Skier’s vertical odyssey: two million feet in 266 days

If you think your New Year’s resolution is bold or ambitious, consider the resolution Greg Hill made before the start of 2010: to climb and ski two million vertical feet in a single calendar year. Many doubted this could be done but Hill’s quest became a reality on Dec. 30 on Bonney Moraines near his home in Revelstoke, British Columbia.

To put his accomplishment into perspective, supporters say, it’s the rough equivalent of running 250 marathons in a year — all in hazardous mountain terrain — or scaling Mt. Everest 69 times and skiing back down.

Hill did not ride chairlifts, gondolas or trams. He climbed the slopes he skied down, often wearing skis while climbing, in mostly big-mountain backcountry terrain, wearing a 40-pound gear pack.

“The incredible feeling of no longer having this immense goal looming over my days is amazing,” Hill, who spent a quiet holiday weekend with his family, said Monday. “So much has gone into this tiny number on my watch — so much dedication, perseverance and passion.”

Hill, 35, who kept track of the vertical footage on an altimeter watch, counted only ascents so as not to log the same footage twice. The athlete, who is sponsored by Backcountry.com, was relentless in his pursuit because that mindset was demanded. He skied 266 days in mostly steep terrain in Canada and the U.S., but also in Chile and Argentina, where he took advantage of the Southern Hemisphere winter.

He averaged 7,570 vertical feet per day, scaled 71 peaks and made several first descents that were impressive on their own merits.

On 77 of the 266 days, Hill logged more than 10,000 vertical feet, often in avalanche country.

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“For most skiers, even ardent backcountry skiers, climbing and then skiing 5500 feet in a single day would be the pinnacle of their winter,” said Powder Magazine editor Derek Taylor. “That’s what Greg had to average every day…and with no rest days.”

In one video about the odyssey (above) a friend described what Hill undertook as “one of the dumbest, most phenomenal journeys I’ve ever seen anyone take.”

Another friend classified the skier as “superhuman,” given the scope of his “Greg Hill 2 Mil” campaign.

It was especially difficult toward the end for the married father of two. He had to don a headlamp and ski at night as well as during the day to be sure to achieve two million feet before year’s end.

“Every day during the last week of the year I was pushing out an extra hour in the evening with friends to be able to finish with a bit of grace,” he said.

At the end on Bonney Moraines, at mid-afternoon, Hill was accompanied by his wife, mother, stepfather, two brothers and many friends. That support and the culmination of the yearlong marathon endeavor was overwhelming.

“I most definitely cried,” he said.

— Images of Greg Hill are courtesy of Tommy Chandler/Backcountry.com

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