The Fall Guy
One of my favorite departments in this magazine is Person of Interest. The idea behind it is simple, based on one of the fundamental tenets of narrative journalism or, for that matter, the most effective Hollywood screenwriting (e.g., Forrest Gump): everybody, however extraordinary or mundane their life may be, has a story to tell. You sit down with someone, anyone. You ask them to talk about their life. Then you listen, and transcribe.
One of my favorites was astronaut Scott Carpenter, who spent two hours with me in the living room of his East Vail home the year before he died, describing in intimate detail everything he saw, heard, and felt inside his Mercury capsule on the pad at Cape Kennedy then as he thundered into orbit, a memory 50 years old that was as fresh in the telling as it was the day it happened.
Another was Chris Anthony, the subject of this issue’s Person of Interest (“Pinnacle of Success,” p. 34). Over coffee at Yeti’s Grind in Vail Village, to get the conversation rolling, I asked him about his earliest memory of skiing. Without pause, he said he vividly recalled as an infant being strapped to the back of his father, Vino Anthony, a former Crested Butte ski patroller.
“I remember this so clearly,” he said. “I remember my dad’s hat, his shoulders and the way they moved, the warmth of his body. I remember the trees whipping by. It was exhilarating.”
For nearly two hours, he talked about his life, his childhood struggles with dyslexia, his time as a teenager and young adult chasing the elusive goal of becoming the next Bode Miller or Ingemar Stenmark. And about the phone call from Warren Miller Entertainment that altered the trajectory of his career and life ambition and, in the cloistered world of adventure ski film, made Anthony’s star shine as brightly as DiCaprio’s or Damon’s.
A month later, I witnessed it myself.
Just after the January storms recharged the bowls of Blue Sky Basin with hip-deep powder, I stood atop the cornice of Lover’s Leap as photographer Zach Mahone, wedged against the run’s nearly vertical face a few feet below, prepared to shoot the cover image for this issue’s primary feature (“You’re My Blue Sky,” p. 72). After sidestepping up the approach, Anthony pointed his skis downhill, gathered momentum. Then like an F-15 catapulted from the deck of a carrier, he launched himself into the void.
It was exhilarating. And it made me think about Anthony as a babe, skiing on the shoulders of his father. Vino Anthony died, at age 71, from complications sustained after a fall on Ramshorn three Januarys ago. Before his son was born, Vino gave up his career as a ski patroller and opened a children’s ski shop in Denver, the Kid’s Ski Equipment Company, to make skiing more affordable for families. When Copper Mountain opened in the 1970s, Vino Anthony was one of the resort’s first ski instructors, and he cofounded the Copper Choppers, a children’s ski school that’s still around today. In his life, Vino introduced thousands of children to skiing—foremost Chris Anthony and his sister, Kelli Anthony Rohrig, a backcountry guide and avalanche awareness educator who teaches at Colorado M ountain College in Edwards.
Following the example of his father, Chris Anthony, via his Youth Initiative project, uses his celebrity as a Warren Miller athlete to inspire thousands of kids in this valley and around the state and provides scholarship money to help them achieve their dreams, whatever they may be. When he was done talking, I asked Chris about his dream, and this is what he said: “My story is still being written.”
Which is a lesson to us all.