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Michigan snowboarders hit 16 ski areas in one day, setting a new North American record

For David Zemens and his crew, the 24-hour road trip had a victorious ending

Nine o’clock on a Friday night might seem like an odd time to head out on a 430-mile snowboarding road trip, but for David Zemens and Sabato Caputo, the timing was perfect.

On January 11, the two Michigan snowboarders—along with their friend and driver Bobby Ruple—began an attempt to break the North American record for the most ski areas snowboarded in 24 hours.

The crew started at Boyne Highlands Resort in northern Michigan that Friday evening, and worked their way south over the course of the next day. Sixteen ski areas and 23.5 hours later, they crossed the finish line at Mt. Brighton, effectively setting a new record.

Caputo and Zemens at Mt. Brighton. | Photo: P. Schutte

“I’ve been brainstorming something like this ever since I read an article in Snowboarder Magazine [in 2013],” Zemens says. “Pat Bridges, then-editor, and a crew did 12 ski areas in Vermont. I thought we could easily beat that here in Michigan, but making the connections and coordinating with all the ski areas seemed like an impossible task.”

In the past year, though, it all started to come together.

“We’ve been doing some work with the Michigan Snowsports Industry Association,” says Zemens, referring to his snowboarding website, “I pitched the concept to Mickey MacWilliams, the president of MSIA. She loved it and brought it to the ski areas who all thought it was great, too.”

Having the support of MSIA turned out to be a huge help. “The MSIA coordinated with all the resorts so we did not need to purchase lift tickets,” Zemens says. “In most cases, we had a contact who brought them out to us in the parking lot, saving us time at the ticket window.”

The day’s lift tickets. | Photo courtesy of David Zemens

The timing of the stunt couldn’t have been better. January 11 was the National Learn to Ski and Snowboard Day, which Zemens says “worked out well for everyone.” The same weekend, Boyne Mountain Resort also happened to be operating for 70 non-stop hours in a fundraising celebration of their 70th anniversary.

“And we got lucky with the weather,” Zemens adds. “It was dry, no snow, rain, or ice. We wouldn’t have finished 16 if the roads had been bad or marginal, and even topping the Snowboarder Magazine crew’s 12 stops would’ve been difficult.”

The Guinness world record—set in Hakuba, Japan in 2017 by Canadian Terri Moore and Australian Joel Moore—is 17 ski areas in one day. Zemens thinks his crew can beat that, even if it won’t be registered as an official Guinness world record.

“I think we do plan to make an attempt for 18, which would break the established world record, but the requirements and rules to get that certification are pretty intense,” Zemens says. “I can’t say with certainty that we’ll make an ‘official’ attempt.”