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A skiing family, to the Max: Sunlight like home to Dooses

You may not know this, but when you ski at Sunlight, you’re really skiing in the Doose family’s winter backyard.

Well, not really. They don’t own the land at the resort or run mountain operations – at least not anymore. But as a family, they probably have put more miles on Sunlight’s runs than any other related group of folks.

Glenwood Springs resident Max Doose (pronounced “dose”) was the first in the family to ski. Max’s daughter Claudia said her dad first started skiing when he was in his 30s, on Red Mountain in Glenwood Springs during the 1940s.



“This was before the chairlift,” Claudia said of the lift that transported skiers from Glenwood up the north-facing slope. “They had some kind of lift to haul people up there.”

Max continued his love of skiing at Redstone, where another makeshift lift was set up near the Redstone Castle.



“That was pretty much a straight run, where you’d go through the trees, grabbing the quakies as you went,” said Claudia of the aspen-lined hillside.

Max married his wife Burneice and the couple had three children: John, Claudia and Terry. Max got Burneice skiing, and all his children. John remembers taking day trips up the Roaring Fork Valley during the early ’60s and skiing at Aspen Highlands.

“Tickets were $2.50,” remembered John.

A U.S. Postal Service rural route mail carrier, Max had the Four Mile Road delivery route, so in the early ’60s, when he heard from one of his customers, John Higgs, that Higgs was planning a ski area up the road, Max was first on the list to check it out.

“Dad knew John, so two years before Sunlight opened, we got to go up the hill on a snowcat,” John said. “It was where Ute is now. We’d get to go up there and take a couple runs. There was nobody up there but us.”

Sunlight opened in 1966 – and the Dooses were first in line.

“It took Sunlight opening to really hook us,” Claudia said of the family’s passion for skiing.

The whole family took lessons from a couple of Austrian ski instructors Sunlight had imported to teach at the area. Max quickly befriended them, and his skiing improved. So did the entire family’s.

“I was going to school at Western State,” said Claudia, “so I’d come home and ski on the weekends at Sunlight, and I’d ski at Crested Butte and take lessons.”

“There wasn’t anybody up at Sunlight,” John Doose remembered.

But Max was always there. He’d finish his mail route by noon, John said, and head up to the mountain. And Max’s ski fanaticism rubbed off on his kids.

“After a year, I quit school and came home to ski bum,” said Claudia, smiling. She said she’d do odd jobs, like paint the bathrooms or work in the ski shop at Sunlight, just to have a pass.

She lived in the Brettelberg Inn apartments at the base with a group of girlfriends. Later she became an instructor, and then a ski school supervisor.

John was bitten by the ski bug too, as was Terry. In 1969, John started the Sunlight ski patrol and became the patrol director. He met his wife Diane, and the couple skied together whenever they could. Terry worked on the mountain too, loading lifts and teaching.

“We were ski freaks,” John said.

With his kids all gainfully employed at Sunlight, Max wanted a job too – so he created one.

“He called himself the courtesy patrol,” said John.

After his mail route, he’d head up to the mountain, and fill a backpack with wrenches and screwdrivers in case he ran across anyone who needed a binding repair or adjustment. He’d ski around and find people who needed a guide. And he’d help the ski patrol sweep – check for any wayward skiers – at the end of the day.

“He was an ambassador,” said Claudia. “And he did it because he loved it. Nobody told him to do it. He didn’t get paid. He just loved being up on the mountain.

“Mom would come up on the weekends, too. We were all there.”

On Jan. 31, 1971, Max Doose had just finished a morning of skiing with his daughter-in-law Diane.

“He told me that day I was finally looking like a skier,” Diane said with a smile. “He said it as a compliment.”

John and Diane had gone into town and weren’t at Sunlight. Max was on the deck on Sunlight’s day lodge smiling about a run he had just taken on Blue when he collapsed. Claudia was steps away.

“I was giving him cardiac massage and artificial respiration right there on the deck,” she said. Her father died of a heart attack at age 63 at one of his favorite places on earth.

“He always said he wanted to die like an Indian,” said Claudia, “to just go out into the woods and die.”

Max may be gone but his spirit runs strong at Sunlight. The mountain has been home to four generations of Dooses enjoying the mountains and winter sports. Burneice has long since put up her skis, though John, Diane says, still manages to get in a couple runs on the weekdays, just like his dad.

Their children, Jaime, Kim and John Jr., all grew up skiing and riding the mountain, and Terry’s daughter Vandie Shea is an avid snowboarder. And Claudia, her husband Paul Plattner and their daughter Teal know Sunlight’s runs as well as anyone.

And now, John Jr. and his wife Tanya’s son, Max II, continues the legacy, learning to love the same mountain his great-grandpa did. When he skis down Little Max, a run named after his great-grandpa near the top of the mountain, the circle really is complete.


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