August 10, 2020

Classic Signals: Students break skiing world record

Every week, Features Editor Lily Firth hits the archives and finds old Signals that relate to current College topics and top stories.

The world has been anxiously awaiting the start of the Winter Olympics, eager to watch the best athletes from all nations compete for the gold. Events in this year’s Olympics include a variety of cold temperature classics, like bobsled racing, figure skating, freestyle skiing and more. 2018 marks the 40-year anniversary of when two students from the College broke a Guinness world record for continuous downhill alpine skiing in 1978.

Skiing remains a highly competitive sport. (photo courtesy of the TCNJ digital archive)


It was over a few beers at the Franklin Tavern on a warm July night where TSC students Ian Smith and David Brown first decided to try to break the Guinness world record for continuous alpine (downhill) skiing. Two weeks ago, they did just that.

Smith, 22, a senior criminal justice major and Brown, 23, a part-time business student who works full time at his father’s Lawrence township construction business, broke the record by skiing 54 hours and 8 minutes, with only one five minute break an hour allotted to them by Guinness at Vernon Valley Ski Area in McAfee, New Jersey.

The two skiers will be entered in the next edition of the Guinness Book of World Records if their record is not broken by the end of the year.

“We made our mark — but if someone breaks it, we’ll probably do it again,” said Smith.

“They would have to be awfully determined, but with good weather it could be broken,” added Brown.

The previous record was set in Brettonwoods, New Hampshire in December 1977, and was broken by Smith and Brown by 2 hours and 8 minutes.

“In all respect for the other poor bastards, we had to break it by more than eight minutes,” said Smith.

Although neither Smith or Brown are cigarette smokers, they held this event to raise funds for the American Cancer Society, but ran into quite a few problems getting ski manufacturers to sponsor them.

“We spent three months calling, writing letters, getting rejected and trying again,” said Smith, “and it was Herman Brooks (in Quakerbridge Mall, where they both work as part-time salesmen) that got the ‘in’ for us — they’ve got the clout.”

By the morning the marathon was scheduled to begin, twelve leading ski manufacturers had donated cash contributions to the cancer society, as well as ski equipment that would be raffled off during the weekend Smith and Brown skied. Approximately $6,000 was netted during this time for the organization.

“Public relations at Vernon Valley realized this was going to be too big too late,” said Smith.

“But the people up there really took care of us and the slopes,” Brown said. Three of the ski patrol volunteered to keep track of them during the night hours of their extended stay and according to Smith, the head of the ski patrol was a cancer victim himself.

To help endure the long nights, the ski patrol provided walkie-talkies for the skiers that were hooked up with a local radio station. The biggest test for them was the first night out, when the wind chill factor dropped the temperature to the equivalent of minus 20 degrees.

“The snow blowers on all night were no help either, we froze, we were just freezing,” Smith said.

“We were sure we were going to make it after seeing the sun come up the first time,” said Brown. “There were two things we were fearing — the icy conditions and the cold, but by then we were numb,” Smith added.

Both agreed their number one problem was staying awake. Smith said after a while their minds “snapped.”

“We had to keep bullshitting and busting each other’s ass to stay awake.” Although the idea of being recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records is appealing to the two skiers, they said it was not the only reason for the ski-a-thon.

“We wanted to do our bit of good will in the sport of skiing and to open up some doors in the skiing industry,” Smith said. “We had some tough times at first with the ski manufacturers — but we know they all give to the United Way.”

Both skiers are loosely planning what they call a “marathon of sorts” for next year with hopes of including celebrities and professional skiers, but say it won’t be the same “type of thing” as this year’s feat. “This year we wanted to get into something that wasn’t explored like racing and freestyling have been,” said Smith, “we just wanted something unique to do that wouldn’t kill us.”

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