Vail Valley ski patroller bikes to work all year
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – Avon resident Brendan Finneran turned some heads in France this winter as he rode to and from work every day through snow, ice, wind and cold.
“The Frenchmen were pretty blown away and impressed that I could ride there in the winter,” laughed Finneran, who spent the winter there as part of a ski patrol exchange program. “You definitely don’t see as many people riding there in the winter.”
But Finneran, 28, was just doing what he does every day of the year. The Beaver Creek ski patroller and summer work crew member rides 1,500 feet uphill to work each morning, often in snow and ice during the winter, and back home to Avon guided by a night light.
On top of that, he’ll ride up to 40 miles a day recreationally and competes in bike races on work nights and weekends. According to friends, he rides to the grocery store, post office, to Glenwood for a burger and even to Leadville for a steak.
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All that bike mileage earned him recognition as Eagle Valley’s Commuter of the Year, chosen by the ECO Trails Committee.
Nominated by his girlfriend, Heather Russell, and a myriad of friends, Finneran was picked from the nominees for his year-round commitment to commute.
“What we find is the nominees are often surprised to hear they have been nominated,” said Adam Palmer, a committee member who started the contest. “But their efforts are noticed, especially since we have people that are so committed in this valley to bike commuting or walking to work that they log thousands of miles and will do it in all kinds of weather. It truly takes stamina to commute all year.”
Sometimes the winners are well-known local riders, such as last year’s winner, pro mountain biker Mike Janelle, said Ellie Caryl of ECO Trails. Others are quieter, steadfastly riding down U.S. Highway 6.
“They just have their heads down and are riding, riding, riding,” she said.
Finneran has been commuting for about four years – on his road bike in the summer, and on a mountain bike equipped with studded tires in the winter. His motivation?
“I just really like it,” he said. “I think its a great way to start the day. You’re up there riding, not thinking about all that other stuff and just enjoy the 20 to 30 minutes of riding to work. It sets you up to have a good day, and you do something positive right off the bat.”
He calls the commute “relaxing,” and said he rarely uses his car. Not that there haven’t been some hairy rides.
“Once my buddy Jeff Thompson and I rode from Avon to Spruce Saddle in November for patrol training,” he said. “There was snow all over Cinch, and the road was pretty icy and snowpacked. That’s probably the wildest commute I’ve had.”
Other runner ups for the recognition were David LaGrange, Mark Hallenbeck, Judy Popeck and Michael Edmonson.
Finneran wins a dinner at the Beaver Creek Chophouse, tickets to the Beaver Creek Rodeo donated by the Beaver Creek Resort Company, a Dusty Boot Colorado-Eagle River Ride Entry donated by SOS, a lift ticket donated by Vail Resorts, and other prizes from ECO Trails.
Finneran said he was honored as well as surprised to win the recognition.
“It’s just something I really enjoy doing. It’s pretty sweet to be nominated for that in a community where every one is such an athletic freak,” he said. “I was definitely pretty stoked to win the award.”
Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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