An 85-Year Old Believes Someone Has To Do It; It Might As Well Be Him.

John Andrew points out ski areas he's skiied on a the wall-sized map in his Renton, Wash., home. Credit: John Nelson
John Andrew points out ski areas he’s skiied on a the wall-sized map in his Renton, Wash., home.
Credit: John Nelson

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?”

John Andrew and his wife Jewel on the slopes of Pine Creek Ski Area in Wyoming last February. Photo courtesy of the Andrews
John Andrew and his wife Jewel on the slopes of Pine Creek Ski Area in Wyoming last February. Photo courtesy of the Andrews

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.

“We are still skiing North America as a team,” he says.

“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.”

John Andrew, 85, skis at Crystal Mountain, Wash., last March, checking another resort off his list. Credit: Emilio Trampuz
John Andrew, 85, skis at Crystal Mountain, Wash., last March, checking another resort off his list.
Credit: Emilio Trampuz

8 Comments

  1. Good job, as always. And a good look at an interesting guy.

  2. OMG, he’s my hero. What an awesome goal. I also like skiing new resorts, no matter the size, they all have something to offer!

  3. Avatar James Barber says:

    Don
    My wife Marian and I were trying to do this and then we found Mt Baldy B.C. . Put us on your list. Very senior friendly,$19 senior season passes and ski in ski out homes on the mountain.
    Happy Trails & ski-Ya
    Jim

    • Avatar James Barber says:

      John
      If you ever end up at Baldy ask for Jim & Marian. We will also have a place for you!
      Happy Trails and Ski-Ya
      Jim

  4. Avatar John DiGirolamo says:

    John Nelson-I live in Granby, CO, home to Granby Ranch Ski Resort. Is there a way to contact John Andrew? If he hasn’t been to Granby Ranch, I’d be happy to host him and his wife at my house. I even have free tickets. I’d love to meet this guy.

  5. Avatar cansnowplow says:

    John Andrew is the Man. I like your goal. Maybe, once you hit your mid 90s’ you can create an organization to encourage retirees’ to accomplish skiing every ski area, but I would separate the US from Canada. Tackling all of North America is like tackling the whole world. I also want to add my adage, “I haven’t found a ski area I don’t like yet.”

  6. I am some 20 years younger but following in John Andrew’s ski tracks! I have skied only 108 ski areas as compared to his 528. But there’s still hope for me in the next 20 years!

    John is amazing at finding small hidden gems. He introduced me to a number of small ski areas I hadn’t even heard of yet. I recently emailed him to let him know I am about to explore some small ski areas in Eastern Oregon (Ferguson Ridge and Spout Springs) and he said: “Why don’t you also check out Dixie Summit?” Never heard of Dixie Summit. They are so small they don’t even have a web site, but I contacted the local Grant County Chamber of Commerce, and they gave me a contact phone number for people operating the Dixie ski area. All thanks to John Andrew discovering it first!

    • I too would like to join in the quest!! Sounds like John has scoped all the resorts out. Does he have a list to pass on? I haven’t heard of some of the remote New England resorts.

      Bob Wealot

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