By Merisa Sherman
It started way back in 1994, when a young man chose to drive up for a few weekends at Killington over the course of the winter season. An environmental economics major, he started recording his observations of the day — what the weather was like, how the conditions were, who he might have taken a run or two with, and of course, how many vertical feet he skied that day. He wrote all this on just a random piece of paper, with no real thought for the future but trying to visualize the numbers in his head. He skied 14 days that year — which is a pretty strong commitment for a young kid all the way from Long Island, New York.
But those 14 days were enough to change his entire life. The bug had bitten and there really was no stopping him now. He applied for a job at Killington Ski School and was, much to his glee, accepted. And with a job, all that was left was finding housing — no small feat even back in the 1990s. Lisa Sweet, of Aspen East Ski Shop, remembers a fall day when our gentleman was bemoaning his circumstances. If he couldn’t find a place to stay, he was going to have to go back home. At the time, Sweet ran the Roach Motel, an infamous ski house in Killington. What could it hurt, she thought, to have a full-timer living there mixed in with all the weekenders.
And so the story begins. This past Friday, May 27, Jonathan Celauro skied his 3,000th recorded Killington day. According to his meticulous records, that means he has skied over 100 days at Killington Resort for 24 of the past 26 seasons. While he started that first year as a ski instructor, he quickly realized that days on the Magic Carpet were not going to work for him — or qualify for an official ski day. His aunt and uncle owned a restaurant on Fire Island, so he switched to the best ski bum job in the world: waiting tables and eventually ended up working for Chef Claude at Choices.
Besides the shortened Covid season, JC, as he is known about town, has only missed 100 days one other year — the one he thought he would “try and be a grownup and get a 9-5 job.” Thankfully, it didn’t take and he was back to 100 days seasons and nights working in Killington Restaurants. And so instead he began to branch out and in 2007, he opened his painting business and would do —you guessed it —data entry for local businesses including Darkside, and started the internet sales at what was then the Basin Ski Shop.
Why would a ski bum even consider getting a real job? JC got married in August of 2004, only a few weeks after purchasing a house with his wife, Sandy (who was also a dedicated 100-day-a-season skier before she became a respected local educator). Their Mountain Meadows wedding made history: more people showed up than were invited and the stories, well, they are better told on a chairlift than in the paper. His son, Derek (named for that baseball player) was born in 2011 and his daughter, Lyla, in 2015. And before you ask: yes, he did ski on each of the days they were born. As you can imagine, he already has spreadsheets set up for each of them, tracking their days and vertical feet but without any of the strict guidelines he sets for himself.
JC has very distinct rules as to what qualifies for an official earned day. He has to take at least five runs or 5,000 vertical feet to make the day count. Five runs on the Bubble are 5,500 feet, he uses that as the benchmark. He figures, “it’s not worth putting boots on for less than five runs.” One-and-done days do not make the spreadsheet.
Tallying your daily vertical feet is not a simple chore. Before there was an app for that, you had to store the vertical feet of each chairlift in your brain and then remember how many runs you took throughout the course of the day and which chairlifts you had taken. At the end of the day, you could find JC sitting in his car, scratching his numbers down in a little notebook so he could then go home and record them on what is now an official spreadsheet. Luckily for JC, he’s a pretty smart guy who can process most of these numbers in his head while he’s out for a day skiing.
But would he do it again? Perhaps now that he’s arrived at this momentous number of 3,000 ski days, will he ease up on his commitment to skiing and Killington? JC said that he did think about it, but then he wondered what he would do instead. Having gone this far, how could he stop now? In his simple quest for recording ski days, JC has inadvertently been recording the history of Killington. In fact, ask him what his best day ever was and he can tell you the exact date, how much it snowed, who he skied with, which run was the best, and yes, how many runs he took that day. It’s a pretty cool recording of Killington history.