Greg Hill: The Man Who Skied 2 Million Vertical Feet in a Year

In the world of back­coun­try ski­ing, there is not much room for noto­ri­ety or acco­lade. In fact, most peo­ple shun the spot­light in hopes of get­ting away from civ­i­liza­tion and recon­nect­ing them­selves with nature.

ghBut there are some peo­ple who can’t escape a bit of press. One man, Greg Hill, has seen world­wide atten­tion for his quest to attain, and com­ple­tion of, ski­ing 2 mil­lion ver­ti­cal feet in a sin­gle year. This does not include chair­lifts; instead the 2 mil­lion ver­ti­cal feet was also uphill … despite the num­bers being logged in only one direc­tion. That makes the record much more outstanding.

I had a chance to ask Greg a few ques­tions about his amaz­ing accom­plish­ment, to get into his mind on what makes some­one with such an amaz­ing goal keep going, even when there are many who do not believe he can do it.

Steven Andrews: What made you want to ski 2 mil­lion ver­ti­cal feet in a year?
Greg Hill: I am a math-based person–simple math, noth­ing too complex–but I plant­ed trees for years and spent every day fix­at­ed on the num­ber of trees I could plant. So I turned this math fix­a­tion into ski tour­ing and start­ed with try­ing to get my days big­ger and big­ger. Then I did a 5,500 foot day and real­ized that if I did that every day all year it would be 2 mil­lion. This was in 1999 and I thought it would be cool to do 2 mil­lion in the year 2000. I was not even close and I spent ten years get­ting faster, earn­ing moun­tain sense, fig­ur­ing out how to eat and push myself beyond what I could do. Even­tu­al­ly I went for it. There were many years before 2010 that I dreamed of doing it but always had an excuse.

SA: What did your friends/family think of the goal?
GH: My wife had been used to me set­ting ludi­crous goals and she just fig­ured this was anoth­er. She lived with me when I set the record of 50,000 feet in 24 hours; actu­al­ly she was my pit crew. Then when I did a mil­lion, it did­n’t feel too bad for her. So two mil seemed fea­si­ble to her, but in the end it was real­ly hard on her.

SA: Were there doubters/naysayers?
GH: Lots of peo­ple. Even my Dad, who was always telling me to push hard­er and work harder–at 1.5 he sug­gest­ed I take her easy and just set the bar at 1.7. I laughed and said no way.

SA: Did you notice any dif­fer­ence in peo­ple’s enthu­si­asm when you got clos­er to your goal?
GH: Many more peo­ple where psy­ched as they real­ized that I might make it.

SA: How did you stay motivated?
GH: I focused on my big­ger goal but tried to enjoy the small­er dai­ly ones. Keep doing small ones and even­tu­al­ly the larg­er ones will also get small­er. I am able to relax and get things done.

Clymb: Any­thing you’d like to say to our readers?
GH: Chal­lenge is what we all seek, and it’s a per­son­al thing. Find your own lev­els and expand them. Life is about pro­gress­ing, and enjoy­ing yourself.