” he says.
“The doctor said I would have problems,” he says, adding that he finally amputated it in 2016. “I just wore myself out.”
The hip replacement came a few years later in 2019, also a victim of nearly 3,000 consecutive days of riding down mountainsides. Then last summer while trying to ride his BMW 1200 motorcycle to South America, he crashed on California’s Rubicon Trail, bruising his other already vulnerable ankle. If the operation doesn’t work, they can join the prosthesis club too.
Nevertheless, he is happy that he has the following days behind him and has set the bizarre record. And by order of the doctor, he plans to go skiing again in January. As for his ankle prosthesis, he says it even has its advantages. “For one thing, it never gets frostbitten,” he says, adding that he has a spare part with him on every trip. “And you can strap your boots as tightly as you want; When it’s crushed, it works as a part. “
And he’s not that concerned about anyone stealing his thunder anytime soon. “I think I’m pretty sure of the record,” says Hertrich, who, when he’s not skiing, now plans to get his captaincy certificate and sail boat trips in Florida. “I doubt anyone will ever break it.”
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