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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of Dec 31, 2002 - Jan 7, 2003


Adrienne Leugers: 
Stealth athlete, 
under the radar

Nine-time Baldy Hill Climb winner, 
and a pretty good skier

Express Staff Writer

Pick two events that crystallize the Wood River Valley’s rich, multi-sport experience and you might come up with September’s Baldy Hill Climb and the Boulder Mountain Ski Tour held each February.

Staged at the starting line of autumn’s ascent into winter, the Baldy Hill Climb is a democratic jaunt up Baldy—getting the uphill out of the way so the body can appreciate the downhill joys to come.

A barometer measuring fitness as well as a festive gathering, the Boulder Mountain Ski Tour is a populist posse charging through the forest—a celebration of movement and the sheer fun of skiing.

Adrienne Leugers, the 2002 Mountain Express Athlete of the Year. Express photo by Willy Cook

The clock is ticking in both events for those who are concerned about such things, and nobody in the past 15 years has mastered the clock better or more consistently than Adrienne Leugers of Hailey.

In her own words, she’s a stealth athlete, content to compete under the radar and out of the glare and spotlight.

Tireless and tough in the clutch, Leugers, 43, is the Idaho Mountain Express’ Athlete of the Year for 2002.

Leugers, from Traverse City, Mich., has done the Baldy Hill Climb 11 times since moving here in 1987. And on nine of those occasions she has clocked the fastest time for a woman along the rugged 1.78-mile, 3,140 vertical foot climb from the bottom of Warm Springs to the Baldy’s summit.

She’s a nine-time winner of a tough test that organizer Rick Kapala calls "the hardest gruel-fest you can imagine. It’s uncomfortable 10 seconds into the race. You’re over the bridge and it’s nasty the whole way."

No other woman has won more than twice. That includes such notable athletes and former Baldy Hill Climb winners as Gabriele Andersen, Susie Patterson and E.J. Harpham.

"Uphill, steep climbing is a good reflection of a person’s level of fitness," said Kapala, Sun Valley Junior Nordic ski team coach. "For Adrienne to come back year after year and maintain that level of fitness is reflective of an amazing engine."

It’s an engine that accelerates again each February for the Boulder Mountain Ski Tour.

Leugers is better known locally for her hill climbing prowess, but you can’t overlook what she has accomplished racing against some of the world’s top female cross-country skiers.

Come rain, snow, sleet or sunshine, Leugers has competed in the last 13 Boulder Mountain Ski Tours. She has podiumed in her age class nine times—placing first in her class in 1992 and 1996, and actually taking fourth overall of all women back in 1993.

Kapala said, "For Adrienne to go out in the Boulder and be among the best women says a lot. You always figure, any given year, Adrienne can win the Boulder. She obviously loves to Nordic ski."

Racing is secondary to Leugers, though. If there is an out-of-town race she has already registered for, and if it’s a powder day, she will forego the travel and racing and go backcountry skiing instead.

Nonetheless she makes pretty good time on skis.

She won the Boulder citizens’ class in 1.23:43 in that speedy 1993 Boulder ski race over 18 miles. But otherwise it was a traumatic, life-altering weekend for Leugers.

The day after the Boulder tour, she was riding up the Baldy chairlift with her brother Martin to go snowboarding. Suddenly, she couldn’t talk. She couldn’t think of words to say and she couldn’t speak.

When Adrienne got off the chairlift, she collapsed. She had suffered a brain hemorrhage, a grand mal seizure. She was taken to Salt Lake City, Utah for brain surgery and spent a couple of months rehabbing there and in Houston.

She survived, but she had to relearn fundamental things like reading and remembering names. Her memory still isn’t the best. For months, she was afraid to do much of anything physically. Characteristically, with time Leugers mastered her apprehension.

Leugers said, "It was a genetic defect. It could have happened at any time. Possibly the stress of the race made it happen. It somehow chose that time. After a while I forgot about it. My attitude now is I just don’t take things terribly seriously."

What the 1981 Bowling Green University business graduate does take seriously is long, hard training.

"I never do anything for just an hour. I always go for at least one-and-a-half hours," said Leugers, one of six children and a graphic designer by trade.

Hers is not strict, regimented training. It may be mountain biking, roller skiing or trail running.

Leugers said, "I like to go and do what I feel like at the moment. Really, I’m not really good at one thing, but I’m pretty good at a lot of things."

She doesn’t train for the Baldy Hill Climb. She trains for cross-country skiing. For instance, she’ll wear a headlamp and ski with her dog Otis, half Chesapeake, half Lab, on the Wood River Trails.

In the days before the Baldy Hill Climb, she’ll run straight up Baldy three or four times. But she’ll usually climb the River Run side instead of the actual Warm Springs course because it’s more convenient.

And she’ll always take the lift downhill. "Running down is what makes you sore," she said with a laugh.

Leugers, who went to high school in Cincinnati, got her first taste of the mountain lifestyle at Vail, Colo. after her graduation from college. She entered a Vail Mountain running race and found she had an aptitude for climbing.

She beat everybody to the top, although two others passed her going downhill.

"I have some sort of an uphill gene," she said.

Leugers then moved to Denver and started entering triathlons. Not a great swimmer, she would usually be dead last out of the water, but she would pass everyone on the bike and hold her own on the run.

She placed second in her age group in the national triathlon championships at Hilton Head, S.C.

About 11 months after moving to Ketchum, Leugers won her first Baldy Hill Climb in 1988 with a time of 47:37, good for 23rd overall.

There was something solitary and basic about the climb that appealed to Leugers.

She said, "There is no blaming it on the bike, or on a flat tire, or the bad wax on your skis. It’s just you."

Leugers finished her first Boulder Tour in 1990 and won her second Baldy Hill Climb the same year. In just two years, she cut her Boulder Tour time by 27 minutes and moved up to seventh woman in the overall rankings.

Her 1993 medical moment and rehabilitation didn’t stop Leugers from bouncing back and finishing as the 12th woman overall in the 1994 Boulder Mountain Ski Tour.

After a three-year sabbatical from the Baldy Hill Climb, she was back winning again in 1995 and 1996. And Adrienne got married to Drew Chilson just before Christmas 1996.

For the next two hill climbs, Leugers settled for second place.

Kelly McCann clipped her by 53 seconds in 1997. Nordic racer Jen Douglas, fit as a fiddle after going to the Nordic world championships, set a new course record of 42:46 and beat Leugers by 50 seconds in the 1998 climb.

Middlebury College’s Douglas, now a coach for the Sun Valley Junior Nordic ski team, had a couple of years looking up at Leugers to set the stage for her ultimate victory.

"I had been behind Adrienne for two years. She is tough," said Douglas, 2:31 behind hill climb winner Leugers in 1996 and 15 seconds behind second-place Leugers in 1997.

Douglas said, "I knew she’d go out hard and, sure enough, she went out like a rocket. She led most of the race. But I got a good ride from Tom Montgomery, stuck with him and that’s how I passed Adrienne on the steep pitch to I-80."

Ever since, Leugers has been bulletproof—winning four straight Baldy Hill Climbs from 1999 through 2002 in consistent times of 44:19, 44:21, 44:23 and 44:55.

Her Baldy Hill Climb plan? Leugers said with a smile, "I go as hard as I can and keep Grady (Burnett) in my sight."

She epitomizes what it’s like to be an athlete in an outdoors place like Ketchum and Hailey.

Kapala said, "Adrienne competes because she likes an athletic, outdoor lifestyle and this is what the community is all about.

"She’s very modest about it. She’s just a nice person who likes to go out and hammer it."


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