Today’s post is a guest post by Dayna Ashley-Oehm, a Brave Ski Mom from Colorado.
So to call my ilk indigenous is a bit of a stretch, but since my great-great-grandfather started farming sugar beets on the eastern plains of Colorado, I’m going to maintain that I am as indigenous to Colorado as the mountain goat. Just as my family relocated from Germany to populate the dry and windy earth outside of Fort Morgan with farmers, so was the mountain goatrelocated from Montana to populate Colorado with a savvy adversary for the hunting elite.
Many of the things that make Colorado unique have been imported. You don’t get to be the 38th state in the union without learning of few lessons from the states that incorporated before your time. Take skiing, for example. The primitive equipment came from Norway and the skiers came from elsewhere to mine gold and silver from the mountains. Skiing was more of a transportation necessity than a recreational activity.
A Long History of Winter Festivals
One man was able to take us beyond the utilitarian simplicity of skiing. In 1911, Carl Howelsen, a Norwegian ski champion, skied into Hot Sulphur Springs and found himself in the midst of a festive winter carnival. Being new to the party he decided the best way to break in would be to show off (a very, deep-rooted skiing tradition). He proceeded to demonstrate ski jumping to the winter carnival attendees. Jaws dropped, bets were placed and the sport was embraced by Grand County.
Though our history is sketchy, we are here to stay. It is now 2011, and our family made the pilgrimage to the sacred site of the Grand County winter carnival. Yesterday was Easter, a Christian holiday of significant importance. It also happened to be the closing day of Winter Park Ski Area. This day is named Spring Splash. Unlike Easter, Spring Splash is a 43-year old pagan ritual of varying significance depending on the year, the alcohol consumed and the sunshine-to-cloud ratio of the day.
Making a Splash at Winter Park
My family spent Easter watching 100 costumed and inebriated contestants ski down a course of flags, gates and fences over a jump and into a makeshift pool of water. Only the sober and fearless were able to gracefully maneuver the course and glide on top of the water to the end line. Most were riddled by last-minute fear and thus leaned back off the jump — fully soaking their costumes (gorilla, banana and Monty Python knight) so that they had to be fished out of the water in somber disgrace. None of this, however, could dissuade my kids from wanting to someday be a part of this unorthodox baptism.
Burgers, Beers, Dogs and Music
For my entertainment dollar, the C- Lot at Mary Jane holds the most bang for the buck. This muddy site becomes an instant carnival on closing day. Live music, cold beer, costumed skiers, and recreational vehicles fill in every inch of this skiing shanty town. The air is filled with the smell of burgers. Even dogs are encouraged to partake in the event. Packs of unsupervised canines that have spent the last five months enclosed in the back of the Subaru are now free to mark their territory, pick fights and steal an occasional burger.
The carnival of closing day encourages skiers to milk every last drop of joy from the season. If God is watching, he will smile favorably upon the festivities and provide ample sunshine and blue skies for the revelers. If Carl Howelsen was somehow able to come back from the dead, I’m sure he would be stunned by the evolution of the sport and the size of the winter festival. If I were able to be the ghost of winter festivals future, I would offer him a beer and explain the past 100 years. I still would not be able to explain the 50-year old man wearing nothing but a white thong and bunny ears, but I would do my best with the rest.
Dayna Ashley-Oehm lives in Lakewood, Colorado where she and her husband own and manage a consulting business that helps school districts maximize their operational efficiencies. Dayna is mother and overlord to two children, two dogs, two cats and one turtle. When not working or raising money for her kids’ public schools, Dayna spends her time seeking joy — skiing in Winter Park, biking, attending outdoor music festivals, camping and hiking, touring breweries and panning for gold. Her ambition in life is to retrofit a school bus and become a groupie for her favorite Austin, Texas band, The Gourds.
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