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April 17, 2013
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Calling on the snow dance in Vail

When Suzy Chaffee was in Vail last week, she asked Mother Earth to grant us some snowblessings.

Between Saturday and Monday, we received more than 2 feet of snowblessings. On Wednesday, we were blessed with another foot or so with more snowblessings in the forecast this week.

We're just sayin'.

"It's an incredible solution that seems to be working to extend snowsports and water for crops and drinking," Chaffee said.

The world is Chaffee's dance partner. Don't believe it? Check out the video of her snow dancing in Vail.

"When the snow is that joyful it makes it easy to dance," she said.

Chaffee has been front and center with the Native American Olympic Team Foundation, creating Olympic opportunities for Native American youth.

She says regenerating the earth will require a combination of new technology and ancient wisdom, especially through the tribes.

The Ancient Wisdom part of the equation is affordable for any ski area. The Native American Olympic Team Foundation launched a series of Gratitude Snowdances across America.

"We're starting with some green trendsetters who wanted to ensure their grandchildren can enjoy our beloved snowsports," Chaffee said.

Sandy Liman runs Washington's Ski the Loup. He and Chaffee grew up ski racing together, so he brought her to the Loup for a ceremony with the Coville tribe. That led them to Sun Valley with the Shoshone, Snowbird with the Northern Utes, and Telluride.

Wherever she was involved with Gratitude Snowdances, it snowed.

So it should surprise no one that in Chaffee's wake some major snowblessings landed on Colorado and Utah this week.

Again, we're just sayin'.

Chaffee points out that in 2009, 192 countries recognized that "Mother Earth is a phenomenally wise, compassionate, sensitive being."

"That's why the Elders taught me and ski communities to say, 'Thank you, Mother Earth, when it snows or rains,' since she responds even more generously than people," Chaffee said.

Liman skied for the University of Colorado from 1962-67.

"I've been around Vail since it was hatched," he said.

He remembered Vail's Southern Ute snowdance in December 1963, when the fledgling ski area's second ski season was starting as dry as the first.

Bob Parker, Vail's vice president and original marketing director, contacted the Southern Ute tribe and convinced them to come to Vail to do a snow dance.

Actually, it was a rain dance, but it worked.

They told Parker it would snow on Dec. 18, 1963. On that day, Vail received 2 feet of snowblessings.

"They may have powers we don't have," Parker said.

Chaffee came up to help bless their mountains in Ski the Loup, a small nonprofit ski area in Washington state. They don't make snow, so they need all the snowblessings they can get.

"I just think, 'Why not? What can it hurt?'" Liman said.

And it's always good to express a little gratitude.

"When you're skiing in great snow, it's a spiritual experience," Liman said.

Liman was convinced enough that he and Chaffee took her show on the road for the Snowdance Intervention Tour, driving to Western ski areas in his 50-mpg VW Golf clean diesel.

Chaffee says it makes sense at so many levels: extending snow for snowsports, snowmelt for nature and our drinking water and food supply.

Tom Jankovsky, general manager of Glenwood's Ski Sunlight, shares snowsports with 500 Northern Utes each season. Sunlight was part of the snowdances led by Southern Ute Elders Eddy and Betty Box.

"That helped inspire up to 12 feet of snowblessing in the Rockies - especially to those sharing the skiing," Chaffee said.

Hey, we're just sayin'.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Apr 17, 2013 07:18PM Published Apr 17, 2013 06:01PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.