‘Blessed’ Sunlight opens for season | AspenTimes.com

‘Blessed’ Sunlight opens for season

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

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GLENWOOD SPRINGS – It was 4 degrees below zero at 8:50 a.m. Friday in the parking lot at Sunlight Mountain Resort as Ira Jaffrey strapped into his ski boots.

“I didn’t want to miss an opening day,” he said, his breath white against the crisp morning sky.

The negative temperatures were not nearly cold enough to keep die-hard winter sport enthusiasts and Sunlight lovers from the mountain on its opening day for the 2009-2010 season. About a dozen cars were in the parking lot before 9 a.m., when the lifts started running.

“It’s a beautiful day. Colorado blue sky. My favorite resort. It’s easy to get to, and the snow is magnificent,” Jaffrey said.

Magnificent may have been a bit of an exaggeration. However, according to Jaffrey, the conditions are fine just as long as the lifts are running.

It takes more than negative temperatures to keep Jaffrey, 69, inside on opening day.

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“Nope, I’m tough,” he said. “I hunt in this weather all the time. It’s what the elk like. It’s what I like.”

Jaffrey was hoping to make the first chair of the season Friday. And he most likely would have if his boots would have cooperated – and if this pesky newspaper reporter wasn’t asking him questions.

“I would like to,” he said about making first chair. “But, I’ll manage to survive if I get the second one.”

While Jaffrey didn’t get to ride the inaugural chair to the top of Compass Mountain this year, three Rifle High School students got the honors.

Mitchell Kuheim, 16, Daelyn Quincy, 16, and James Whitehead, 16, were the first in line and rode the first chair shortly after Rev. Harrison Heidel of Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church performed a blessing on the mountain.

“I’ve blessed all sorts of things,” Heidel said.

He said that he’s blessed everything from animals to busses, towns for fishing, and everything in between.

“It’s the fun part of the job,” he said.

A small group gathered at the Tercero Lift, at the bottom of Sunlight, where Heidel did the blessing. He offered a blessing for the snow, the Sunlight staff, the people who come to ski.

“And don’t forget to have a good time,” he added. “That’s why folks are here.”

That was definitely why Kuheim, Quincy and Whitehead went to Sunlight on Friday.

“Opening day,” Kuheim said. “It’s a little cold, but who cares.”

And away they went, to the top of the mountain, another season begun at Sunlight.

“We were pleased with the turnout for sure,” said Sunlight Marketing Manager Dylan Lewis. “There were people here to brave the cold and make some nice turns.”

He said that the people were pleasantly surprised with the conditions. Lewis said that the mountain could receive some snow this weekend from a storm brewing to the west.

“If we get more snow, we could open more terrain by Sunday or Monday,” he said.

jgardner@postindependent.com