NHL alumni make their way to Carbondale

Saturday’s 2023 NHL Alumni Winter Classic in Carbondale was not just a showcase of hockey talent, but also a vibrant community festival. Notable players like Henrik Lundqvist and Milan Hejduk joined others on the ice, as the Burgundy team won an impressive 8-2 victory.

The event, however, was much more than the scoreline. It was a day filled with excitement, community spirit and a celebration of the sport.

“An event like this, it’s a win-win,” Hall of Fame goalie Lundqvist said. “Everyone is having a blast and we get to connect with some players that we haven’t seen in a couple of years. Sheldon has done an amazing job putting this event together. It feels great being able to help this community and this program.”

The atmosphere was electric, with stalls selling exclusive apparel, a variety of food and drinks  and an array of activities for all ages. As the night progressed, the excitement only intensified, culminating in a spectacular fireworks display that lit up the Carbondale sky, mirroring the day’s energetic spirit.

Sheldon Wolitski, the founder of youth hockey program Colorado Extreme, orchestrated this grand event, blending sports with community celebration. His efforts brought together families, fans and former NHL stars, creating a day to remember.

“An event like this, it’s a blessing and I hold a lot of gratitude,” Wolitski said. “These are some of the greatest hockey players ever and for them to be here, it truly is incredible. I couldn’t be more grateful.”

The local community, particularly the young hockey enthusiasts, were in awe of the players and the spectacle. The event was a source of inspiration for many.

“This is amazing,” Colorado Extreme mom Cheryl Velasquez said. “These kids are going to be on the moon for weeks on end. What Sheldon has done for the hockey community in this valley is truly incredible.”

As the night drew to a close, the impact of the event was palpable. It wasn’t just a game of hockey; it was a celebration of the sport’s ability to unite people, create joy and inspire the next generation.

Reflecting on the day’s success and the joy it brought to the community, Wolitski shared a heartfelt sentiment: 

“Seeing the smiles, the excitement and the community coming together like this, it reminds us why we do what we do,” he said. “It’s all about bringing joy and inspiration to these kids and the community. It was a great night for this community and this program. I couldn’t be more grateful for the turnout.” 

Only Midway run is open, but Sunlight riders anticipate expanded access soon

The eagerly anticipated opening day at Sunlight Mountain Ski Resort took place on Friday, marking the beginning of what promises to be an exhilarating ski season. Among the first to ride the chairlift were local brothers Kyle, 11, and Matty Reilly, 8, who, living just across the street, woke at 6 a.m. to ensure their spot at the front of the line. Joining them was Sedona Ditlow, equally enthusiastic about the season’s start.

“This mountain is so much fun,” Kyle Reilly said. “We love this mountain and we are super excited to be able to come here every weekend. This season is going to be a blast.”

The opening day excitement was not dampened by the fact that only one run, Midway, was available for skiers and snowboarders. However, the promise of expanded access looms large, with expectations high for additional runs to open following Sunday’s snowfall.

“We want to have this mountain open as quickly as possible, weather permitting,” said Travis Baptiste, Sunlight Mountain’s marketing, events and sales director. “But I think there is a good chance that anyone looking to get up here will have their pick here in a couple days.”

The enthusiasm was shared by Sunlight Mountain’s staff, including first-year liftie Collin Riley, who expressed his excitement for the season ahead.

“This is my first year working here and I could not be more excited,” Riley said. “It’s a great mountain and I can’t wait to get to the peak of things. It’s going to be a great season.”

As the season progresses, Sunlight Mountain Ski Resort is poised to offer an array of runs suitable for all skill levels, from beginners to seasoned experts. 

The Reilly brothers, like many others, are looking forward to spending their weekends on the mountain, exploring the trails and enjoying the winter wonderland that Sunlight Mountain offers. 

Aspen High School dance team wins state championship

The Aspen High School dance team took home the first-place trophy in the Colorado High School Activities Association Spirit State Championship.

The team won the state championship in the 3A division after three days of competition in Denver. Aspen traded the past six state titles with University High School in Greeley, according to an Aspen School District news release. Aspen reclaimed the title this year.

The dance team will head to a national competition at the end of January. Last year, it took first place in the United Dance Association national competition in Orlando, Florida.

