Students and mentors in the LEAD Outdoor Leadership Program took part in a 2-day, 16 hour wilderness first aid training course last weekend at the Rifle CMC Campus. Outdoor Leadership is a year-long, school-day course designed and taught by Buddy Program LEAD staff members at Basalt High School and Roaring Fork High School.
LEAD stands for: Leadership through Exploration, Action, and Development at both middle and high school levels and is designed to introduce students to the outdoors before teaching them in depth about wilderness ethics, orienteering, backpacking, climbing, hiking, wilderness first aid and many other outdoor skills.
Outdoor Leadership was designed in hopes of attracting middle and high school aged students to the Buddy Program’s offerings in a unique way creating an opportunity to mentor youth through the lens of backcountry travel.
The wilderness first aid training course was lead by Desert Mountain Medicine Instructor Korrine Kreiger and took place both indoors and out. Students trained and were instructed in real life wilderness scenarios in which injured victims were found in the field.
PHOTOS: 36th annual skier appreciation day at Sunlight
It was a clear, Colorado bluebird day for the 36th annual skier appreciation day at Sunlight Mountain on Friday. The annual event put on by United Way sold out early this year with a cap of only 1,000 lift tickets available. Though the event usually sees around 1,300 skiers and snowboarders, the ticket cap this year was lowered due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The promotional event that started in 1986 donates proceeds from ticket sales to United Way Battlement to the Bells not only gives skiers and riders a day on the mountain at only $20 a lift ticket but brings games, auctions and contests.
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The need for normalcy: a year with COVID-19 Santa
2020 is Fred Andersen’s — also known as Santa Fred’s — third season working as a professional Santa. The role sort of found him — not in a Tim Allen knocks real Santa off the roof kind of way, but a simple decision to grow out his beard caused a domino-style chain of events.
“I started growing my beard out, it was the first time growing my beard in about ten years and it started coming in mostly white, to my surprise. Everybody kept commenting that I looked like Santa … and I have round cheeks and twinkly blue eyes you know the whole bit so it makes sense that I look like Santa,” Andersen said.
The blessing of an all-natural beard was his foot in the door but what kept Santa Fred coming back to the job and pursuing it further was the joy he saw in children’s eyes when he would show up dressed in his suit with presents in hand.
“They’re jumping up and down and happy … no hesitation, no suspicion, no negativity at all … and that set the hook. That is the best part that is absolutely the best part … little kids who would normally look at a stranger and say ‘ooh I don’t know’ – they see Santa and they want a hug,” Andersen said.
Work for Santa Fred during a pandemic year is peculiar in more ways than one. Andersen considers himself lucky to be relatively young compared to other Santas and in good health since that makes the chance of catching a virus of any kind on the job unlikely to take him off the job permanently.
“I’m still relatively young and so I’m not near as worried about it as these old guys would be. I mean it would ruin the rest of my season obviously if I came down with it … I’m still young and healthy and pretty much as strong as a horse, so I think I’d probably get through it,” Andersen said.
Requests from kids who chat with Santa Fred are similar to what he’s heard in the past, but these days there are many mentions of not wanting to wear a mask any longer or wishes for life to return back to normal.
“Biggest mention I get is the kids wish they don’t have to wear the mask anymore. Like everybody else, they’re so tired of the mask, they are so tired of the social distancing, they just want it to stop … If somebody asks something that is beyond Santa’s abilities, you basically just have to remind the kids that ‘hey, I’m just a toymaker, there’s only so much I can do,’” Andersen said.
Santa Fred said this year wasn’t easy for people of all ages and backgrounds. Preserving the tradition of sitting on Santa’s lap is his gift to the community. Taking safety precautions like visiting outdoors and socially distanced with an immuno-compromised child or wearing a face shield over his perfectly curled beard he said are all worth it if it helps children believe.
“That’s the best part it really is. I figure if I can help a kid believe in Santa for one more year, just keep that magic alive for one more year, then I did my job,” Andersen said.
Andersen takes his job as Santa very seriously in an almost perfectionist approach. Santa Fred made his own suit, with experience from sewing during his time in the Navy and costume-making for a Viking age reenactment hobby. It wasn’t a quick and easy process by any means, but compared to purchasing a professional custom suit which can be priced anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000, it made a lot more sense for him to create it himself.
When he first started his Santa gigs it would take him close to two hours to get ready, but these days he can complete the look in under an hour if he happens to be in a pinch. Santa Fred said he wanted to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season, and to remind people the importance of preserving traditions, particularly ones that spark happiness.
“Well, just that it’s temporary. I mean Covid will probably be out there forever but we’ll get a handle on it. It will no longer be determining how we live anymore. Just don’t forget tradition, don’t forget the important stuff … Years like this are when you need a Santa, you really do. You need that normalcy, you need something that’s just good. Don’t let it go.”
PHOTOS: Opening day for Sunlight Mountain Resort’s 54th season
Sunlight Mountain Resort opened for its 54th season on Friday, Dec. 11 after receiving roughly 3 inches of snow overnight, and more Friday and Saturday.
Though conditions only allowed for the opening of the lower Tercero lift, roughly 100 skiers and riders came out for first chair to have the first runs of the season down Midway.
Sunlight’s Midway run is now open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. serving about 500 vertical feet with about an 8-12 inch base.
PHOTOS: Happy 100th Birthday to Robert Harper
Robert Harper was born 100 years ago on Dec. 2, 1920, in Pennsylvania. To celebrate this major milestone, friends, family and the Rifle Fire and Police Departments made a special drive by appearance at the Colorado Veterans Community Living Center in Rifle to wave and wish Harper a happy 100th.
PHOTOS: Setting up for the holidays at West Canyon Nurseries
This will be Amy and Derek Anglemyer’s second year selling live Christmas trees after taking over West Canyon Nurseries just east of New Castle in September of 2018. This year they hope to have 130 live trees ranging in size from 3 to 10 foot, an assortment of wreaths, garland and decorative table arrangements after collaborating with florist Bramble and Vine. Christmas tree sales start the Friday after Thanksgiving and they will be open 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. everyday until all trees are sold.
WATCH: It’s beginning to look a lot like ski season at Sunlight
Sunlight Mountain Resort rolled out and dusted off the snow machines last week and have started the process of blowing snow on the slopes in preparation for the 2020/2021 ski season.
Skiers and snowboarders will have to wait a while longer before they can hit the slopes, however. Sunlight’s 54th season is slated to kick off Dec. 11.