Famed mountaineer Mike Marolt releases first book, next film on his life’s passion
Aspen’s Mike Marolt isn’t a writer and never intended to publish a book. He’s also not a filmmaker and never planned to have any success behind, or in front of, a camera. He’s at heart a skier and a climber and a mountaineer, and that passion alone is what fueled him to heights unknown.
“It just never registered that what we were doing amounted to anything other than the fun that it was for us. We had no idea and nobody knew what we were doing because there was no reason to promote it,” Marolt said. “Some guys would go off on golfing trips or hunting trips, and we would go off climbing and skiing.”
Marolt and his identical twin brother, Steve, were part of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame class of 2017 for their exploits climbing and skiing many of the world’s highest peaks over a roughly 30-year span. The sons of Olympic skier Max Marolt, they were often joined on their expeditions by fellow Aspenite Jim Gile. The trio, which sometimes was called “The Three Amigos,” recorded many firsts in the mountains.
For years they flew under the radar, their exploits unknown to the world, until the 2009 film “Skiing Everest” put them on the map. That film included appearances from other noted Aspen locals such as John Callahan and Chris Davenport.
“I wasn’t getting ready to give up my day job. I’m a CPA by trade. But I found a passion with regard to telling stories and creating films, and had some success,” Marolt said. “We had great success with (‘Skiing Everest’). It was on all major pay-per-views. It was on ESPN for two years. And it kind of got me fired up.”
Marolt has been part of many films over the years, but only “Skiing Everest” really found any major success.
More than a decade later, its sequel, “Beyond Skiing Everest,” was released, which coincidentally coincided with the release of Marolt’s first book, “Natural Progression: A Lifetime of Skiing the World’s Greatest Ranges,” earlier this summer.
The newest film took Marolt years to complete and at one point he had “given up” on finding a company to distribute it to the world. Then, literally a day later, he had a breakthrough and 1091 Pictures, which has many notable films under its label, said it wanted it. It was officially released June 30.
“I had given up on ‘Beyond Skiing Everest’ ever being distributed. Which was a big letdown, because ‘Skiing Everest’ I didn’t think was as good of a film and it just got placement everywhere,” Marolt said. “Part of the thread in ‘Beyond Skiing Everest’ is the commercialization of the 8,000-meter peaks and making it, for a number of reasons that are depicted in the film, difficult or undesirable to go to. So we thought, ‘What else can we do?’”
The film was so well liked by 1091 Pictures this summer it re-released “Skiing Everest,” which had its previous distribution rights end a few years back. And despite being a low budget project, and thanks to some convenient connections, they got singer Jewel to narrate the sequel. Steve Bellamy, founder of Action Sports Networks and The Ski Channel, directed the newest film.
“As soon as you completely give up, somebody takes it,” Marolt joked. “The book was never really a pressure deal, because the book was just fun. It didn’t cost me anything. It was just time. So, despite the pandemic and everything, it’s just kind of fun to set out with these projects and bring them to fruition. Now it’s up to the world.”
Released late last month, Marolt’s first book was a labor of love on an even greater scale than the films. And its arrival was even more surprising, considering writing has never really been up his alley.
“It’s almost as big of a satisfaction as climbing and skiing a big peak,” Marolt said. “I realized you can either write or you can’t. It’s not something you can really learn. But you can take your skill set and you can maximize it.”
Little did he know, Marolt began writing the book years ago when he was asked to write a series of articles on his adventures for Ascent Backcountry Snow Journal, as well as a few pieces for Outside magazine. Over about four years, Marolt suddenly had the foundation for a book.
A few years ago, he pitched the idea to Roaring Fork Valley local Cam Burns, a noted writer, editor and climber, who had to Google Marolt and found out who he was. Once Burns learned of everything the Marolts had accomplished, he pounced on the chance to edit the book.
“Everything really clicked for me in terms of what a book should be about and what an author should be like,” Burns said. “I was basically his biggest cheerleader, and I still am. He’s the right person to be writing a book, a book that will make the author a hero, because he’s the right kind of hero we want in the modern world. He’s down to earth, he’s humble, he’s family-oriented.”
Marolt went through Lulu, a prominent self-publishing company, which liked the book enough to try to market it to other sellers. The hope is to get it onto Amazon, Barnes & Noble and similar retailers.
“The reason I called it ‘Natural Progression’ is because we never bit off more than we could chew. For the vast majority of our career, really up into the last several years, nobody had a clue what we were doing,” Marolt said. “The message that comes through the book loud and clear is we were just doing it for one reason and one reason only: It was just fun.”
The films can be found almost anywhere, including iTunes, where the sequel is on sale. For now, the best place to snag a copy of the book is through Marolt’s product website, skiingeverest.net.
“I didn’t set out to write a book, but I can’t tell you how many times over the years I thought, ‘What goes through a writer’s mind when he stamps that last period?’” Marolt said. “I didn’t set out to write a book on this, but I did, and I can remember when I hit that last period. That’s a great feeling.”
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