Colorado Avalanche alumni skates through Glenwood Springs for fundraising event

A first-of-its-kind event in Glenwood Springs took place at the Community Center Ice Rink on Thursday, where the Grizzly Youth Hockey Association hosted the Colorado Avalanche Alumni Association.

Prior to the main event, the ice rink was abuzz with activities, including a special opportunity for fans to skate with the players. This pre-game interaction set a friendly and engaging tone for the evening. Adding to the festivities, the 8U Grizzlies showcased their skills in a spirited 10-minute game, delighting the audience with their budding talent.

The exhibition match itself, a face-off between the white and burgundy teams, culminated in an electrifying 9-9 tie after a suspenseful 3-man shootout. The game, initially tied at 7-7 at the end of the second quarter, kept fans on the edge of their seats.

“This is an awesome experience to be able to participate in,” said Milan Hedjuk, playing for the white team and a renowned Colorado Avalanche player. “Obviously, we are trying to raise some money and bring some exposure to youth hockey in this area, and it makes it even better to be able to get together with the boys here and have some fun.”

The fundraiser was a resounding success, exceeding its financial goals. 

“We had a goal to raise $10,000, and we are going to surpass $25,000 after the event,” Grizzly Hockey Director T.K. Kwiatkowski said. 

“Something like this to happen in our hometown, it’s incredible,” he continued. “Getting to skate with guys like Milan Hedjuk and John Michael-Lyles – we are giving these kids an incredible experience, and I couldn’t be more happy about how this event turned out.”

The Glenwood Grizzly bear cheers as Colorado Avalanche Alumni take the ice.

Members of Grizzly Hockey, Glenwood Springs Demons Hockey, and Aspen Junior Hockey participated in the game, making it a showcase of local talent. This included a blend of young athletes and retired professionals.

Marek Senn, a senior goalie from Glenwood Springs and 2022 All-State Honorable Mention, shared his awe-inspiring experience. 

“It was such a surreal experience being able to play with and against these guys,” he said. “I never thought I’d be in net trying to stop a shot from Darren Helm, but it was incredible. It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience that I will remember forever.”

As the event concluded, the spirit of camaraderie and sportsmanship was evident. The successful evening not only raised significant funds, but also left an indelible mark on the hearts of the young players and the community, reinforcing Glenwood Springs’ reputation as a town that truly supports its youth and their athletic aspirations.

“I wish I had an opportunity like this when I was a teenager,” Kwiatkowski said. “This was a great night for the kids and for those who came out to support.”

Roaring Fork High grad makes her mark on soccer’s national stage

On Dec. 2, the unranked California Lutheran Regals along with sophomore Macey Peery, a Roaring Fork Valley native, held claim to the Division III women’s soccer national championship. The first place finish marked the program’s first national title, a remarkable achievement for the team and for Peery, who graduated from Roaring Fork High School in 2022.

The Regals’ journey to the championship was nothing short of historic. They became the first unranked team to reach, and subsequently win, the final. With a season record of 19-1-6, they set the second-most wins in the program’s history. Despite an earlier loss to No.18 Pomona-Pitzer in the SCIAC Tournament championship, the Regals avenged this defeat in the NCAA Tournament’s second round. They continued their remarkable run by defeating No.1 Christopher Newport University in the Elite Eight and No. 2 Washington University in the championship game.

Peery, an education major, did not see action in the championship game due to a back injury but was instrumental in the semifinal win over Tufts University. Her journey to collegiate soccer was marked by determination and skill. 

At Roaring Fork High School, she earned numerous accolades, including Western Slope League All-Conference Honorable Mention in 9th grade, Western Slope League First Team All-Conference in 11th and 12th grade, and All-State Honorable Mention honors in 11th grade. She also played club soccer for Glenwood United Football Club, which merged with Roaring Fork Valley Soccer Club in 2022 to form Roaring Fork United.

“We didn’t have to be ranked to show the rest of the country how good we are,” she said.

Her confidence in her team’s abilities never wavered, even when their place in the NCAA tournament was uncertain.

“After our loss in the conference championship, we weren’t sure if we were going to make it into the tournament,” Peery said. “When we saw that we got in, we said, ‘Hey, now it’s time to lock in and get to work.'”

The championship win left an indelible mark on her. 

“Honestly, I don’t remember much,” she said. “I was in shock. I just remember looking at the clock with time winding down; me and my teammates all looked at each other and couldn’t really believe it at first.”

