Breckenridge legend and original ‘ski bum’ CJ Mueller blazes way into hall of fame
How fast have you skied or snowboarded down a mountain slope? For your average skier or snowboarder, most don’t surpass more than 40 to 45 mph, but Breckenridge local CJ Mueller was known for going three times this speed during his speed skiing career.
John “CJ” Mueller — who has lived in Summit County since the fall of 1970 — has always had a deep love for skiing. Mueller got a later start to skiing, going on his first ski trip when he was in the ninth grade.
“It was 1966 and the neighbors across the street wanted to see if we all wanted to go up to Leadville and spend the night and ski Cooper,” Mueller said. “I had never skied before. We went up and did it, and I still have memories of that first day at Cooper.”
Mueller became a legend in Breckenridge in the 1970s. According to previous reporting by the Summit Daily, Mueller arrived in Breckenridge and realized everyone had a nickname but him.
After earning a reputation for cruising down Breckenridge’s ski slopes and flying high into the brisk mountain air off jumps, Mueller was given the nickname “Crazy John” or “CJ” for short. The name fit Mueller well and stuck with him as he careened his way down mountain slopes in the sport of speed skiing.
After stringing together feats like 240-day ski seasons, Mueller got into the sport of speed skiing sort of on a whim.
“I became roommates with a guy that had raced a little and joined the ski team up here,” Mueller said. “His skiing improved so much that I thought I was going to do this too.”
Mueller joined the Breckenridge Ski Club and started routinely training for events like the slalom, giant slalom and downhill. Mueller soon discovered he had a true knack for skiing fast downhill.
After categorizing himself a resident ski bum of Summit County, Mueller became an elite-level ski racer in the sport of speed skiing. On his first speed skiing run ever, Mueller recounts hitting 100 mph and being amazed that his knees didn’t hurt.
Following his first speed skiing run ever, Mueller made a name for himself.
Mueller qualified for the U.S. National Downhill Championships in 1978 and 1979 and was one of the leading speed-skiing trailblazers of the 1980s.
It was in the 1980s and early ‘90s that Mueller had some of the best performances of his career. While in Les Arcs, France, in 1987, Mueller became the first skier to exceed 130 mph.
“Because of how my aerodynamics were I started lifting off the snow when I go up above 120 mph,” Mueller said. “I felt like I was kind of skipping across the snow, like a stone skipping across a pond. It was something that was there, it didn’t frighten me or anything.”
The feat was impressive in itself, but Mueller still had a fire burning within him to go faster. Five years after hitting 131 mph on the speed guns in Les Arcs, Mueller hit 137.8 mph while competing at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France, where speed skiing was a demonstration sport.
Despite cruising down the slopes at an unimaginable speed, Mueller came out of his speed crouch too soon which earned him a 10th-place finish at the 1992 Olympics.
Overall, the revolutionary performance pushed the boundaries of what was possible on skis and made Mueller an all-time legend not only in the Summit County community but in the world of snowsports as well.
This year, Mueller was named an inductee to the 2022 U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. After a lifetime’s worth of skiing, the honor means a lot to Mueller, especially since he believes he will be the fourth speed skier to be inducted into the hall of fame.
“I think of myself as a ski bum from Summit County who could be a pain in the sides of the ski patrol once in a while,” Mueller said. “We would just go up and ski every day, and to think that I am now in the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame is a little overwhelming.”
Mueller can still be seen out at Breckenridge Ski Resort — or one of Summit County runs — almost every day.
“I still try to get out there as much as I can,” Mueller said. “I like being up there. It is nice being up riding the lifts.”
Mueller will officially be inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame on March 25 at the hall of fame’s induction ceremony at Big Sky Resort in Montana.
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