1 Aug 2016
In the 1970s, Jeffrey Bergeron used to travel to Breckenridge by bicycle to work his seasonal restaurant jobs. He pedaled to and from California. These days, at 62, if you catch him on any given day not on his bike or on his skis, you can pretty much assume that the apocalypse is afoot.
For many, Bergeron is better known as Biff America, his jocular alter ego appearing for 30 years on RSN and Outside Television and which continues to pen humor columns that shed light on real-life issues ranging from skiing to relationships to voles in the garden. They carry delightful nuggets of unconventional wisdom and have become so popular that two book volumes have been published.
Bergeron was in the California stint of his seasonal work in 1975 when a trio of surfer dudes – Bones, Buzz and Skip – inspired him to take up the name and subsequent persona of Biff. He wrote ad copy for radio a couple of years later and made up the character Biff America, a loud, rash, baritone voice that spoke with Bergeron’s strong south Boston accent not unlike the Biff character in the Back to the Future movie series. But, as Bergeron reminds us, “I was Biff before he was Biff.”
Biff America’s early years were hilarious, but would sometimes cross into the territory of the body.
“There was the time I was on TV in tights with a banana in my front,” he recalls.
This history he felt might come back to haunt him when he initially ran for Breckenridge Town Council in 2004, but after serving two terms and a four-year hiatus, Bergeron is back.
“My credo is, you don’t have to be good, you just have to take the place of someone who’s going to be worse,” he says. “I took solace in the fact that Richard Nixon was re-elected.”
In spite of his self-deprecating jest, Bergeron has done great things for Breckenridge. Have you ever noticed, for example, the seemingly endless system of world-class singletrack around here? Bergeron and his wife, Ellen Hollinshead, are to thank for it. In 1997, the couple masterminded and launched a ballot initiative to garner local sales tax to preserve open space. Since 1997, the initiative has amounted to millions of dollars put toward purchasing thousands of acres of land.
Bergeron walks the talk, too. He pedals every day when the weather is dry and pulls in about 150 ski days a year, all in the backcountry and most recently on the Fourth of July. He hit a small patch of snow in Park County, rather than the popular Fourth of July Bowl, because that, as he says, “is like getting drunk on St. Patrick’s Day.”
As far as describing Biff in his own words, Bergeron says he’s “politically aware, cognizant of aging, yet still refusing to depart from the sophomoric origins of the character.”
Hence the continued propensity to write about such things as a trio of young female mountain bikers he recently encountered in the woods, wondering how one of them smelled intensely like salmon, only to pedal home and discover that the sour smell was coming from his own pores. He had misread his dosage of fish oil as “a cupful” rather than “a capful.”
“My big claim to fame, the thing I have most to be proud of, is that I was able to make a comfortable living in local and regional media still living in a cool place. I never had to go to Des Moines,” he says.
His TV personality, sadly, is now a thing of the past.
“I was putting on makeup with a paint roller,” he says.
His columns, fish smells aside, continue to be surprisingly insightful, something Bergeron reluctantly admits.
“The few times my columns have stumbled on some observation that brought people some comfort, be it awkward kids, eating disorders … something to make people feel better about themselves, I’m happy that something will come out of my columns that has made a difference,” he says. “Most of the time I fail miserably. But that’s what I strive for.”