Opening day tracks are a habit for 74-year-old |

Opening day tracks are a habit for 74-year-old

John GardnerGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson

SUNLIGHT – Opening day at Sunlight Mountain Resort has become a ritual for many folks in the valley. Dreams of first tracks for the season have resonated all summer long and now those dreams are finally attainable.Friday morning, as the snow crept over the hilltops, providing some fresh runs for the skiers, 74-year-old skier Kenneth Else of Silt made his way into the lift line once again.”This is my eighth or ninth run already,” Else said.And it was only 10:30 a.m. on the 41st opening day of Sunlight.”Opening day is a tradition for me, I don’t think I’ve missed any opening days at Sunlight since 1989,” he said. “You get back to it. You get used to your equipment and familiarize yourself with your technique early in the season, to get ready for the year ahead.”

He first began skiing at the local mountain in 1988, but his first opening day wasn’t until the following year. Since then he’s been making tracks at the mountain for the past 19 years. It’s not always been Sunlight for him. He spent most of his younger days at higher altitudes, skiing the mountains of Aspen.”I started skiing in 1962 at Aspen,” Else said.It was only two years later in 1964 that he actually moved to the area to be closer to the ski mountains he’d come to enjoy so much. Fortunately, he was moving here for his job with US West as well.”I had a season pass at Aspen Highlands for 20 years,” he said. ” I’ve done a lot of skiing in the valley.”When asked why he decided to start skiing at Sunlight almost two decades ago, he said the decision was simple.”Price and availability,” he said. “That’s what it was.”Living in Silt, the commute is a little more reasonable. But he’s also seen some of his best tracks at the local mountain.

“I’ve skied more powder here than I ever had in Aspen,” he said. The tips of his smile reaching toward his ski goggles. “I love the powder here.”Even though there was little powder that particular day, it was shaping up to be better with light snow falling throughout the day.At 74-years -old, Else exercises year-round to keep in shape. He’s an avid runner during the summer months and used to do a lot of backpacking as well, though he doesn’t do much backpacking anymore.Skiing is something he still does with ease. As he came down the mountain, carving left to right, leaving little half moon shapes in the snow behind him, he looked like any other kid on the mountain.Skiing brings the kid out in Else, and helps him remain young.”I still stay in shape,” he said. “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”Else likes the small mountain feel and local attitude of Sunlight. But that could soon change with the development of new lodging accommodations at the resort. But Else said that he won’t mind too much because he can’t prevent the growth.”I have some reservations about it,” he said. “You have to change with the times. You can’t hold back progress.”

He’ll be happy as long as he’s able to ski at his local mountain.”As long as they do it right it will be fine,” he said.He’s just looking forward to this season and making as many turns as he can before the sun sets.He graciously waved as he caught another chair up the hill.Contact John Gardner: 384-9114jgardner@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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