Captain Jack Memorialized With New Trail at Red

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
August 20th, 2009

What is the true definition of a mountain man? If you look it up in the dictionary, don’t be surprised if you see a picture of a tall, lanky man with a snow covered white beard even Gandalf would be jealous of staring back at you. His name was Captain Jack. To some he was “That guy with the huge white beard” who was either out partying you in the ski bar or dusting you on the slopes. To many others, particularly in Rossland, he was the face of free-skiing and one of the driving forces in the past decade of local free-ski culture.

Easily identified as a New Englander from the first time you heard him talk about catching big “Ayuh” into the “Powdah,” Captain Jack was a mountaineer from day one. After a stint using his height to play basketball through high school, college, and the Air Force, Jack ended up where his soul had resided all along: Telluride Colorado, deep in the Rocky Mountains.

The self-taught skier quickly became one of the most well-known and hardcore skiers in the valley, frequently skiing and out-skiing athletes less than half his age well into his sixties. Building his career around skiing, Captain Jack spent years working long hours through the summer as a logger so he could ski all winter. Not just a skier, but an all around extreme athlete long before the term was coined, Jack was also a hang-glider. Not just any hang-glider but the world record holder for altitude as the only person to fly over 20,000 feet, hitting 21,000 feet (not far below the level of your average jumbo jet).

Rossland got to know and love Jack around the turn of the millennium when he took over the Canadian Open Freeskiing Championship at Red. For the past eight years he was the event’s coordinator as well as a friendly face at the start gate. Through long days, running sunrise to sunset often in bad weather, Captain Jack would be perched atop Mt. Roberts, his beard often iced over, offering words of encouragement and sage advice to young competitors. Also the event coordinator for the freeski competition in Fernie, the Captain quite possibly did more for the free-skiing movement in the last decade than anyone else in Rossland.

Tragically this past July, a man who made a life out of pushing the limits of sport was killed while riding his bicycle. While out riding with his wife, he was making the long descent from the 10,222 foot Lizard Head Pass on July 17th. Jack had been riding ahead of his wife and every so often would cut a U turn across the road back up the hill to slow down and let her catch up. On one fateful pullout he was struck by a pickup truck and killed instantly.

Red Mountain Resort’s owner Howard Katkov was a close friend of Captain Jack and credits Jack with helping him discover Red Mountain. “The reason I’m at Red is because of Jack,” remembered Katkov. “I’ve known him for 15 years. Five years before I came to Red I skied with him every winter and he kept telling me that Red Mountain is one of the greatest mountains in North America. So it was him and him entirely that got me to Red Mountain. He was very close friend of mine and a truly unique individual.”

Feeling the loss of a man who helped grow a ski scene and popular event at the mountain the folks at Red Mountain Resort wanted to do something to show their appreciation for his life and to remember and honour his legacy.

“There’s really nothing bigger in the ski business than building a ski run in someone’s honor. So that’s what Red Mountain Resort is doing,” said Jim Greene in an interview with the Telluride Daily Planet.

What kind of a run do you build to honour a man whose heart and soul ran thick with a love for adventure? You thin out a 2,000 vertical foot north facing section of gnarly trees between 38 and 42 degrees steep and call it your newest double black diamond run–“Captain Jack’s Trees.”

Located on the ridgeline between The Slides and Roots Meadows, the north facing slope will be a full on adventure run with unrelenting steep trees.

Work will begin this fall on clearing out the run to have it ready for a dedication ceremony during the 2010 Canadian Open Freeskiing Championships, January 19th to the 22nd. The mountain will be offering complimentary two-day passes for all who wish to attend.

“We’re going to christen the run on the afternoon of the 23rd,” added Katkov. “There will be a lot of family and friends. When we went to the memorial service there were over 1,000 people there. We’ve already heard that they are coming to Red for this event from Cleveland, Colorado, New York, all over.”

See attached file below for a map of the new run.

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