Outdoors Blog

81-year-old Boisean reaches goal of skiing 500,000 vertical feet in one season

When photographer Kyle Green called me to recap his day skiing with, and photographing, Ron Poches of Boise, the first thing he said was, “There’s no way that guy is 81 years old.”

“I get that quite a lot,” Poches said. “And I’m happy that it’s that way instead of the other way.”

Poches (pronounced “poach-ess”) on Tuesday reached his season-long goal of skiing 500,000 vertical feet as tracked on his Garmin Vivoactive HR. He crossed the milestone at Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area, where he has held a season pass since moving to Boise and taking up skiing with his family 40 years ago.

“It was awesome,” he said. “It was absolutely awesome. It was something that I set out to do that I knew was going to be difficult but doable.”

Poches moved his family from Nebraska to Idaho after visiting Stanley and seeing a road sign for Boise. He asked his company — AT&T — for a transfer. His wife, a schoolteacher, and three daughters wanted to ski. He told them he would only cross country ski, but they insisted he give downhill a try. He never put on a pair of cross country skis.

Poches dove into skiing even more six years ago, when his wife Carole died. They were married for nearly 52 years.

“To me, it’s an exhilarating thing,” Poches said of skiing. “She was my ski partner. She was my fishing partner. She outfished me. I outskied her. I (ski) a lot harder since then simply because, what else am I going to do? ... It’s a real good place to just clear your mind. It gives you a chance to get rid of some of the crap that goes around in life.”

The 500,000-foot goal materialized last spring when the subject of vertical feet came up in conversation. Poches knew how many times he’d skied and where, and he follows a routine at Bogus Basin and Tamarack, so he estimated his vertical feet for the season. He figured he was well over 400,000. He looked for a late-season skiing option to get to 500,000 and ended up at Mt. Bachelor in Oregon. But fog limited his runs.

In the offseason, he purchased the Vivoactive HR to track his runs. He has topped out at 49.9 mph. At Bogus, he skis black-diamond runs like Wildcat, Nighthawk and Triumph.

Joe Staudenraus met Poches recently at Tamarack. Poches showed him around the mountain, and they’ve been skiing friends since.

“We go up to the summit and he’s skiing all those runs top to bottom,” Staudenraus said. “And he goes like a bat out of hell.”

Poches, in fact, doesn’t stop on any of his runs. That’s one way he racks up vertical feet so fast.

At Bogus, it takes roughly 278 runs to accumulate 500,000 vertical feet. The maximum vertical drop at Bogus is 1,800 feet.

“I get 18,000 feet at Bogus Basin in an hour and a half,” Poches said. “I go up early, I ski, make 10, 12 or 13 nonstop runs, and come home.”

As for next season ...

“The goal next year is to still be able to do it,” he said. “At 81, I don’t take anything for granted. I don’t take tomorrow for granted.”