Last march, while many of us were still finishing our short stacks and nursing our hangovers, two ski instructors and a patroller at Jackson Hole were busy making their first of 26 laps on the resort's famed aerial tram. Racking up 107,614 vertical feet of skiing between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. (and raising more than $3,000 for Teton County Search and Rescue), the team of Doug Pierini, Mike Janssen, and Kirk "Sparky" Spreckhals narrowly beat the previous record of 25 trams, which had stood since 1969.
Their route remained the same throughout the day: East Ridge Traverse into Tensleep Bowl; Tensleep to Downhill Chute to Amphitheater; Amphitheater to Gros Ventre to the bottom.
"We never got an exact time, but it probably took us three and a half minutes for each run," says Pierini of their top-to-bottom, no-turn screamers logged before the mountain opened to the public. "During the day, we backed off a little bit, to about four and a half minutes (per run)."
Not bad, considering Jackson Hole's thigh-searing, 4,139-foot vertical drop and the whiteout conditions that day, which Pierini described as "horrific."
"It just got windier and windier, and it was snowing all day," he says. "The only thing that saved us is that we got a couple runs in early, so we were comfortable with where we were going-even if we couldn't see it."
A point that sparked debate about the validity of the new record: The previous record-holders took no such early runs. "The whole idea was to do it in the publicized hours of ski operation," recalls former Jacksonite Dean Anderson, now president of Poma of America and one of the five skiers who set the original record. But the 1969 team had a crutch of its own: The group, led by former German national downhill champ Ferdl Fettig, also included Jackson Hole's mountain manager, who ensured that the tram was held and waiting for them at the end of each run.