California Lutheran head coach Frank Marino praised Peery’s contributions. 

“Where do I start with Macey,” he said. “She is a fantastic all-around human-being. You don’t have to worry about her in the classroom or off the pitch. I can’t wait to see the contributions that she makes to this team next year.” 

He acknowledged Peery’s growth, noting her initial challenge to adapt to the collegiate level’s pace and competition.

“The most evident thing you could see when Macey first got here her freshman year was she had some catching up to do with the pace of the game,” he said. “She came from a small town where she was always the best player, and now she is going up with equal competition; but you could tell this year that she has worked hard, and that hard work is going to pay off these next couple years.”

Peery’s freshman year high school coach, Nick Forbes, recognized her potential early on. 

“The minute you saw Macey play her freshman year at Roaring Fork, you could tell she was going to be something special,” he said. “Her touch, her ball skills, her IQ on the pitch; she was a freshman in high school, but she was arguably the best player on the pitch.”

Peery attributed part of her decision to join California Lutheran to the team’s bond. The connection she felt with the team was a significant factor in her journey from a small town to the national stage. Now, the Regals can claim their first national championship.

“It’s something I will never forget,” she said. “This team is my family, and I can’t wait to get back to work. We are national champions. We have a target on our back now, and we love it.”

This story is from PostIndependent.com.

‘The tide is shifting’: Breckenridge ski patrol union hopes its new contract inspires a shift in the industry in – and beyond – Colorado

Almost two years to the day since Breckenridge Ski Resort’s ski patrol union reached its first contract agreement in 2021 with its employer, Vail Resorts, the union has settled on a new contract in 2023.

The first contract was officially ratified on Dec. 14, 2021, and for the most part was a smooth process between the union and Vail Resorts representatives. 

“COVID took a lot of stress fractures in all industries — but definitely in the snowsports industry and the ski and vacation industry,” Breckenridge Ski Patrol Union President Ryan Dineen said. “Like everybody, we were incredibly understaffed. Working under the complications of COVID was tough. It kind of highlighted a lot of the disparities that we were dealing with of being the ground floor laborers that are generating the wealth that is being extracted from our communities.” 

The first contract focused primarily on wage increases, employee housing, parking for patrollers closer to work, and education and training requirements. The contract also ensured that ski patrollers are no longer at-will employees, meaning that ski patrollers cannot be fired without due process.  

“We were looking to push pretty hard to make fair gains,” he said. “Considering the positive financial position that Vail Resorts is in, we felt that as the workers that generate this wealth we were deserving of more of it. Through that contract process, we have managed to make reasonable gains for the vast majority of our patrollers.”

Sarah McLear/Breckenridge Ski Resort
Breckenridge ski patroller Eddie Nadolny skis Imperial Bowl at Breckenridge Ski Resort.

Although Breckenridge Ski Resort’s patrollers union was pleased and grateful for its initial contract with Vail Resorts, Dineen and the rest of the union felt they needed to negotiate a new contract agreement by the end of this year.

The second time around, the patrol union focused primarily on the compression that took place in employee wages when Breckenridge Ski Resort raised base wages to $20 an hour for new frontline workers and $21 an hour for ski patrollers or lift mechanics.

“What they did when they did that is compress,” he said. “They didn’t then take that same gains of the entry-level patroller … and also make sure somebody who had been here for 10 years or 25 years also saw some type of gain out of that wage gain. Most people were compressed heavily to the point where they saw maybe a 6% increase if they were already over that base wage increase.”

With a goal to address the compression, the union hoped wage increases would help retain quality patrollers who have put a decade or more of their lives into the profession and into the public-facing product of the resort through a new contract.

After going through a couple bargaining agreements, the union worked with Vail Resorts and settled on a tentative contract, which was then opened up for voting among ownership on the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 28.

Through a four-day electronic vote, the new contract was successfully ratified with an overwhelming amount of support. Approximately 97% of voters voted in favor of ratification. 

“We are pleased to have come to an agreement with the Breckenridge Ski Patrol union,” Breckenridge Ski Resort Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jon Copeland said in a statement. “We all look forward to focusing on executing an incredible season and providing a great experience for our guests and employees. Everyone worked through the process collaboratively, with respect and positive intent.”

The statement said the new agreement is consistent with Vail Resorts’ compensation approach for patrol across all of its resorts.

