Resident calls on Skico to support American Indians | AspenTimes.com

Resident calls on Skico to support American Indians

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen resident Suzy Chaffee and the Native Voices Foundation are working with ski area operators to ensure that American Indians are welcomed back to their native lands, even if the land has turned into ritzy ski slopes.

Chaffee, a former Olympian, said several ski areas in Colorado, including Telluride, Vail and Steamboat Springs, annually give an average of 120 lift tickets to American Indians visiting their homelands.

She said that while Aspen invites a group of Tibetan Monks each year to do blessings in the area, the Aspen Skiing Co. should consider “appreciating the indigenous people in our own back yard.”

Chaffee said the programs work on several levels: educating the public about the first people that took care of the mountains, and giving young American Indians the opportunity to experience skiing. Ute Indians once lived throughout this area and much of Colorado, and several Utes visited Aspen during January’s Wintersköl festival as honored guests.

“By including Native Americans, we give them grassroots opportunities to be a part of this area, and they do ceremonies and education gathering at ski areas,” Chaffee said. “They demonstrate stewardship of the land, and remind us all about our own Earth-honoring roots.”

In Utah, resorts including Deer Valley, Snow Basin and Park City have gotten involved in the program, embracing American Indians as cultural resources.

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At Telluride, Navajo Indians from Arizona were once invited to take part in a skiing program, since the reservation is not far from the resort.

“The more you learn about them, the more you see how important it is to be inclusive of them for the future abundance of our planet,” Chaffee said. “Aspen should also be a model for this type of program. It should be a prototype for the world.”