Aspen’s Marolts selected for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame
Aspen twins and groundbreaking ski mountaineers Steve and Mike Marolt will be inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017.
The ski hall of fame recently announced that the Marolts are among eight athletes and “sport builders” who will be inducted in April at a ceremony at Squaw Valley, California.
“Mike and Steve Marolt were referred to by Outside Magazine as ‘two of the most accomplished ski mountaineers alive,’” the hall’s announcement said. “Identical twin brothers Mike and Steve Marolt have combined genetic gifts and actuarial efficiency to arguably build the greatest resume of pure-style climbing of ski descents from 5,000 to 8,000 meters in the world — climbing with no supplemental oxygen, porters or altitude drugs.
“These brothers represent true pioneers in Himalayan skiing with 13 expeditions in that region alone,” the announcement continued.
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Steve Marolt said Thursday he was informed of the selection for the hall late last week.
“It was kind of disbelief,” he said. “A (reaction of) ‘What, are you kidding me?’ ”
He was aware that they had been nominated for the national ski hall of fame, but lost track of where it stood. They had been nominated for the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame several years ago but were not selected.
“We got bounced from that,” he said.
Steve said it is an honor for them to get into the national hall, but not something they were gunning for in more than 30 years of ski mountaineering.
“It’s just a couple of guys who have been going out and doing it,” he said.
Added Mike Marolt: “It’s a massive honor.”
What makes the induction special is they are among the first, if not the first, skiers of their kind to be inducted.
“There’s not a lot of high-altitude skiers,” Mike said.
The Marolt brothers, 52, are from a multi-generation Aspen family. They realized at a young age that they weren’t ski racers as much as adventurers. They had good motors required for hiking and skinning up peaks as well as the skiing skills suited for off-piste terrain.
They went through a natural progression. Their father, the late Max Marolt, took them on their first backcountry ski adventure to Fourth of July Bowl up Independence Pass on July 3, 1977. They caught the backcountry bug. That led to a progression of skiing peaks in the Elk Mountains of central Colorado, then the Northwest, Alaska, the Andes and ultimately the Himalayas.
“Overall it’s just the volume of what we’ve done,” Mike said of their accomplishments.
Rather than any single feat, Steve is most proud of their ability to stay at it for so long. It requires an incredible amount of training, research, attention to logistics, conditioning and dedication. And avoiding injuries, which gets tougher as they get older.
Steve said they were never into ski mountaineering to check accomplishments off a list.
“I feel very fortunate we were able to follow our passion all of these years,” he said.
That said, Steve said the scope of their accomplishments hit him when he reviewed their resume after learning they would be inducted into the ski hall.
“When you look at it,” he said, “it’s a pretty impressive list.”
Their adventures included becoming the first Americans to ski from an 8,000-meter peak, the central peak of Shishapangma in Tibet.
“That’s the peak that I’m most proud of,” Mike said.
They also skied from the North Ridge of Mount Everest. They didn’t make it to the top but skied from 25,500 feet.
The ski hall said of the Marolts: “They spent most of their lives climbing and skiing, entirely together, without exception, nearly 50 of the highest and greatest peaks in the world. Their identical resumes in skiing list multiple first climbs and descents to include the North Ridge of Everest and peaks in Bolivia, Peru and South America. They were the first Americans to ski from an 8,000-meter peak in Tibet.”
Steve confirmed that they’ve carried out all their major feats with one another. A key to their success, he said, has been working together.
“I’ve never set foot on a large peak without Mike,” he said.
The only dark cloud on their induction, they said, is that their longtime companion Jim Gile of Aspen also isn’t inducted. Gile has been with them with only few exceptions.
“He was there step for step,” Steve said.
The ski hall allows inductions of duos but not trios. Steve said he and Mike plan to nominate Giles for induction.
It’s fitting that the ceremony will be in Squaw Valley, Steve said, because their dad skied in the Olympics there in 1960. It was the highlight of his ski-racing career.
Steve said Max was never big on halls of fame and accolades, but would be proud of his sons.
The Marolts will join their uncle, Bill Marolt, who was inducted in the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1993. Bill won three national titles in ski racing in 1963 and 1964 and was selected for the 1964 U.S. Olympic Team. He also was a successful ski coach at the University of Colorado and for the U.S. Ski Team.
There are currently at least 13 men with Aspen connections in the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. Big mountain skier Chris Davenport was the latest to be inducted, in 2014. More on the ski hall can be found at skihall.com/index.php.
Prior to the Marolts’ induction, it will be business as usual. They are preparing for a winter climb and ski descent of a major peak in Nepal, planned for mid-January.
“Oh, man, we’re just training like a mad fool,” Steve said.
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Wayne Hall took a job as an air traffic controller at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport in 2003 thinking he would stay for a short time. Instead he stayed for nearly 17 years and was promoted up to the position of air traffic manager. He reflected on the experience upon retirement.