John Francis, 61, reached one million vertical feet this season at Vernon’s SilverStar Mountain Resort on March 13, 2020. (Contributed)

Snowboarder reaches 1 million vertical feet on Vernon mountain

John Francis reached the milestone in 60 days on SilverStar Mountain in a season cut short by COVID-19

A snowboarder at Vernon’s SilverStar Mountain Resort has joined the million-feet club despite a shortened season on the slopes due to COVID-19.

John Francis, 61, says snowboarding has been “the greatest activity” of his life since his survival of cancer.

This year he reached a new milestone — reaching one million vertical feet in just 60 days of boarding at SilverStar.

“There is no way to describe this achievement on a personal level, because every time I think of it, I break down and cry,” he said on Facebook in early May.

“I remember at the beginning of the season saying to myself I wanted to get a million feet for my first time.

“Five years ago, I had 960,000 feet in 70 days.”

Francis’s personal goal was put in jeopardy when COVID-19 pandemic concerns began to surface.

“When I saw the coronavirus coming and getting worse, I knew that I was under pressure,” he said.

READ MORE: SilverStar makes up for lost COVID-19 ski time

READ MORE: Show must go on: SilverStar hosts virtual concerts

SilverStar Mountain Resort officially cancelled its ski season March 17 due to the pandemic — but not before Francis hit seven digits on his vertical distance tracker.

March 13 has become known in snowboarding communities as “A Day For Jake,” in honour of the late Jake Burton Carpenter, the founder of Burton Snowboards who is credited as one of the inventors of the modern-day snowboard.

Carpenter passed away in November 2019.

It was on March 13 of this year that Francis broke one million vertical feet on his Burton Canyon 181 snowboard.

“I am so pleased and so proud yet so devastated that the world of snowboarding as we know it will never be the same,” he said, referring to Carpenter’s passing.

“I take solace in the comfort of my recovery program and the deepest sadness in the world that I know that I may never board another chairlift as long as I live.”

An avid snowboarder every year, Francis said his age hasn’t gotten in the way of his goals on the hill. “I just happen to be in the best shape of my life at age 61.”

Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
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