December 24, 2006
Aspen, CO ColoradoI called extreme skier Chris Davenport Thursday to ask if he could send me some photos for a story I was writing about his fourteeners project. Before we hung up, he asked me a question. “One of your reporters [Joel Stonington] is skiing with us tomorrow [on Mt. Princeton],” he said. “Do you think he’ll be able to hang?”I answered without hesitation. Yes. I felt some trepidation, however. After all, I had urged ‘Stoney J’ to take the trip even though I had no clue what he was getting himself into. I pulled up a photo of Princeton’s steep east face on my computer; the very thought of dropping in made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. God forbid anything happened up there, the guilt would’ve consumed me. Joel’s request to tag along was initially turned down because Davenport wasn’t convinced Joel could keep up with him and telemark phenom Nick Devore. I started to wonder, too. Davenport and Devore charge up mountains as easily as most of us do stairs. Would Joel be out of his league?I spent all of Friday fearing for the worst. And when Joel didn’t answer a call from Sports Editor Nate Peterson around 8 p.m., I contemplated searching The Associated Press’ state news wire. He called us back two hours later. I was foolish for worrying. Joel not only kept up for the nearly four-hour ascent, but also skied from near the summit – he would’ve dropped in off the top, but he said he didn’t want to tear up his skis on the rocks.Had I accomplished the feat, I’d probably start writing a book or, at the very least, print a few T-shirts. He remained humble and, even when prodded incessantly for details, revealed little information. The descent was steep. He took a few falls on the rock-strewn route, as did Davenport and Devore. Skiing Mt. Princeton was memorable, but hardly too arduous.There in lies the difference between me and Mr. Stonington. He runs marathons. I haven’t even jogged since rec league softball. Joel skied more than 100,000 vertical feet during a one-week powder tour in Canada and habitually skins up backcountry slopes. My idea of earning my turns is getting a job so I can afford a season pass.I somehow underestimated Joel. It won’t happen again.