By Jeff Todd
ARAPAHOE BASIN, Colo. — Friday was the first time a Summit County couple didn’t put their skis on after 135 consecutive days, but they don’t take laps on the chairlift and runs downhill. Their passion is uphill skinning.
“We started skinning because we wanted to climb Denali, but we wanted to do it on skis,” said Kent Willoughby as he sat next to Doris Spencer.
The couple started skinning — when a plush material is applied to the bottom of the ski allowing someone to go uphill and not slide back down — more than 16 years ago. But five years ago they got obsessed.
“We started to lose the zeal to ski and got more into the fun of early, early morning skinning uphill,” Willoughby said.
The couple wakes up around 4:15 a.m. each morning and is at the base of the ski area within an hour and a half.
“It’s so beautiful! You start off and the moon is up there, the stars are up there, it’s dark, it’s quiet, and you get up close to the top and the sun starts coming up and it’s perfectly beautiful,” Spencer said.
There’s one thing that gets them on their skis every morning, aerobic exercise.
“I’m a cardio fanatic,” said Willoughby. “Freak,” said Spencer.
“We add one more day every year. Five years ago we only did 130,” Spencer said.
This week Kent turned 80. The staff at Arapahoe Basin, where they spend most of the winter, was ready to help them celebrate the occasion. But now the couple has hung up their skis for the season.
“We reached our goal of 135 so we’re done, we’re finished with the 135 and there’s other things in life than skinning,” Willoughby said.
They’re on to their next exercise, hiking.
“That’s why we’ve climbed mountains, we’ve done all the 14ers. You’ve got to elevate the heart rate and keep it there,” Willoughby said.
“I makes you feel good. And it makes you feel healthy,” Spencer added. “Skinning, it’s very gentle on the body, other than the heart, I mean the heart’s working, but you’re just gliding uphill.”
The two are off to begin their hiking season, but they know they’ll be back around November when Arapahoe Basin opens uphill access again and their goal will be 136 consecutive days.
“In fact, Doris has already projected me out to 95 years old and 150 days, and then she can quit and I can quit,” Willoughby said.
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.