March 26, 2002, 6:20 a.m.
The sun is barely over the hills as Pietro Simonetti, Gunnar Sachs, Mike Stadler, Katie Pappas, and Eric Hagan pour out of the van to waiting Eldora snowmobiles and an inch of fresh.
As those silly day skiers head to their cars at Keystone, Team 28-in-4 rolls in for a final run of the day-after hitting Berthoud, Winter Park, SolVista, Howelsen, and Steamboat. They finish Day One two hours ahead of schedule, leaving plenty of time for postmortem pints.
Early to Rise
By 8:30 a.m. on Day Two, the group has already hit A-Basin, Loveland, and Breck.
It's still Day Two. After a 245-mile leg from Crested Butte to Cuchara, the gang is trailed by a suspicious local La Veta sheriff-until they realize he just wants to be an official witness. Under a full moon, the team skis Chuchara and then drives to Wolf Creek. Spike the dog rides shotgun.
After a three-hour, 3 a.m. nap and a gallon of coffee, the team receives a gift from the Wolf Creek cat crew: their own 6 a.m. corduroy. They swing by Hesperus Ski Area-a crucial stop that had been closed for several weeks-and hoof it to the last remaining slush patch.
In Telluride, a girl discovers 28-in-4's goal, asks for a T-shirt, and swoons. The team, seized with perspective, is suddenly reminded of the importance and beauty of their mission.
The End of the Line
After a home-cooked Grand Junction meal, the squad arrives in the promised land: Aspen. With 27 runs behind them and an endless spread of the White River National Forest in front of them, they follow Amanda, director of the Adaptive Ski Program, and her mono-ski's S-curves down to a restaurant for a victory celebration. Of course, it was Cloud Nine.