The most interesting yeti in the world: Get to know Sunlight Mountain’s shaggiest ski bum
They say Sunny Yeti was born somewhere near Elk Mountain, to an ancient tribe of furry creatures just like himself.
Beyond that, no one really knows where the benevolent beast of Sunlight Mountain truly comes from.
“It’s a long conversation with the yeti because he only converses in grunts and groans,” Sunlight’s marketing and sales director Troy Hawks said. “But he was watching folks from Ute (Trail) for years. We weren’t really aware of it.”
The yeti, in need of some love and affection, would eventually find the courage to come out of his shell. So, using his sasquatch feet like little sleds, he slid down the mountain, making quite the introduction on skier appreciation day in 2015.
But it’s not like a fabled creature born into the wild has any pockets — or pants, Hawks noted. There was nowhere he could keep family heirlooms or photos of mom and dad, and the only other trace of his actual lineage boils down to his nephew, a Rifle resident named Mini Yeti.
Not to worry, however: Hawks’ expertise on the yeti stems from years and years of hard, dedicated research. Not all is lost.
“I would have to look it up, but I believe (the yeti) traces back to Mongolia,” he said. “It may have been the first culture that identified with a yeti. I’ve watched some reality TV, which is the depth of that research.”
But after breaking the ice with the ski patrol, administration, boarders and skiers, Sunny Yeti found his true home. Not only would he come to rest his head in his suspected den at Babbish Gulch, from there on out he would never have to ski on his hind feet again.
“Since those days and his introduction here at Sunlight, we actually have been able to get him fitted, despite the large size of his feet,” Hawks said. “He’s become a pretty adept skier.”
Not only that, Sunny Yeti has grown considerably over the past five years — and we’re not just talking about his shaggy, unkempt aura or his giant physical stature. He’s also grown to be the face of Sunlight Mountain.
Unlike the scary, abominable snowman some people may think he is, Hawks said Sunny’s basically just a big, lovable guy who’s kind, caring and always happy to see people having fun on the mountain and in town.
He does, however, give one group of workers a bit of trouble.
“He pushes the buttons of ski patrol,” Hawks said. “He usually warms up with them at the bottom of the hill, but he’s kind of a ‘Dennis the Menace’ with ski patrol sometimes.”
When he’s not giving his human counterparts on the mountain grief, the yeti is also known to go out and about in the communities of the Roaring Fork Valley. In fact, according to Hawks, he’s a bit of a foodie.
“They give ribs by the curb down at Smoke, so he’s known to order about two dozen ribs,” Hawks said. “He’s been seen at Carbondale Beer Works having some really tasty fried chicken that he’s fond of. Uncle Pizza in town is his favorite pizza.”
After he dines and comes back to the mountain, however, Sunny Yeti always finds trouble cleaning himself.
“It’s tough for him. There’s not many mirrors,” Hawks said. “Normally, he just kind of dips his face in a snowbank, shakes it vigorously and hopes for the best.”
But it’s not like Garfield County is much of a yeti stronghold in regards to the dating scene anyway. Dating apps, unfortunately, do not accept yetis.
“I think the pickings are a little bit better in Alaska,” Hawks said. “Just the population per is a little bit better up there… the ratio.”
The Sunlight Yeti kicks back and takes a ride up the lift for a ski run at Sunlight Mountain Resort. | Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Even amid the global pandemic that is COVID-19, the Post Independent was able to land an exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime interview with the rather verbose Sunny Yeti.
The local publication confirmed that not only is he quite evasive when it comes to journalists, but he’s a one-word-answer kind of guy.
We do apologize about the paucity of the interview.
Remember, “Er, er” denotes yes…
PI: Sunny, how are you coping with social-distancing?
PI: OK I see, no change there… Sunny, what about those toenails, can they be a challenge during COVID?
Sunny: Er, er.
PI: Yes, of course, every yeti needs his or her pedi; it must be tough for you. And what about the fairies in the Enchanted Forest? Have you seen them?
Sunny: Er, er.
PI: For real?
Sunny: Er… er….
Meanwhile, the local yeti male-to-female ratio has left Sunny a bit lonely, Hawks said.
“He sort of is,” he said. “He roams back (in Babbish Gulch) by himself and, as you can imagine, the dating scene isn’t awesome in the Roaring Fork Valley. There’s probably a lot of single guys that might be able to identify with that.”
“There’s a lot of single guys that kind of look like the yeti that can identify with that,” he added.
But there are still some shiny moments for this hopeless romantic.
Sometimes, when he’s as spruced up as can be, Sunny is actually suspected of returning to his lair at Babbish Gulch for a little tender loving care (TLC). Though a significant other is yet confirmed by the snow scientists at Sunlight Mountain, Hawks said Sunny sometimes tends to shed evidence of intimate escapades.
“What we have seen is some peculiar looking hairs on him at times,” Hawks said. “That gives us cause to believe that he is occasionally having some romance back there in the woods. All we have is the long, red, curly hairs that doesn’t necessarily match his.”
When Sunny Yeti isn’t up to personal antics, he always finds time for public adventure. In September, he does ski shows in Denver. In October, he’s dressing up for Halloween in Gypsum.
He also spends summers campaigning with Sunlight’s mini-mayors, a program that allows young, aspiring politicians under the age of 12 to serve one full-year term as mayor of Sunlight Mountain.
But even though Sunny, the aforementioned chicken lover, should be a strong proponent of current mini-mayor April Carter’s Garlic Chicken Bill — a highly uncontentious, bipartisan effort to add garlic chicken to Sunlight’s lunch menu — he maintains his own future political aspirations.
“He’s not qualified to run for mini-mayor, but we think that deep inside he’d like to be the mini-mayor himself,” Hawks said. “Which is why he kind of follows us around all the parades. I don’t think he understands he actually can’t be mini-mayor, but he sure enjoys campaigning with kids.”
Carter, whose administration promises to conduct a coat drive, install hand sanitizer stations and fairy mailboxes as well as donate 10% of all garlic chicken sales toward local non-profit Literacy Outreach, is excited to have Sunny Yeti in her corner.
“I’m looking forward to skiing with him and working with him and helping him out,” she said. “And I’m going to give him high fives.”
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There are a few extra stories being shared around the tables at the Village Smithy restaurant in Carbondale this week following the death of restaurant founder and longtime community leader Chris Chacos.