Kristen Lodge: Ultimate Outdoor Legend: Bill Ross
You know you’re an outdoor legend when you are heading out the door for a two week backcountry trip, the one question asked, from your wife of 32 years, “Is the insurance paid up?”You know you’re an outdoor legend when you are on a climbing trip with a friend and it turns into a mountain rescue of a Russian climber (see Rock & Ice Magazine, 1997)You know you’re an outdoor legend when you always seem to end your stories with: “it seemed like a good thing to do at the time.” You know you’re an outdoor legend when your biggest fear is to die on the couch with a potato chip in your mouth. In high school Bill Ross lettered in four sports all four years playing football, running cross country, and lacrosse. In 1982, he trained for triathlons and was sponsored by his employer, the US Army. He competed in every distance, including Ironman distance triathlons, training mornings before work. Bill says about his triathlon days, “I was always first out of the swim and bike then lost my position on the run; I’m not a runner. I’m too tall and bulky.” In the meantime, while living in New York and Vermont he learned about the outdoors from his father while playing in the Adirondacks and Green Mountains. In turn, he has taught his two sons to appreciate the outdoor life. A self-confessed loner, the only exception is his climbing partner John whom he has been adventuring with for over 26 years. “When I was lying in a hospital bed after my first knee replacement, John visited and told me that this is probably my fault.” Some of Bill’s epic adventures began at the library. He would read Outside Magazine, find a story about an interesting place and the planning would begin. “John and I would figure out how get there and go out for a week or two. I have no desire to do what others have done, like Everest, or 14,000 footers, but I will do the 14ers in winter. I have no desire to go on guided trips. I do it my way; planning and shipping gear is part of the adventure.”We talk a little about risk taking that is always an issue when it comes to ice climbing, backcountry travel and any sport that takes place away the real world. He tells me, “When it comes to taking risks, I know where the line is; I step over it occasionally, but don’t live there.” He says this with the Bill Ross grin. When I asked what drives him, what gets him out of bed in the morning – even with a soon-to-be-replaced second knee – he says, “Recruiting and mentoring passionate, young firefighters and teaching them how to be safer. Sharing knowledge and teaching avalanche training, ice climbing and backcountry skills. My biggest fear is to die on the coach with a potato chip in my mouth.”If you want to hear a great outdoor story, next time you see Bill out and about in Granby riding his new cyclocross bike or snowmobiling in the backcountry or fighting fires, ask him about the axe pick in his knee trip; it’s a good one. What makes an Outdoor Legend? Seeking thrills, pushing the limits, and having fun doing it. What makes Bill Ross the Ultimate Outdoor Legend? All of the above plus he has the respect and admiration of his family, peers, friends and his community. But, most importantly, he shares his enthusiasm with those around him.
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