Kerry Eagan is an Alta-holic. He even has a T-shirt that says Altaholics Anonymous.
Growing up in the Salt Lake City area, Alta, Utah, and the Wasatch Mountains were a big draw with their natural beauty and recreational opportunities. In the fifth grade, Eagan, like most kids in the area, enrolled in ski school.
On the first day, he was moved from the beginner to the advanced class. “I took to it like a duck to water,” he shared.
Living just 30 minutes from a half-dozen ski resorts, Eagan quickly refined his skills. In high school he was a well-rounded athlete, earning 12 letters between basketball, football, track and tennis. He went to Stanford University on a football scholarship, as a punter, kick returner and wide receiver.
Eagan’s skiing opportunities were few and far between during college, but when he returned to Salt Lake City and the University of Utah for law school, Eagan averaged 60 to 70 ski sessions per season. “I’m pretty sure I set the record for skiing days for a graduating law student,” he said. “I always had a season pass.”
During his 50-plus years on the slopes, Eagan has skied chutes near Alta with names like Homicide and Suicide. “You have to hike to them,” he said. The slopes range between 38 and 45 degrees. He’s also frequented the famous Mount Baldy chutes, which register a 45-degree slope at the top.
Now the soon-to-be-retired chief administrative officer to the Lancaster County Board returns to Alta and his favorite spots in Colorado just a few times a year. “If I get in 10 days I’m lucky,” he said. “I try to get in double figures.”
After moving to Lincoln 30 years ago, Eagan honed in more on long-distance biking.
“I’ve always been a hiker/biker,” he said.
During college, Eagan often commuted by bike, and on weekends he and his Stanford buddies would trek 20 miles one way over the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.
“I love the mountain biking as much as skiing,” he said.
Eagan, riding with kindergarten buddy and fellow adventurer Roger Tobari, ascended more than 6,000 feet over a 9-mile stretch in Little Cottonwood Canyon on one occasion. The pair nicknamed the ride “The Great Ascent.”
“It’s unrelenting,” Eagan explained. “It’s steep at the bottom and then it gets steeper at the top.”
That same day, he and Tobari hiked up nearby Mount Baldy.
One of the toughest rides Eagan completed was in 2009 — The Death Ride. It began in Alpine County, California, about 30 miles south of Lake Tahoe, and featured 129 miles, 15,000 feet of climbing and five mountain passes. Eagan finished the grueling ride in about 12 hours, with 3 hours allotted for breaks and socializing. His two brothers went along for the ride.
On his adventures Eagan has encountered rattlesnakes and avalanches. He escaped unscathed by waiting patiently for a rattler to leave the ledge he needed to climb to get to the top of Mount Olympus, and another time by skiing out the side of an avalanche and hanging onto a tree during another.
There are lots of things that draw him to his sports of choice — the physical beauty, the challenge of mountain biking and the exhilaration of skiing.
“There’s also a sense of accomplishment and ‘earning it,’” he said, relating one of his 1980s experiences where he hiked up a mountain and skied down in July.
One of his favorite climbs was up Torreys Peak (14,267 feet), followed by a hike up neighboring Grays Peak the following day (14,270 feet). The pair of 14ers are located on the Continental Divide in Colorado.
Back in Lincoln, Eagan, 64, commutes 10 miles round trip by bike to work at the County-City Building when the roads are clear. He also attends early morning spinning classes twice a week.