Made for this

Epic Race is just one more way this Denver resident takes life to the limits

Joe Jensen will compete in Vail\'s Epic Race.
Photo by Elizabeth Miller

Joe Jensen has a habit of taking a joke to its limits — that’s how he’s ended up running for president, making his first SCUBA dive ever in a shark tank, claiming entries in the Guinness Book of World Records for most rounds of disc golf played in 24 hours, running a marathon and climbing the highest peak in the lower 48 states.

“It all starts with my friends and family,” Jensen explains. “They’re all driven and they give 110 percent, so we drive each other and motivate each other to be better. Among my friends, we have eight to 10 Guinness World Records between us, just because we push each other and we like to do things that are over the top.”

Like, say, run for president — he and a friend both signed up as candidates.

“The president thing was a joke that got carried way too far,” he says. “But it’s like, once we start down the path, it’s like we go all out and we finish, so that was just one of those things.”

He played 1,035 holes of disc golf in 24 hours, only to see that record broken by a friend who played 1,305.

A group of his friends also set a Guinness World Record by assembling the most mustaches in one place as a “Movember” promotion for men’s health.

So it’s probably not much of a surprise for them to see him taking on the jaw-dropping race Vail Resorts announced earlier this autumn: Win a season pass to Vail Resorts for life by being one of the first 10 people to ski all 26 Vail Resorts, including those in Europe, this season.

But here’s the catch. The Minnesota native, who still keeps a house there in addition to a place in Denver, is new to Colorado and all that it has to offer, including skiing.

“Before this, I’ve only skied a handful of times in Minnesota on their little ice hills. So I definitely wanted to expand my horizons and try out some of the best skiing in the world, and then this race came up, so I was like, why not?” he says.

Jensen, pictured here at Breckenridge Resort, is heading to Europe next week to tackle the remaining Vail Resorts ski areas on his list. | Photo courtesy of Joe Jensen

In a video shot during his day at Arapahoe Basin, he’s perched at the top of a steep bump run, explaining how in his first season skiing, he’s found himself so far from comfortable terrain. Behind him, his partner in Epic Race madness, Steve Sacco, has started making tentative turns, only to get kicked back off a mogul and flop over into the snow.

“We rode all the way up to the top and we asked this Austrian guy at the top, we’re like, ‘Hey, if we go down this path, are there any moguls or is it easy to get down?’ And he told us it was totally fine,” Jensen tells Boulder Weekly. “We got over to the run and we were partway down, and then there was this steep cliff with huge moguls the size of small Volkswagen Beetles and we just sat there for a while waiting to go down, because I’m not the best skier in the world and my buddy Steve isn’t either. … I started shooting a video about ‘Hey, I’m stuck on this hill with moguls,’ and in the background you see Steve wipe out down the hill and it was the best. It was my favorite part of the trip so far.”

They survived to ski another day — or four. Jensen and Sacco were in the middle of a 10-day road-tripping spree starting with the race kickoff on Nov. 22. They hit all the resorts in Colorado, Utah and California, and the few that hadn’t yet opened counted even though he couldn’t ski them. At Northstar, he took a photograph at a fire pit, s’mores supplies at the ready — documenting your race by taking photos at set locations around the resort is key.

“I’ll be hitting Minnesota this Friday, Michigan Saturday, and then I have everything done in the states and then next week I head over to Europe,” Jensen told BW on Monday, Dec. 2. Vail has resorts in Switzerland and Austria that he’ll hit before skiing opening day at the last resort of the season to open, Brides-Les-Bains, in France, which opens on Dec. 20. Then he’ll be done, having skied at 26 mountains in 31 days.

With 10 resorts done as of Dec. 4, he was in 64th place — but the leader is only three mountains ahead of him.

“The participation in the Epic Race has completely exceeded our expectations,” Kirsten Lynch, Vail Resorts chief marketing officer, said in a press release. Over 300 racers registered for the event. Jensen’s competitors include a Colorado State University student studying abroad in France, an airline pilot from Atlanta determined to do a board slide in the terrain park of every mountain, and a woman from New Jersey whose second date with “Mr. Right” is the Epic Race tour of 26 ski resorts.

All in all, Jensen says he and his have had a pretty great time and met some fun people, including some fellow competitors in the Epic Race who have crossed paths with him in California and again in Utah — a couple using the trip as the honeymoon they never had.

They’re hardly cutthroat, and have been sharing pointers.

“It’s great, it’s fun and I’m learning kind of how to ski as I’m doing this, which is kind of funny,” Jensen says. “I definitely want to go back to Lake Tahoe and ski Northstar and Kirkwood because I didn’t really get a chance to ski those and it was so beautiful there. When we’re doing this race, we have to take photos at different locations and we get to see the resort but we don’t get to enjoy it as much, so I want to take time and enjoy each resort. And so far Vail has been my favorite. I can’t wait to go back there.”

And even if he doesn’t win an Epic Pass for life, he’s at least scored one for next year, which should get him well on his way to making solid turns down that mogul field.

Get more details on the race and track progress of the leader board at Racers are also posting to Twitter with hashtag #epicrace.