Ski Bums: Trapper Jerry

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"Trapper Jerry Kernan

Drop by Sunshine Village's Mad Trapper Saloon around 3 P.M. on most winter days, and you'll find the pub's mascot hunched on a barstool, his alligator-tooth cowboy hat on the bar, sipping his daily Molson Canadian, and telling the peach-skinned waitresses about one of the three times he shot a bear in the mouth. At 90, "Trapper Jerry Kernan isn't like most nonagenarians. The wisecracking Saskatoon native owns a twin-exhaust Kawasaki Vulcan motorcycle, pilots a speedboat, and, several times each winter, drives 10 hours solo in his diesel Jetta to Sunshine Village, where he rents a house and logs up to 30 days a year on the mountain. But what really sets the former beaver trapper apart is his annual birthday plunge into Delirium Dive, Sunshine's notorious 45-degree, 1,800-vertical-foot test piece.

"I skied it in the early '60s when Sunshine first opened. But then they put it off limits for 35 years because too many guys were killing themselves up there, he says. "Nine years ago, when it opened back up, ski patrol teased me and asked if I was going. I said, 'I might as well try.'

Subsequently, every February 14, Trapper J. dons his classic blue-and-yellow Sunshine Village staff jacket, clicks into battered Salomon skis, and carefully picks his way through the bowl. Jerry, who never wears a helmet, credits a lack of fear and a lack of arthritis with keeping him nimble. Still, Sunshine sends a squadron of patrollers along, skiing on all sides of him. "They're afraid I might go over a cliff, he says. "If I start heading in the wrong direction they have orders to just knock me to the ground.