Glenwood’s Ski Spree: A celebration of winter
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” As a writer, when you must tackle a story about a long-running, well-loved event, there is always this desire to find a fresh angle. And while there must be some offbeat, avant-garde way to look at Ski Spree, the simplest approach feels the most honest. When it comes to Sunlight’s annual, two-day birthday bash, people just like it.
“It’s fun. It’s definitely a party atmosphere,” said Sunlight Marketing Director Dylan Lewis. “It’s kind of a celebration of skiing and a celebration of Sunlight and celebration of the winter.”
Though Lewis, 30, has been working at the mountain for about a year now, most of his Ski Spree experience came as child, growing up in Glenwood. Later, after years of working around the larger, impersonal ski areas of Vail and Aspen, he was drawn back to the community feel of Sunlight. This weekend, when he glances through the Ski Spree crowd, he knows he’ll see old friends, former teachers, perhaps his mailman.
“It’s going to be like one big family on the deck,” he said. “It’s for everybody.”
As he looked through a calendar of events, he described each race, each contest, each performing artist. He seemed most partial to Saturday’s Torchlight Parade, when a train of Sunlight employees and skiers will head down Midway at dusk. Though no actual flames will be seen, the effect of dozens of shining glow sticks is still “pretty cool,” he said. He mentioned the excitement of watching the “Big Air” competition, where skiers can hurtle 20 feet above the ground. He talked up the twangy bluegrass sounds of Laughing Bones, a Vail group performing Saturday.
Of course he was trying to sell all of this, but also he was just being helpful. He was attempting to explain the draw of these two days, still popular after 40 or so years.
Later, local residents Marianne Virgili and Mary Ann Sullivan added their two cents. With wisps of nostalgia, each commented on what it was like 20 years ago, back when their children, now grown, were little.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Sullivan, of when the event encompassed downtown Glenwood as well. She described a celebration of chili cook-offs and snow obstacle courses in Sayre Park. Though she was sure it’s still enjoyable, she joked around about the past, the “the old days,” as she called it.
“It was the highlight of people’s winters,” added Virgili, president and CEO of the Glenwood Springs Resort Chamber Association. She oversaw the event from 1986-1987. Then, the event boasted ski jumps into the Hot Springs Pool and fierce games of “broomball,” which was played on ice with boots instead of skates and brooms in lieu of hockey sticks, and would leave participants black and blue. Even with that air of danger, it was still a blast, she said.
“But I think it’s fun on the mountain, too,” she was quick to add. “I think it’s still a great event.”
There’s an element of wackiness and playfulness that remains there today, at least according to Micah Ball. A local since 1998, Ball, 30, has been attending Ski Sprees since he first arrived in the valley. He laughed and said that, of all the things he did in his 20s, this is one of the few he’s still into. This year, his 3-year-old son will be coming along with him, too.
“It’s just a great chance to let loose,” he said. “It’s a wonderful thing to get to catch up with everybody and see where they’re at.”
For him and others, it’s that friendly, communal vibe that keeps them coming back, even when bigger, “better” ski areas beckon.
“Yeah, they’ve got faster chairlifts and warming huts here and there,” he said, of those fancier spots, “but there’s something missing.”
And sometimes, don’t you want to go where everybody knows your name?
Contact Stina Sieg: 384-9111
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UPDATE: Both westbound lanes and one eastbound lane of Interstate 70, according to a 12:20 a.m. update from Garfield County.