So many ski areas, so little time.
Yet at age 85, John Andrew is still busily crossing them off his list. Over the past 20 years, Andrew has been on a mission to ski all 700 alpine resorts in North America. He’s currently at 528, and he has several new targets in sight for this winter.
“I’m going to die trying to finish my quest,” says Andrew, a retired Boeing executive from Renton, Wash. “I won’t get it done, but I’m going to keep trying.”
It’s a big project, one that has consumed Andrew’s life since he retired at age 65.
It began innocently enough with a book. Andrew and his wife Jewel were shopping for a vacation home in the mountains using a guidebook of every ski resort in North America. Instead of narrowing the choices, the book opened up possibilities in Andrew’s mind.
“If we were going to buy a ski condo, I didn’t know where I wanted to buy it,” he remembers. Then, leafing through the resort guide, he wondered, “Why don’t we ski them all and find out?”
“We are still skiing North America as a team,” he says.Over the following years, the Andrews embarked on their quest with gusto, sometimes with friends, sometimes with family, always keeping detailed records, grabbing trail maps, souvenirs and taking pictures. Jewel skied with John until 2007, when she quit the slopes after a knee replacement surgery. She still comes along on most trips.
“I think it’s fun,” Jewel says. “It gets you to all these places that you’d never go to—in the dead of winter.”
Their longest road trip covered 13,000 miles across the northern U.S. and Canada, when they hit 45 resorts in 16 states and provinces, including White Hills, the easternmost ski area in North America near St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Other trips took them to California, to New Mexico, to the mid-Atlantic, to the Deep South. They skied Cloudmont in Alabama, Ober Gatlinburg in Tennessee, Hidden Valley in Missouri. It’s all there, detailed on the spreadsheet and on the wall-sized map where Andrew places blue dots for the completed ski areas, red dots for those he has left to do.
Andrew gets the biggest thrill out of skiing places like Sawkill Family Ski Center, N.Y., with its 70 vertical feet, the smallest hill in North America.
When he stopped in at Sawkill, the lifts were closed. Andrew asked at the resort office if he could hike up and ski down, but the friendly general manager offered to drive him to the top in a pickup truck instead.
They roared up, Andrew hopped out, clicked into his skis and another resort bit the dust.
As he ages, Andrew has slowed down a little. Expert runs are a thing of the past—now it’s mostly greens and blues.
“It’s easy to get hurt and I don’t take foolish chances,” he says. “I look at the slope and if I don’t think I can do it, I won’t do it.”
“There’s a lot more to do,” he says as he gazes at his ski map on his living room wall . “But I like a job that’s tough. Even if I don’t get there, it’s something to do.”