Mountain People Episode 17

A series of stories from Boyne Mountain's slopes

On January 12, 2019, Robert Parker finished his 603rd run down Hemlock at Boyne Mountain Resort to become the skier with the most amount of runs completed during a 70-hour period. As part of the 70 Year Anniversary Celebration, the lifts remained open for 70 hours straight allowing for a total of 7,527 tracked runs.

Parker, from Bay City, MI, learned of the 70 Hour Mountain Challenge during a Wednesday Night Race League meeting. "When I heard about the event, I knew I had to do it, but wasn't sure I could get the time off work for the whole four days," said Parker. "I've always been drawn to endurance events and I just saw this as a unique opportunity to go out and ski."

"One of my teammates joked that I couldn't do 100 runs, so I challenged back, 'Okay, I'll do 150.'

There's something in my brain that allows me to get into tests of endurance and go all out. Once I learned from work that I would be able to ski all of the days, I continued to re-evaluate my goal; it evolved into trying to ski 100,000 vertical feet in 24 hours. Within the first day, I actually ended up skiing 133,000 feet, which felt pretty incredible. Then I was just saying to myself, 'Let's see if we can do 300 runs,' which turned into 500 runs. Once people started putting together the numbers for me, I was blown away to figure out that I had skied the vertical equivalent of Mount Everest eight times. Before I knew it, I hit 603. 

There was a little bit of strategy that I had adapted from intermittent fasting. I noticed that I could go 24 hours without eating and between the 24-36 hour mark, I would get a rush of power and energy. Unfortunately, because I didn't condition myself for this event, I ended up bonking early at 32 hours. I got a room at Edelweiss to recharge for a little bit. Hearing the people outside on the Hemlock lift, I felt like I was missing out - like I should be out there too - so I didn't sleep much or well for that matter. I made sure that I ate properly, though, fruits and yogurt, and I'm not usually a yogurt kind of guy. After a little bit of rest, the real challenge kicked in - getting myself back out there.

A lot of the whole event turned into a blur, but before every run I would repeat to myself, 'Alright, time to drop in and commit.' It was a self-check to ensure that I was fully aware before every run regardless of how tired I was.

Around the 550 mark before sunrise on Saturday, I made a mistake - my one regret of the whole event. I was riding the Hemlock lift over and over, and I kept looking at the bump run directly below the lift; I love to bump. At that point, I just gave in and hit it couple times. When your body is tender from hours of no rest, it's an awful idea to do that to yourself.

You can only drink so much coffee before you start feeling too jittery or your stomach gets uneasy. One hour before the Challenge ended, I was sitting in the Eagle's Nest with a cup of tea and let my eyes close; I sat there until I felt that I could open them again without forcing it. I was almost down for the count and feeling a bit delirious.   It was only once the party started that the last bit of caffeine kicked in! I was up and running again celebrating with everyone through the night! I tell you what - I slept pretty hard for a while after that."