Max Taam is a lung man. The New York transplant has set up roots is Aspen where he works as a ski patroller and spends most of his free time running, cycling, and skiing uphill. Last season the SCARPA athlete won two major skimo races, and finished 10th in the Teams Race with John Gaston at the Ski Mountaineering World Championships in France (highest American finish in history), and finished the season ranking second in the US behind John Gaston. We caught him just before he left for France, where he’s beginning a long bike trek through the Alps to continue giving those lungs a good stretch.
Where did you grow up and how did you get into skiing?
I grew up in Ithaca New York. I started playing hockey and cross-country skiing around the age of two. I first downhill skied around age six at Greek Peak, where I spent many cold nights skiing in the rain but always loved it.
How did you come to get out West?
I went to college at the University of Colorado – Boulder. After college it only seemed logical to move to Aspen where I still live now.
You said cycling came first, how did it evolve into skimo racing and trail running?
The first endurance sport where I found success was cycling. This gave me a great base level of fitness to start skimo racing. One of the first races I did was the Inferno at Aspen Highlands. The race was a boot pack up the ridge and ski race down the gut of Highlands Bowl. After this race I quickly became hooked on the idea of racing up and down mountains on skis. All of this, combined with my passion for ski touring and mountaineering made me realize I found the perfect sport.
When did you realize that you’re quite good at it?
As my interest in skimo racing increased, so did my passion for trail running. It’s not only great training for skimo racing, but I love how it allows me to travel fast and light to places that I can’t ride my bike.
Working as a ski patroller on Aspen Mountain makes it reasonably easy for me to train. I often start my day with a lap up Aspen Mountain (just under 1,000 meters). The rest of my day is spent on downhill skis, which keeps me on top of my downhill skiing. This winter I am really looking forward to the new Freedom SL boot, as I think it’s going to be the perfect work boot.
I’ve become known for my downhill skiing n the race circuit. I always do okay on the climbs, but many of my wins have from the final descent, which always makes things more exciting.
What boots are you racing in? What do you like about them?
I’m racing in the Alien 1.0 boots. They excel in everything that I look for in a race boot. Lightweight, durable, ski and skin incredibly well, and are comfortable for long training days.
What races are you focusing on this coming season?
This coming winter I’m looking forward to the new ISMF (International Ski Mountaineering Federation) races in the US: Irwin, Crested Butte, and the North American Championships; also the Wasatch Powder Keg. I won Crested Butte and the Powder Keg last year, and will do my best to defend my titles, but am expecting some very stiff competition. Next spring, I’m looking forward to skiing some new traverses in my home Elk Mountains. Cycling, running, and skiing seem to take up the bulk of my free time.
I’m also looking forward to the Aspen/Snowmass Power of 4. It has most vertical of any US race and it’s always fun racing in the home mountains.