• 'Flat-out fun'
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     | August 21,2006
     
    AP Photo

    Rainer Hertrich looks toward his next adventure.

    Rainer Hertrich loves what he does so much that he hasn't taken a day off since Nov. 1, 2003.

    No sick days. No vacation days. He doesn't need them.

    After all, Hertrich is not stuck in an office or making sales calls. He's crisscrossing down another ski slope to keep his world-record streak alive.

    Hertrich reached the milestone of 1,000 consecutive days of skiing when he barreled down Oregon's Timberline Ski area on July 27. Though he surpassed the next-longest streak long ago and already holds a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, there's no sign the ultimate ski bum plans to stop.

    "To me, it's flat-out fun," said Hertrich, a 45-year-old telemark skier. "I don't know of any other sport where you can go that fast on your feet."

    The previous record was held by the British skier Arnie Wilson, who skied 365 consecutive days in 1994. Hertrich surpassed Wilson's mark in 2004, and kept going.

    Hertrich follows winter by traveling from Oregon and Colorado to Chile and Argentina, zigzagging the Americas to ski year-round. When it's winter in the U.S., he'll be here. And when summer comes, he ventures to the Andes for South America's winter.

    It's there he finds the right conditions for the other world record Hertrich set in his marathon: vertical feet skied.

    He has already skied 34 million vertical feet. To put that into perspective, on an average day he skis 33,000 vertical feet. That is higher than Mt. Everest.

    "I'm going to South America for the adventure and keeping up the vertical feet," he said. "The adventure part is really my reward to myself."

    In a telephone interview from Oregon, Hertrich sounds like a man of few worries. He is not married and has no children. There is no one to question his freewheeling ways.

    His drive seems more for the adventure of the next great downhill or a visit to a new locale to meet skiing friends than it is to set a world record. Yet, setting records is certainly on his mind.

    "When I passed the first year mark, that was a big mark," he said. "When I passed 500 days, that was a big mark to me at the time."

    Following day 1,000 of his feat, he was a bit mystified on his daily Internet blog by all the attention: "For some reason, 1,000 days on skis seems like a big deal to a lot of people."

    And while he's having way too much fun to contemplate the accomplishment for too long, there was more than the usual exuberance in his online diary following the day when he set the record: "Great day, snow, and fun!!! I think I'll have to wake up alive one more time and ski tomorrow."

    Hertrich lives and breathes the cold environment. His day-to-day job as a snow groomer, manicuring and maintaining the very slopes that he skis, suits his passion perfectly. In the winter months, he works on Colorado's Copper Mountain and in the summer he helps maintain Mt. Hood in Oregon during the race camp season.

    Hertrich grew up in Boulder, Colo., learning to ski at an early age. A typical career path was not in his future. He dreamed of things beyond the confines of a classroom or an office cubicle.

    "I didn't want to go to college. I thought about the outdoors while in class," he recalled.

    His thoughts have not changed since he was young. The best part about skiing is "the freedom, being up on the mountain, and the scenery."

    In 2003, his skiing endeavor began when he discovered an elite club at Jackson Hole, Wyo. ó for those who had skied 6 million vertical feet in a year.

    Hertrich was up for the challenge, and he soon surpassed that mark, skiing more than 7 million vertical feet.

    "You have to ski every day," he said, "and you have to ski a lot every day."

    With all this skiing, he began to wonder if he was near any record. He was, and that's when his test of endurance against Mother Nature and himself truly began.

    He began logging his vertical elevation with a sophisticated altimeter watch. Skiing daily was an easier calculation to compute.

    Hertrich has weathered brutal conditions along the way. But he's continued to ski ó through bitter cold, frostbite, rain and illness.

    "The worst days were when I'm camping in my tent, it's raining and I know I have to go," he said.

    Perhaps the most bizarre, though, was when he hiked up an active volcano since it had more snow to ski down than neighboring mountains during a dry spell in Chile's winter.



    Hertrich generally welcomes such obstacles with open arms. "The adventure's great and I look forward to where it's not all you expected it to be," he said.

    There have been close calls, too. Before flying to South America, for example, he's learned to take pre-dawn runs on Mt. Hood before going to the airport on a travel day.

    One time in Chile, he rented a car at the airport and got lost in Santiago. He almost did not make it to the slopes before the day was over. Another time, he hopped a bus to the mountain not realizing it was the scenic route.

    Perhaps the most bizarre, though, was when he hiked up an active volcano since it had more snow to ski down than neighboring mountains during a dry spell in Chile's winter.

    Hertrich generally welcomes such obstacles with open arms. "The adventure's great and I look forward to where it's not all you expected it to be," he said.

    Hertrich realizes he's setting a marker for other skiers, and he encourages anyone who wants to take up the challenge.

    He recalled some kids saying, "Oh, I'll beat that."

    His response: "Go right ahead, buddy!"

    So what about tomorrow's run? He paused and, without worry, said, "I'll be happy if I can go out and ski tomorrow, since I'm 40 miles away from the slopes."

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