Hawaii man aims for 100 resorts this winter
December 30, 2011
VAIL, Colo. – When Steve Fisher and his girlfriend Carolyn Flaherty entered the Vail Valley this week, they came in the Minturn way, along Highway 24. They stopped at Kirby Cosmo’s for a quick bite and, unmistakable in their giant yellow airport taxi, were recognized by a local man who saw the couple cruising around New Mexico earlier this month.
“I saw your Maui Ski Bus in Santa Fe recently – what’s the deal?” asked the man.
Fisher proceeded to tell him his story, and the van’s story. The airport taxi was converted to the highly recognizable Maui Ski Bus this summer and outfitted for Fisher’s mission: to ski 100 different resorts this season. Before arriving here, Fisher had hit six resorts in New Mexico, which is where Brian, an Eagle-Vail local, saw him for the first time. Brian was so impressed with Fisher’s story that he invited Fisher and Flaherty over for dinner on Christmas.
“I’ve met a lot of great people along the way,” said Fisher.
He skied Vail Thursday, which was resort No. 16 on the list so far. And he plans to ride Beaver Creek all day Friday, so if you see him out there, wish him luck. He may even give you a mauiskibus.com sticker; he had 5,000 of them printed up for the journey, and says handing them out has been among his favorite parts of the trip so far.
“People really enjoy hearing about the trip … it’s really all about trying to share the experience with people along the way,” Fisher said.
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Mauiskibus.com is a website Fisher set up so people can keep up with him as he makes his way across the western U.S. and Canada – the basic area to which he’s trying to contain his journey. He’s following events more than snow, and is planning on being in Park City for Sundance and Aspen for the Winter X Games. Christmas/New Year’s week in the Back Bowls of Vail didn’t exactly work out as he had planned, but he enjoyed the mountain nonetheless.
“It has some pretty incredible places,” he said.
But Fisher has found some snow along the way, as many of the southern mountains he was in before coming here are boasting 50-plus inch bases.
“Wolf Creek has been the best so far,” said Fisher.
Fisher brought pieces of Maui with him so he doesn’t get homesick. The Maui Ski Bus has sand from a few different beaches glued to the floor. His dogs, Franklin and Gykaiya, are along for the ride, and have also helped provide a comforting sense of home along the way.
And having the dogs along has also made for some great experiences, as well. Franklin, a small dachshund who’s a natural-born tower, had the pleasure of hauling a large lift-tower pad up the hill at Snowbowl in Arizona.
“He’s towed a 250-pound cart before, so when we were hiking up the hill in Snowbowl and one of the ski patrol guys had dropped this large pad, we just strapped it to Franklin’s back and he hauled it right up the hill,” Fisher says. “They liked him so much they made him their ski patrol mascot.”
Fisher’s other dog, Gykaiya, was named after Fisher’s previous dogs, Gypsy and Kai, who set a world record when they swam 9.5 miles across the Maui Channel in 1996.
And Fisher is a world record holder himself, in windsurfing. In 1997 the Maui resident windsurfed from Los Angeles to Hawaii, a 2612-mile trip, for the world-record longest windsurfing journey. His vessel, Da Slipper II, was specially outfitted – not unlike the Maui Ski Bus – so that he could sleep onboard. The trip took 47 days, longer than anticipated, and many feared him for dead.
Fisher says on his current expedition the life-threatening factors aren’t as plentiful, but that’s not to say they’re not there. He’s already driven the Maui Ski Bus through some blizzards and faced some challenging conditions on the mountain.
“One thing about the cold cold is that you know you’re alive, and you cannot stop moving in the cold cold,” said Fisher. “One thing about living on a tropical island, it’s really easy to be lazy and lay on the beach all day. But you can’t do that on the ski slope somewhere, you need to keep moving or get inside.”
On his windsurfing journey, Fisher encountered his most severe challenge on the home stretch, with the island of Maui in view, when an unexpected gust of wind flipped him over the craft and forced him to land shin-first upon a graphite rod. He says he was lucky his leg wasn’t broken.
“And, it sounds messed up, but on the very last run of the very last day of this journey, I hope I break a leg,” he said. “It’s all about pushing yourself to your limits.”