Meet “Racer Tom,” the 63-Year-Old Ski Resort Folk Hero

Thomas Hart amassed over seven million vertical feet at Snowbasin this season, and he's not done yet

Thomas Hart, also known as "Racer Tom," skiing down Mount Ogden at Snowbasin Resort

A winter for the ages: neither birthdays nor snowstorms can slow down Racer Tom.

By John Briley

Snowbasin is a ski mountain of many charms: wide open bowls, challenging hike-to steeps, abundant tree skiing and gleaming lodges.

Almost none of that matters to Thomas Hart, despite the fact that he skied at Snowbasin practically every day this season. That’s because Hart, known across the Utah resort as “Racer Tom,” arrived at the mountain every morning with a singular mission: to ski as many vertical feet as possible. On April 8, he set what he says is the Guinness World Record for the most vertical feet skied in a single season: more than seven million (though the final tally has yet to be counted or certified by the organization).  

Hart, a 63-year-old retired commercial real estate broker who lives in North Ogden, tracks his vertical feet with the Ikon Pass and Ski Tracks apps, and separately in a spreadsheet that he maintains. InsideHook caught up with Hart in early May as he was padding his new record at Snowbird, another mountain resort nearby, which will remain open through Memorial Day.

The man, the myth, the Snowbasin legend: Racer Tom.
Courtesy of Snowbasin

InsideHook: What prompted you to pursue this?

Racer Tom: I was always interested in the record. In August, I crunched the numbers and realized it was possible. As we walked up to lifts on opening day, before I’d even skied one vertical foot, my friend said, “I’m so excited to be a part of this!” At that point I knew I was committed.

You went into this with some awareness of what it would take. But, still, that’s a lot of skiing.

I averaged 47,000 vertical feet a day.

Holy shit! [Editor’s note: I’m an avid, fit skier, and am smugly proud if I hit 30,000 feet in a day.]

Yeah, some days I did over 70,000 vertical. In the past, my biggest days were 55,000 vertical, but this year I blew right past that.

Do you turn? 

My skiing style is somewhat old-school with longer radius turns, although I take great pride in watching my speed and have not been told to slow down in quite a few years!  

Did you ski every day this year?

All but one. There was a huge windstorm that almost forced the resort to close. 

Snowbasin gets a lot of big snowstorms. How did they affect your skiing?

I found I can turn almost the same numbers in a huge snowstorm as I can on a sunny day. I thought I was going to be netting 25,000 on storm days, but I found myself in the high 40,000s to 50,000-plus during storms.

What’s your ski of choice?

My main recreational ski is the Blizzard Brahma. I also ski Atomic GS and Nordica GS.

Tell me about your skiing background.

I started skiing at age five at Wild Mountain, Minnesota, which has a 300-foot vertical drop. Skiing scared me as a little kid, mainly because I was worried that my father, who was 6’3” and 200 pounds, was going to fall on me. But I still fell in love with the sport, and after finishing college I bought a timeshare in Snowbird — best decision I ever made — and moved to Utah when I was 35.

So you never raced competitively?

No, I’m not really that fast a skier.

The “lifties” became Tom’s friends, but didn’t give him any special treatment — he waited in line like everyone else.
Courtesy of Snowbasin

What was your strategic approach to Snowbasin’s terrain? My guess is you weren’t out hunting for powder in the trees.

No, I basically figured out how to work the chairs, avoid crowds, cruise groomers and keep skiing. One day I was up on the Middle Bowl chair and had heard they were opening a new chair — DeMoisy — and everyone was down there at the ribbon cutting. I ignored that and kept skiing…but DeMoisy eventually became my go-to. I logged the most vertical on that and Middle Bowl; one day I lapped Middle Bowl 48 times.

Did this pursuit get lonely at any point?

Not at all. I’m a member of an informal club, the First-in-Liners, and we meet up at the base of the gondola every day at 7:30 [Ed. note: Snowbasin lifts open at 9 a.m.]. It’s a great crew — retired doctors, law enforcement, construction workers, a retired jeweler — mostly 45 and older. When the lifts open we disperse into smaller groups. I’m usually the first one down in whatever group I’m in, but I also became really friendly with all the lift operators and other staff, so I never felt alone. One day I didn’t ski Middle Bowl chair at all and when I showed up there the next day the lift operator said, “Oh thank goodness you’re okay! I didn’t see you yesterday and was worried.” Snowbasin staff are so nice but they didn’t let me cut lift lines — and I didn’t ask to. I didn’t want unfair advantages.

So there’s a community aspect to this?

Yes. At first, a few people knew what I was trying to do and as time went on it really grew. All of these relationships made it so much fun that the physical strain of it became a non-factor. In ski gear you can’t always tell who’s who, so I’d pump my fist to the lifties at the bottom and the top of each ride, and they would fist-pump back. They became our unifying signal. In fact, the quest for the world record quickly became overshadowed by the many friendships I developed on the mountain. The community became a driving force of my mission.

“Any time I’m on skis, I get a very peaceful feeling,” Tom says.
Courtesy of Snowbasin

At what point did you know that this record was yours?

I had an epiphany on Christmas Eve when I hit one million vertical, which I’d achieved on a low snowpack and limited terrain open. At that point I knew I could do it. Then on April 8, I surpassed the prior record. I hit six million vertical feet just as the solar eclipse was starting and later that day exceeded 6,025,751 feet — the prior record — while skiing Trappers Trail off of DeMoisy.

What do you do to stay so fit and spry?

I have a friend who’s an avid mountain biker, 58 years old, looks like a pro wrestler, and doesn’t like to lose. We mountain bike together in the offseason and we go hard. Also, my father always told me that this world is ruled by early risers. I get up between 4 and 5 a.m. every day. I eat dinner early and rarely short myself on sleep — I get around seven hours a night. For diet, I eat what my body craves — a lot of spinach, broccoli, chicken, steak and whole grain breads. And I enjoy coffee, a pilsner beer, plus an occasional ounce of bourbon.  

Setting the record aside, what does skiing mean to you?

Any time I’m on skis, I get a very peaceful feeling — whether I’m going two miles per hour or 52. I just love to ski. Also, I have a tradition every time I pass one million vertical feet: I take off my skis and kiss the ground as a showing of love and appreciation for the mountain. That’s always somewhat of an emotional moment. 

Will you try to beat your own record next year?

I’m not sure I’d chase the record again…but I won’t rule it out! And thankfully this is just the male record; there are some women out there who can do huge vertical so I won’t be surprised to see one of them beat this.

Exit mobile version