There are a lot of impressive skiers in Vail, but none have bagged more vertical than a guy who had never skied until he moved to town last November. Although he's a rookie two-planker, Jangbu Sherpa is a veteran climber from Nepal who has summited Mount Everest five times-twice without supplemental oxygen.
In 2001, Jangbu traded the high-risk career of a Himalayan porter for what he dubs the "addictive" life of a Colorado ski bum. "Skiing is more of a lifestyle," says Jangbu, 29. "Climbing, for me, is a job, and you always have to be thinking of everyone else, your family, and the danger."
Jangbu was on Everest in the spring of 1996, leading the camera-carrying team for the famed IMAX expedition. It was the deadliest climbing season in the history of the mountain, and on May 9 of that year, he helped bring down a Taiwanese climber who'd fallen into a crevasse. The man died in his arms, adding one death to an eventual total of 15 for the season.
Today, Jangbu works a variety of restaurant jobs, saving money in hopes of opening his own Nepali eatery. For now, he's focused on skiing down the steeps rather than laboring up them.
Born: Dec. 14, 1972, in Taptinz-Chayangba, Nepal.
Q: You broke your thumb skiing off a cliff in Vail last season. Shouldn't a first-year skier be a little less aggressive?
A: I don't like to go on the flat places. It doesn't matter how much I get hurt. I like to go downhill.
Q: Now that you have some experience on skis, what do you say about people who claim to have skied from the top of Mount Everest?
A: It is very nice that they tried, but there is no way they can ski from the top of Everest. From the summit to the Hillary Step is straight down and icy. And from the Hillary Step to the South Summit is uphill. Other routes, they are too icy or steep or filled with crevasses. I'm sorry-for those people-to have to say that. But there's no way it happened.
Q: What's the best thing about skiing in America?
A: You don't have to climb up.