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The Golden-based skier, who goes by the alias of Weird Foothill Guy online, makes a series of smooth powder turns before plunging into a grove of conifers. It’s early in the new year, and the fortysomething is wearing a red Colorado Rapids jersey, long johns, and threadbare shorts. On his feet: ancient blue telemark boots and black Marquettes, a brand of discontinued ski-snowshoe hybrids.
But Weird Foothill Guy’s wardrobe and equipment are hardly the most peculiar details of this scene. Instead, it’s his terrain choice. The slope into which he’s sliced these lines isn’t in Summit County. It’s behind the Colorado Mills Mall in Lakewood. A woman walks her dog nearby. “I don’t sit in traffic, I don’t wait in lines, and I never ski in tracked-out snow,” says Weird Foothill Guy, who estimates that he’s tallied more than 250 days on his Marquettes during the past four seasons.
That’s a lot of schussing—even for a ski industry veteran who’s lived in mountain towns for much of his life. But when a career change brought Weird Foothill Guy, who now works for his family’s real estate company, from Vermont to Golden in 2019, he vowed he wouldn’t battle I-70 traffic to go skiing. “I have to stay near the office for my job,” he says, “and I want to be present for my kids.” Those requirements place the Rocky Mountain high country out of reach most days—but not the Front Range. Modern backcountry gear, however, is overkill for the foothills’ short descents, because he’d spend more time switching between uphill and downhill travel modes than actually skiing.
Enter the Marquettes. Their textured, fish-scale bases mean he can hoof it up moderate slopes and then ski down without fiddling with cumbersome skins, the removable fabric strips that turn backcountry planks into oversize snowshoes. And while the Marquettes are significantly shorter than normal skis, the beefy hybrids—originally designed for exploring the rugged woods on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—are wide enough to float over powder and durable enough that Weird Foothill Guy needn’t worry about damage from rocks hidden in the Front Range’s often lackluster snow. (If you can’t get your hands on his preferred rig, which he hunts down on eBay, Canadian company Altai and Utah’s Voile manufacture similar models.)
Weird Foothill Guy dubs this version of ripping “simple skiing” because it requires next to nothing. He doesn’t need a lift ticket or season pass, which can run around $1,000. Nor does he need pricey avalanche gear or ski buddies for safety—the slopes he shreds are more hills than mountains. All told, he’s aiming to ski at least 100,000 feet of elevation this season. “I’ll spend today here, then move on to a different spot,” he says of the slope behind Mills Mall, one of about 10 close-to-home zones he regularly visits. “My only problem in the world is explaining this version of skiing.”