TELLURIDE – Frigid Friday night temperatures did not stop more than a hundred revelers from attending the inaugural lighting of the Telluride Ski Tree in Elks Park and ceremonial Ullr Ski Burn.
The festivities kicked off the second annual Holiday Prelude, Telluride’s early-yuletide festivities that continue through Sunday, Dec. 15.
The campfire flames drew attendees close in to the to the circular steel fire pit, clutching cups of hot chocolate from Telluride Ski and Golf Co. Despite the cold, everyone was smiling, swapping stories about the start of their ski season and expressing elation about the early-season heavy snowfalls.
Behind the revelers stood the silhouette of the ski tree, with its 300 skis forming the branches of the 12-ft. tall steel, wood and plastic structure, complete with a ski pole starburst resting atop this paean to the town’s main industry and to the holiday season.
No other town in Colorado has ever held a town-wide celebration to light a ski tree, Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser told the cheering crowd, its clapping muffled by omnipresent gloves and mittens.
“What a special occasion,” Fraser added, “to think that this tree came together so quickly…. A special thanks to master welder Anton Viditz-Ward for constructing this wonderful tree that represents so much of the Telluride spirit.”
After Fraser’s remarks, Holiday Prelude co-organizer Daiva Chesonis called up Ullr himself to preside over the ceremonial ski burn that petitions the ski gods for good snow throughout the winter.
A bearded Ullr emerged from the northeast corner of Elks Park, guided by sparkler-waving girls, and slowly made his way to Chesonis, who asked him to bless the 2013-2014 ski season with favorable conditions and happiness.
Ullr, a man of few words, kindly obliged before allowing the commencement of the ski burn. A dozen skis stood side by side, each bearing the name of a organizations like the Telluride Ski Resort, Ski Patrol, the Town of Telluride. The head honcho of each entity ceremoniously placed wooden skis in the fire, drawing cheers from the happy crowd.
Holiday Prelude co-organizer Ted Wilson stood on the sidelines, pleased with the results of the ceremony.
“The turnout was great; the ski tree is trending all over social media,” said Wilson, flashing hashtags on Instagram to prove his point.
“I bet you we’ll see copycats across ski country next year,” he added with a wide grin.
“The tree was a success this year. The enthusiasm is there to keep growing this ski tree celebration. Someone left a pair of old skis under the tree last night,” Wilson added.
“If people want to donate for next year’s tree, just leave your skis under the tree. I hope we can grow this tree bigger and bigger for years to come.”