Dineen was pleased to see the support from Vail Resorts and hopes that the successful contract agreement leads to more ski patrol teams advocating for themselves via unions. He said the efforts of the Breckenridge ski patrol union would not be possible without the work of previously established unions like those at Crested Butte, Big Sky and Telluride.

“We owe a lot to them for blazing the trail,” he said. “We are also trying to increase our visibility. Our mission as unionists is clear. Our mission is to unionize the whole industry because that is the only way we are going to make true, career-level changes. We are dedicated to that.”

According to him, the union was told during negotiations that if it benefited too much from the contract that the agreement would mobilize other departments and ski resorts to unionize. The union viewed the comment as a “leverage piece” and proceeded to pursue a successful contract agreement that will invigorate other ski resorts to do the same. 

“As we get to 2024, the tide is shifting, and we want to be part of that shift,” he said.

Basalt basketball nabs 59-37 win over Aspen

The Demon Invitational basketball tournament kicked off at Glenwood Springs High School with a Colorado Highway 82 rivalry game between the Basalt Longhorns and the Aspen Skiers. The Longhorns shredded the Skiers 59-37 on Wednesday night. 

Basalt and their intense defense held the explosive Aspen offense to just 32 points. The Longhorns finally got in the win column after two tough losses to begin the season. 

From the opening tip, the Longhorns dominated the game. Basalt’s intensity on defense was unmatched throughout the whole game, and it began from the first whistle. They controlled the first half, not allowing Aspen to score a point until just under two minutes remaining in the first quarter. Basalt held a 10-point lead and built upon it for the rest of the game. The scoreboard read 14-5 at the end of the first quarter. 

Basalt senior Wyatt Loomis took over the game in the second frame. The senior was on fire all night, seemingly doing whatever he wanted to. He ignited the small crowd cheering Basalt on with 6:25 remaining in the second, fighting for a rebound and putting it back with a foul to extend the lead to 11. Then, just moments later, he got the ball on a fast break and turned it into a three-point play after sinking the ensuing free throw.

Basalt junior Elias Schendler takes a shot against Aspen in Glenwood Springs on Wednesday.
Jaymin Kanzer/For the Aspen Times

“It’s a rivalry game, and it’s a little more personal than any other game we play,” Loomis said. “I take it to heart when we play teams like (Roaring) Fork and Aspen.”

Basalt entered the half with a 26-point lead, but the real test was whether they could hold it. 

“We have been starting out strong in all three games,” Basalt head coach Clinton Hunter said. “But after the start, there is a dip, and that was our focus today. We have to keep up that level of intensity and intentionality throughout the second half, and we were able to do that today.”

The Skiers came out of the locker room revitalized, putting up more points in the third quarter then they managed in the first half, but the Longhorns’ defense down the stretch was too much to overcome. 

“They played with great focus tonight,” Hunter said. “We had a lot of guys get a lot of minutes, which helped keep guys fresh. When you’re able to do that, it allows your guys to stay fresh and play hard when they are on the floor.”

The Longhorns improve to 1-2 after dropping their first two games. Basalt’s offense has been firing on all cylinders all season. The 59 points in Wednesday’s victory were the fewest they have scored all season. They put up 66 points against Palisade but fell just short. Hunter and Loomis both think this will be the kick the Longhorns need to turn their season around. 

Basalt basketball goes over a play in Glenwood Springs on Wednesday.
Jaymin Kanzer/For the Aspen Times

“We did a lot of good things in the two games we lost,” Hunter said. “It’s only Dec. 6, and every team wants to put together their best 32 minutes. We’re one step closer tonight.”

“This is the spark we needed,” Loomis said. “Beating a high-quality team like Aspen in that fashion is really good.”

The Skiers fall to 2-1 on the season after two dominating victories to start the 2023-’24 campaign. The Skiers have a quick turnaround and the chance to put the loss behind them. The Demon Invitational continues Thursday as the Skiers take on the Conifer Lobos. 

“In a game like that, there is so much to learn,” Aspen head coach Cory Parker said. “It’s a huge gut check to our guys. We’ll go back to the drawing board. We have another game tomorrow, so we have to have a short-term memory. We’ll come back and execute, practice on Friday, and execute again on Saturday.”

On the Fly: Stay stealthy and subtle out there

As we ease in to winter fishing conditions here in the Rocky Mountain, fishing with stealth becomes all-important. Low and clear water tends to accentuate our movements and disturbances we “telegraph” across the water. Trout are at their most paranoid state in the winter, considering the pressure from eagles, herons, and pesky anglers like you and I.

