It was a miserable day for skiing. With a windchill factor of—70°F at Maine’s Sugarloaf Mountain, even the diehards retreated to the warming hearth inside the lodge. All of them, that is, except Paul Schipper, 66, who kept on schussing. “I had frostbite that day on my cheeks, my ears and my nose, even with a face mask on,” he says.
For Schipper, this is just one of many—very many—days on the slopes. There may be skiers more skillful than Schipper, but none more single-minded. For more than eight years now, just as long as Sugarloaf’s lifts are operating and the trails are open, he has been out on the slopes regardless of the weather or his mood. On Jan. 26 the Streak, as he calls it, reached 1,400 consecutive skiing days without a miss, a record that ski officials say no one has ever approached. That day was declared Paul Schipper Day by Sugarloaf Mountain’s management. “He’s living a skier’s dream,” says Dev Jennings, president of the New England Ski Museum in Franconia Notch, N.H. “Younger guys have tried [to better his record] but have quit.”
Schipper, a Michigan native, denies that he skis simply to set a record. “I’m proud of that,” he allows, “but it’s not a compulsion. I’m skiing because I want to.” His tenacity might reflect his Air Force and airline pilot training. In 1961 he broke his neck, sternum and both wrists when his plane caught fire on the runway. The injuries contributed to an aneurysm that forced heart surgery and his early retirement from flying in 1971.
Married, with two children and living in Katonah, N.Y., Schipper found himself with time on his hands. So he headed north to Sugarloaf, staying at an eight-unit hostelry called the Lumberjack Inn. He bought the place in 1979 and operates it in season almost single-handedly. His children, Kibby, 32, and Jeff, 29, often join him on the slopes, but not his wife, Chris, 56, a real estate agent in Katonah, who isn’t keen about snowscapes.
His inn is situated only two miles from Sugarloaf’s base, and Schipper used to ski whenever the mood hit him, which was often. Then on Dec. 19, 1981, he got the notion that “I ought not to miss a single day,” and he hasn’t. His friends plan to submit the Streak to the Guinness Book of World Records in England. Meanwhile, back at Sugarloaf, the Indomitable Snowman is back on the mountain.