PORTLAND, Maine - Paul Schipper, an avid skier who obsessively hit the slopes every day of the season for more than 24 years, has died. He was 85. Schipper died Monday of complications from pneumonia at the Maine Veterans' Home in Bangor, according to his wife, Christine Schipper. He had been hospitalized since breaking his hip in December.
Schipper was a legendary figure at Sugarloaf ski resort in Carrabassett Valley, where he and his wife owned a ski lodge. Between 1980 and January 2005, he skied 3,903 consecutive days that the mountain was open.
Schipper skied in blizzards and through illness and once put off having a cancerous kidney removed so he could keep the streak going. Another time he arranged to ski down the mountain just after midnight in front of the lights of a ski groomer so he could drive to his son's graduation in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and keep the streak alive.
"He had a lot of spirit," his wife said. "Physically, it was astounding. I don't see how anyone could keep up with the things he did."
Schipper was born in Detroit and grew up in Westchester County, N.Y. He attended Syracuse University but left after three years to join the Air Force and serve in World War II, his wife said. He later served in the Korean War.
Schipper became a pilot for Eastern Airlines, but then retired from flying and moved to western Maine in the 1960s. He and his wife owned the Lumberjack Lodge near Sugarloaf and Kibby Kamp fishing and hunting camp in nearby Kibby Township.
After Schipper started the streak, it was considered quite a feat after only three or four years, said Nancy Marshall of Carrabassett Valley, a longtime friend who first met Schipper in the 1980s. Over time, he felt compelled to ski every day simply to keep the streak going.
The streak came to an end without fanfare on Jan. 4, 2005. That day, he stayed home with a serious bout of the flu, circling the date on his calendar to mark the end of an era.
Schipper wasn't an expert skier, Marshall said, but he was certainly inspirational.
"He wasn't a god of the slopes by any means. He was a regular guy who did something incredible with this streak," she said.
A ski trail - Schipper's Streak - is named in his honor at Sugarloaf mountain. Plans are in the works for a ski parade at Sugarloaf in his honor.
Besides his wife, Schipper is survived by a son and a daughter.