Stealth requires slow movement, dressing in drab colors, and disturbing the water as little as possible. We all see anglers standing right in the middle of the trout zone out there; these fish are typically better approached from shore. Hitting the fish in the head with your flies doesn’t help, either. Try to get those flies in the water upstream of the fish without spooking it and drift them right into the trout’s “window” of vision.

Minding your shadow is super-important during fall and winter, too. If you are facing the sun, generally your shadow will be away from the water. The slap of your fly line on the water is accentuated during low and clear water conditions, as well, so be mindful of where your line is in relation to the fish you are pursuing. Another issue I see quite often is anglers who cast too far upstream, which tends to scatter every fish in that zone. Focusing on short and sweet perfect drifts to fish you can see actively feeding should cut down on the “hero casting” we can all be guilty of doing out there.

Most importantly, trout tend to sense when we anglers get into a rhythm with our cast, and this puts them off their tea. When we cast over and over again, trout tend to take notice and head to another county until the coast clears. The most successful low-water anglers cast the least – and make those shots count when the fish is in the right mood and caught unawares.

Stay stealthy and subtle out there, and you’ll have a lot of fun this fall and winter!

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or TaylorCreek.com.

Calling all boarders and skiers: Sunlight Mountain ushers in opening day on Friday

Skiers and snowboarders are gearing up for the opening day at Sunlight Mountain Ski Resort on Friday. The resort will kick off the season with only the Tercero Lift and Midway, a beginner-friendly green run.

“We got a really good base from our last storm, which gave us close to about 15 inches,” said Sunlight Marketing Director Matt Ericksen. “It looks like Mother Nature is reloading for this upcoming weekend, so we are excited for that next one-two punch, so that we can open up more terrain.”

He said Friday’s opening won’t provide the typical skiing experience that riders can expect later in the season but will serve as a “a good warm-up lap to kick start the season and get some people strapped into their boots.”

Opening day festivities extend beyond skiing. Visitors can expect giveaways, a special banner for the first chair lift, and live music, creating a lively atmosphere for the season’s start.

A notable addition this year is a snow stake at the mountain’s peak, a tribute to Sunlight Mountain’s history. While the stake will be used to measure snow, its unique 2k live viewing video will allow viewers to get a first-hand look at the snow falling down. Those wishing to get a look can do so at the Sunlight Mountain website.

The top of the Primo chairlift awaits its opening at Sunlight Mountain.

“We wanted to pay homage to the Segundo lift, and we figured this would be an awesome way to do it,” Ericksen said.

This innovative feature, inspired by the iconic Segundo lift towers in use since 1954, also provides live snowfall updates through the resort’s website.

The replacement of the Segundo lift at season’s end signifies the resort’s commitment to modernization while honoring its past. The new snow stake stands as a symbol of this balance, according to Ericksen.

With plans for more terrain opening soon, although no time table officially set, he is hopeful to see the mountain open more of its 72 trails in the coming weeks.

“We just need a couple of good storm cycles to come through and we should be able to open up more,” he said.

The mountain’s first lift will send skiers and snowboarders alike to the top of the Tercero Lift starting at 9 a.m. on Friday.

Those interested in purchasing tickets and passes or renting gear can do so at sunlightmtn.com, as well as in-person.

What Colorado ski resort saw the most snow from this weekend’s storm?

December and winter arrived with a bang in Colorado.

The fluffy stuff just kept coming all weekend long, shutting down Vail Pass and Rabbit Ears Pass near Steamboat Springs, causing accidents on roadways across the mountains, and canceling all three days of World Cup competitions at Beaver Creek.

The powder also piled up at ski resorts, drawing crowds despite poor visibility. 

Here’s how the snow stacked up at mountains across the state as of Monday morning, according to OpenSnow.com.

Storm totals

Steamboat Resort – 33″
Winter Park Resort – 26″
Copper Mountain Resort – 23″
Vail Mountain – 22″
Breckenridge Ski Resort – 21″
Keystone Resort – 15″
Loveland Ski Area – 14″
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area – 12″
Beaver Creek – 11″
Aspen Highlands – 11″
Aspen Mountain – 11″
Buttermilk – 11″
Snowmass – 11″