HOMECOMING HEROES IN ASPEN
January 21, 2004
Northern Ute dancers/skiers hugging the Toyota Hybrid Prius, the "Greenmobile," at the end of Aspen's Winterskol Parade. "Good for Mother Earth!"
The Northern Ute Tribe was treated like homecoming heroes during Aspen's Winterskol Parade and Sunlight's Ute Cultural event (near Glenwood) during the Martin Luther King weekend - a dream come true for the First Americans! "Skiers yelled to us on the chairlift 'Great job. Thank you for the snow,'" said James Martinez, one of Aspen's Ute Olympic Torch carriers. The two ski areas, instructors, as well as Aspen's ski lodges, restaurants, supermarkets, and recreation center rolled out the red carpets. That sentiment echoed down the Roaring Fork Valley from Aspen to Rifle (75 miles), where the Fireside Restaurant treated them to a farewell feast.
Aspen's John Hembel, "The Fastest Man on Skis" (153mph) in 2003, and Olympian Danny Paterson were on hand at the parade and Snowmass' Fanny Hill to cheer on the 17 Northern Ute kids, some dancing stars of the Utah Opening Ceremonies. At Sunlight, 10 year olds Reneesa Ridley and Torrance Miller performed 360's, on their 7th day of skiing, for World Freestyle Champion Suzy Chaffee, who was proudly watching from the lodge, side-lined following a successful hip replacement at Methodist Hospital in Minneapolis.
The fun Ute Ski Elder, Loya Cesspooch Arrum, led a Gratitude Prayer to Creator at Snowmass on Sunday, which inspired some tears of joy for the 10-plus feet of early snow that most of the Colorado ski areas (especially Aspen, Sunlight and Steamboat) were blessed with following the "Thank you Snowdance" at Denver's SnowSports Expo in November. The Utes and Denver Indians, led by Eddie Box Jr, a Southern Ute Traditional Elder, performed the snowdance in appreciation to six Colorado resorts sharing skiing with them over the last eight years.
Co-chair of Native American Olympic Team Foundation and event organizer, Chaffee wanted to be with the kids in the Parade, so Shayne Morgan Sledge gave "Suzy Chapstick" a ride in her Toyota Hybrid Prius, which Chaffee dubbed the "Greenmobile." Both hoped to advance better guardianship of the Ute ancestral homeland through cleaner air and delay global warming, by bringing attention to Aspen's free parking opportunities for Prius drivers. "Hopefully this will accelerate the trend, since Aspen Ski Company has won the most 'Golden Eagle Environmental Awards,' using wind energy for some lifts and vegetable diesel fuel for its snowcats. Carbondale's Catherine Store just started selling veggie oil, clean burning fuel for biodiesals, (like the Volkswagen Jetta) - also solutions for farmers and world peace," said Chaffee, who was related to the late Senator John Chafee, who wrote the Clean Air Act.
The Roaring Fork Valley was also honored to have Loya's friend, Woody Vaspra, President of the World Council of Elders, share his Hawaiian prayer song at the Sunlight event. Following three days of beautiful sunny skiing and cultural events, thanks to the Great Spirit, (feathers and snow/rain don't mix), it is now snowing again in the Aspen Valley!
Contact: Native American Olympic Team Foundation, 23 Upper Ranch Rd, Aspen, Co 81611, 970-922 5406, for more information or pictures: www.nativevoices.org