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Chasing Vertical

Vermont skier and retiree Scott Howard sets the new world record for most vertical feet skied in a season.

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Scott Howard at Killington Resort, 2017
Scott Howard at Killington Resort.Courtesy of Scott Howard and Killington Resort

It’s not your average 65-year-old retiree who sets out to break world records. But then, Scott Howard isn’t your average sexagenarian. The Bridgewater, Vermont resident retired in 2015, and decided to dedicate his surplus of time and energy to skiing. Not just taking a few turns and calling it a day, though. A lifelong skier, Howard wanted to find out how many vertical feet could he rack up throughout an entire season if he started the day the lifts opened at his home resort of Killington and hit the slopes every day until the bullwheel stopped turning.

The answer? 6,638,000 vertical feet—soon to be the new Guinness World Record for total vertical feet skied in a single ski season.

Using an app called Trace Snow, Howard began keeping track of the vertical he skied each day. The app ranks the user’s total vertical against that of others also logging their vert. “When somebody puts big numbers up you want to go after it,” says Howard. “As they get closer to you, you try and hang onto the lead.

Ice, powder, slush, or corn, Howard could be found charging down the slopes last season, run after run, chasing those names above him. Most days, Howard skied Killington, which is known for its lengthy season in comparison to most East Coast resorts. Howard also took several trips out West, including one to Whistler Blackcomb, but his favorite day was at a small New Hampshire ski area called Crotched Mountain.

“They have a really fast lift called The Rocket,” Howard explains, “and seven Friday nights during peak season it stays open from 9 in the morning to 3 A.M.

Scott Howard (R) and Billy Kid (L) at Women's FIS World Cup
Scott Howard (R) and Billy Kid (L) at the Women’s FIS World Cup at Killington.Courtesy of Scott Howard and Killington Resort

While at Crotched Mountain, Howard competed with two locals, a snowboarder and another skier, to accumulate the most vertical. “We skied 9 A.M. to midnight,” says Howard, “so it was only a 15-hour marathon.” By midnight, he had logged 143 runs and 130,900 vertical feet. “To do this you’ve got to have a lot of help from the mountain,” he adds. “You’re ripping runs 50-plus miles per hour, in the dark.” Crotched Mountain provided Howard with a free lift ticket and had ski patrol on board to ensure safety while Howard and his competitors sped down the slopes. Killington Resort was also on board with Howard’s quest, rarely scanning his ticket so that he could get up the mountain as fast as possible.

In early May, after one of his friends discovered how close Howard was to the previous world record of 6,025,000 vertical feet, he became even more determined to continue skiing. “Once I realized I was around the record,” says Howard, “I had to beat it.” He skied from November 8 until May 26, Killington closing day. A few days later he reached out to Guinness, which is in the process of verifying his record.

Don’t expect a repeat performance from this sexagenarian. Now that Howard has beaten the world record, he claims he will relax a bit more next season. “I’m going to ski and have fun,” he says. “This was a one-time deal.”