We have put up plenty of top athlete polls before, but this fall, we queried our readers to find out who is the baddest of the bad when it comes to outdoor sports in Colorado. EO readers nominated local heroes in nine different categories and then we had a good, old-fashioned Internet voting showdown to determine who among them deserved the title of Resident Badass (oh, and we feel that there’s no reason why women and men can’t compete against each other rather than in separate categories). There were some surprises and some impassioned voting, but, in the end, we came up with an impressive list of Colorado’s most inspiring outdoor people. So step up and meet your Resident Badasses, and maybe some day you will hang with them out on the crags, trails, peaks and slopes.
Tommy Caldwell (pictured above)
Really, it’s no surprise that Tommy Caldwell topped our list, not just as the winner of the rock category, but as the state’s Resident-Badass-in-Chief. We don’t have to say much more about his successful free ascent of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall last year with Kevin Jorgeson. That climb became more than a personal dragon that Caldwell had to slay—it shifted something in the way climbing, and all outdoor sports, are percieved in the mainsteam American consciousness. In the midst of ISIS, gun debates and partisan politics gone amuck, it proved that there is still something basic and good in dreaming in the American wilds, something inside us all, even if we can’t compete on Tommy’s level. Best of all, when he finished, Caldwell called for better protection of those wild lands that allow us to dream big.
Runner Up: Lynn Hill
There is something very bittersweet in what Eric Larsen is accomplishing. The polar explorer touched both poles and the top of Everest once in the same year and still thinks trying to ride a fat bike to the South Pole is one of the toughest things he has ever attempted. But last year, he filmed “Melting: Last Race to the Pole,” a documentary of his 2014 unaided expediton with Ryan Waters to the North Pole that premiered last month on Animal Planet. The sad lesson here: Because of climate change and melting ice, this is most likely the last time this type of trip can take place. As far as being a badass, Larsen says: “I met [runner up] Will Mayo, and I can say with 100-percent certainty that he is way more of a badass than me. If anyone knew how much I cried on my expeditions, they would strip me of the title in a heartbeat.”
Runner Up: Will Mayo
Now, this was a surprise. A snowboarder and nurse from Golden beat out Red Bull athlete and EO favorite Chris Davenport and Olympic medalists Gretchen Bleiler, Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin. But our readers appreciated Taylor’s overall homegrown and humble badassery. He is in the process of climbing and snowboarding down all of Colorado’s Fourteeners as well as other big peaks across North America and he heads up the Colorado 14er First Descents Project. Most of all, he is a Wilderness EMT, and alpine rescuer and instructor on call 24/7 to help those in trouble in the mountains. His most badass work takes place following in his ICU-nurse mom’s footsteps, however. He works at the life-and-death Neuro Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the University of Colorado Hospital.
Runner Up: Chris Davenport
Sari Anderson was able to beat out a host of Colorado’s top endurance athletes (the most crowded field in our contest) in this poll even while she was recuperating from injury. That’s really no surprise, since Anderson has not just been crushing it racing with Team Nike and winning everything from the ski mountaineering national championships to the U.S. Mountain Bike Marathon National Championships over the past decade, but also inspiring women (and men) by proving it’s possible to be a mother to two children and still stand on the podium. “I don’t feel worthy compared to athletes like Josiah Middaugh and Dave Mackey,” she says of being named Resident Badass. “But I’m certainly grateful for the recognition. I hope in some small way, I can be an inspiration to other working moms.”
Runner Up: Josiah Middaugh
In a state that has a glut of big-name competivte cyclists—from that Lance guy to Heather Irminger to Tejay Van Garderen—call home, Alison Powers took this title pretty easily. And she has proven she can do it all, winning national titles in all three disciplines of road race, time trial and criterium in the same year in 2014 (oh, and she was on the U.S. Ski Team before she was a professional cyclist). Now retired, she is imparting her badassery with her all-women business ALP Cycles Coaching. “It’s my full time job, now. I really enjoy teaching others about cycling, training and racing. I also still very much enjoy riding my bike and skiing.” And you may see her doing just that (and leaving you in the dust) up in Nederland with her new husband Josh Harrod who manages local bike shop Tin Shed Sports.
Runner Up: Dave Wiens
This category saw the most intense voting competion of all in our reader poll. Kayaker Crusie Quenelle came out on top by just a handful of votes to beat out Boulder SUP yogi Lisa Fierer. We were impressed by the passion of Quenelle’s fans, many of them former co-workers and kayaking partners from his days as paddle school director at 4Corners Riversports in Durango. Quenelle is the quietest badass on our list, simply dropping big waterfalls and “cruising” through class V whitewater everywhere from sotuhwest Colorado to the rivers of the Pacific Northwest.
Runner Up: Lisa Fierer
Steph Schwartz was a top ultrarunner, nabbing a second-place finish in the Leadville 100, as well as putting EO contributing editor Adam Chase through the wringer on a rim-to-rim-to-rim Grand Canyon run. Then she found yoga, becoming one of the most popular teachers in Boulder, and brought kirtan into her teaching, making music just as important a part of yoga as difficult poses. Soon, she took that fearlessness into her skydiving practice, developing beautiful mid-air poses. “Everyone is a badass,” she says, a philosophy she imparts to her devoted students.
Runner Up: Ted Davenport
Timmy O’Neill is one of the most gifted athletes you will ever meet: a brilliant free soloist, a talented kayaker, a big-wall vet. And though he has a huge personality, he tends to take second-stage to those he finds inspiring. As the co-founder of Pardox Sports, he has worked to ensure disabled people enjoy the same stoke he gets out of living to the fullest in the outdoors. He has paddled with blind adventurers Erik Weihenmayer in the Grand Canyon and Lonnie Bedwell on the Zambezi. He has assisted in cataract surgery in the Himalaya. And he taught his parapalegic brother to climb El Capitan. “I love helping people with problem solving and I enjoy providing opportunities to change perspective, which is the genesis of positive transformation. These acknowledgements from peers and fellow joy-merchants put the fuel in the get-shit-done tank, and these Colorado kudos provide an extra special Rocky Mountain high,” he said of being named a badass.
Runner Up: Shannon Galpin
The founder of the Colorado School of Yoga earned her Resident Badass cape. She pulled in more votes than anyone except Tommy Caldwell. That’s no shocker since she has developed such a devoted following thanks to the joy she transmits teaching yoga, getting outside and loving life. That is just what we were looking for in our Wild Card Badass.
Runner Up: Eric Henderson