Sunrise service on Vail Mountain returns for Easter
The multi-denominational service will take place at Eagle’s Nest on Sunday morning after a two-year hiatus
There are few better places to celebrate new life than the top of a mountain at sunrise. This Easter Sunday, community members are invited to do just that with the return of the Sunrise Mountaintop Community Worship Service from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. at Eagle’s Nest on Vail Mountain.
The mountaintop service is a tradition that has spanned over three decades at Vail, and is returning for the first time after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Easter service will include a sermon and live music, followed by a slopeside “Passing of the Peace” at the Simonton Deck and Mount of the Holy Cross overlook. Coffee and hot chocolate will be served at the gathering.
The service takes place at the top floor restaurant space of Eagle’s Nest. The Eagle Bahn Gondola in Lionshead will open at 6 a.m. for foot traffic only — no skis — leading up to the service. The town of Vail also makes free parking available in the Lionshead parking structure for all attending, provided they leave the structure by 10:30 a.m. and show a copy of the service program when leaving the structure.
The sermon is co-led by Rev. Ethan Moore of Trinity Church and Rev. Brooks Keith of the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration. Keith emphasized that the service is inclusive of all denominations and beliefs, and regularly draws around 500 people each year.
“This is one of those wonderful events when all the denominational lines come down, and people from very different traditions gather together in unity,” Keith said. “This gathering is all about what we celebrate in common, which is the resurrection and hope of Jesus Christ.”
“This is just one of those super special days of the year,” Moore said. “Gathering there at the gondola, everybody’s there for the same reason: Happy Easter, Christ is risen. People from so many different churches, people from out of town — it’s the sense that we’re all part of something that’s bigger than just our own little world.”
Moore and Keith have been leading the mountaintop service together for 18 years. Moore is a Baptist and Keith an Episcopalian, and by co-leading the sermon Keith said that they aim to communicate the unity and inclusivity of the Easter message.
“Ethan elevates me as a pastor. We are brothers and good friends,” Keith said. “When we don’t see eye to eye on small things, we always see eye to eye on big things, which is the whole story of the Vail Valley, frankly, especially in a time of division. We have always modeled unity and respect.”
The theme of this year’s sermon is “Unity and New Life,” a message that Moore believes is more important than ever in the wake of the global pandemic.
“When we talk about new life, the Easter message is about way, way more than going to heaven when you die,” Moore said. “New life isn’t something that will happen in heaven. New life is right now. When we talk about new life, we mean a new way of seeing the person across the room from you. Even the person you may politically disagree with — they may sleep in their mask, and maybe you never wanted to wear a mask – but because of new life, that person is valuable and precious to me because they are valuable and precious to God.”
In a world that has been wracked by death and disease for over two years, Keith said that the Easter message of resurrection provides a beacon of hope for all.
“For Christians, the tomb is empty, meaning the man who was buried there we know, and believe, is no longer there. It’s an empty tomb, so my heart gets to be full,” Keith said. “I’m experiencing a world, these past two years, where people’s hearts are empty and the tombs are full, and Christians have it exactly the other way around.”
A multi-piece band from Trinity Church will lead the service in song as the sun rises over the mountain peaks. Over the years, Keith said that the service has become an important touch point for community members, and the site of many life-changing events.
“We’ve had people announce pregnancies, we’ve had people become engaged, we’ve had some healing and reconciliation at that service — a whole lot happens up there. It’s really a beautiful thing,” Keith said.
He and Moore both expressed how deeply they mourned the loss of the past two services, and how much they look forward to gathering the community together to celebrate new life on the mountain once again.
What: Sunrise Mountaintop Community Worship Service
When: 6:30 – 7:30 a.m.
Where: Eagle’s Nest, Vail Mountain
How to get there: Free parking at Lionshead parking garage, Eagle Bahn Gondola opens for foot traffic at 6 a.m.