Marolt Ski Moun­taineer­ing Legacy Shines in As­pen

Ski­ing Well is the Best Re­venge

SkiTrax - - Back Country - By Steven Threndyle

Ev­ery moun­tain town has its found­ing fam­i­lies – peo­ple whose roots run deep and af­fect the en­tire community. In As­pen, Colo., which de­spite its glitzy, glam­ourous im­age is still a very wild and un­pre­ten­tious place, the Marolt fam­ily looms as large as the pow­dery peaks of the Elk Range above town.

Iden­ti­cal twins Mike and Steve Marolt can trace their fam­ily lin­eage back to a time when min­ing and ranch­ing – not ski­ing and sec­ond homes – drove As­pen's econ­omy. Mike says, “Steve and I are fourth-gen­er­a­tion Aspen­ites. Our an­ces­tors came to As­pen with many others dur­ing the Sil­ver Rush in the late 1800's. Af­ter the Sil­ver Rush, they stayed in the As­pen valley and be­came ranch­ers and farm­ers. In the Thir­ties, my great un­cles and aunt be­gan ex­plor­ing the lo­cal back­coun­try – climb­ing and ski­ing the lo­cal peaks of the Elk Range.”

That was the be­gin­ning of an il­lus­tri­ous ski­ing dy­nasty that saw three mem­bers of the Marolt fam­ily – in­clud­ing Steve and Mike's father, Max – make Olympic ski teams in 1960 (Squaw Valley) and 1964 (Inns­bruck).

Father Max had some in­ter­est­ing ideas about off-sea­son train­ing that in­cluded making a ski camp in a cirque of 14,000-foot peaks[any miss­ing words here?]. Mike says, “Steve and I never as­pired to be world-class ski rac­ers, but we found our pas­sion in ski moun­taineer­ing. We started ski­ing lo­cal peaks at age 12, and never stopped.”

But they knew that they would need a solid ca­reer if they wanted to stay in As­pen, which was al­ready a bed­room community for the ul­tra-rich. They pur­sued ac­count­ing ca­reers and have a highly suc­cess­ful store­front prac­tice right in down­town As­pen. Mike hu­mor­ously notes that “there are a lot of beans to count in As­pen, and so it's worked out well.”

Like ac­count­ing, the Marolts be­lieve that suc­cess­ful ski-moun­taineer­ing trips are the re­sult of care­ful plan­ning and re­spect­ing the process. “If you poke your head into any of our tents, it's neat and or­ga­nized. But even con­sid­er­ing that, we often learned the hard way. On one trip, we for­got to throw stoves in the jeep. At the moun­tain, we were forced to haul the main base-camp stove up. Do that once and you never for­get anything.”

Their ca­reer spans three decades, ski­ing and climb­ing al­most 50 of the world's 6,000- to 8,000-me­tre peaks. In­ter­est­ingly, there's never been any of­fi­cial “tick list” or grand plan – it's all just un­folded as a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion, start­ing first in Alaska and the Yukon, and then fanning out into the Hi­malayas and South American An­des.

Mike says, “When we started, we had no idea that we would be­come the first North Amer­i­cans to ski off the sum­mit of an 8,000-me­tre peak. Un­til we ac­tu­ally did it, the plan was sim­ply to ski from as high as we could, bag the peak and have a good trip.” They do say, quite mod­estly, that they don't spend money on high-al­ti­tude porters or sup­ple­men­tal oxy­gen. “We just try to do what we can and don't much re­gard what others might be do­ing.”

And it's ob­vi­ous from watch­ing videos of their ex­pe­di­tions that, for the Marolts, “ski­ing well is the best re­venge,” to play off of a say­ing used by F. Scott Fitzger­ald and pop­u­lar­ized by Ge­orge Her­bert (15931633), English cler­gy­man and poet. Mike says, “In my opin­ion, lift-ski­ing is the best way to build the nec­es­sary blend of power and en­durance needed for high-al­ti­tude ski­ing or back­coun­try ski­ing in gen­eral. When you climb those high peaks, it's so drain­ing that when it comes time to ski, if you don't have raw power from ski­ing and train­ing a ton, com­bined with the abil­ity to not have to think about your tech­nique, you are sub­ject to to­tally flam­ing out, fall­ing and in­jury.”

In­deed, these guys can ski rings around most lift-skiers, even at 6,000 me­tres of al­ti­tude and car­ry­ing 30-kilo packs. Their style is not just sur­vival ski­ing; it's smooth, el­e­gant tech­nique forged from mil­lions of ver­ti­cal feet both on the lifts and in the back­coun­try.

(above) Mike Marolt on the first-ever ski as­cent of Sa­ban­cya, Peru (19,600 feet).

(below left) Mike Marolt en­joy­ing typ­i­cal lo­cal peak ski­ing at Elk Range in As­pen, Colo.

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