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The eternal Vail question: What would Jesus do (on a powder day)?
Sorry to tease you, but this photo was taken at Beaver Creek on Valentine's Day, so it's been a while since we've seen similar scenes. Snow is in the forecast all week, but not a lot of it.
Courtesy of Vail Resorts 

The eternal Vail question: What would Jesus do (on a powder day)?

By David O. Williams

February 23, 2009 —  Anybody who knows me very well knows I'm not a deeply religious guy, unless the form of worship is deep snow and the church is in the Back Bowls of Vail. Then I'm a zealot.

But years ago my wife and I started semi-regularly attending Mount of the Holy Cross Lutheran Church at the Vail Interfaith Chapel because we wanted to connect with the community a little better and at least give our kids the option of attending church.

Right away Pastor Carl Walker converted me into a more regular
churchgoer with his laidback style, intelligent and dispassionate consideration of contemporary issues, practical approach to problems and clear love of all things outdoors.

You were just as likely to run into him skiing at the Vail Nordic Center or climbing a local mountain -- places I tend to seek out for most of my inspiration -- as in church on Sunday. So I was a little nervous when he retired last summer.

Would we get a fire-and-brimstone pastor who frowned on his flock showing up on Sundays in ski clothes, one eye on the fat flakes falling outside the window?

We got our answer Sunday when the new pastor, Rev. Scott Beebe,
debuted with the sermon "A Glimpse Through the Veil," in which he asked if any of us had experienced a moment when God briefly lifts the veil between heaven and earth and gives us a glimpse.

It could be standing at the top of a favorite ski run when suddenly the view staggers you, holding your new-born child for the first time, or sharing some mind-blowing moment with someone you love.

I looked over at my wife in the pew and we both laughed under our breath. She knew. I've experienced dozens of those moments, some of them actually with her.

Reaching the peak of a fourteener in snowstorm; skiing a steep pitch loaded with powder in the Rockies, Alps or via helicopter in the Chugach Range of Alaska; seeing the clouds peel off Denali or a grizzly in the wild during a week backpacking in the bush; or successfully rafting or kayaking a stretch of river I had no business not swimming.

Increasingly I'm sharing those moments, albeit in much more sedate forms, with my three boys, which works well since I'm getting older and more sedate myself.

So it was heartening to hear the new pastor make an analogy to skiing in the first few lines of his first sermon, and to then quote a French mountain climber later on (supposedly the pastor himself has climbed all 54 of the state's 14,000-foot peaks).

Now on the same topic of skiing as religion, everyone is officially encouraged to pull out all the pagan stops to get this winter back on track. Snow dances, small sacrifices to the snow gods, or even going to the extreme of washing your car.

Because February has been a bit stingy with the powder days, lagging far behind December and January for the sheer volume of freshies.

Last week forecasters were calling for 16 new and we got 10, which was enough to soften things up a bit, but nothing that would require a snorkel or any other sort of breathing apparatus.

This week snow (up high) and rain (down low) are in the forecast basically through the weekend, but we're looking at mostly light accumulations and somewhat warm temps. Of course, when the forecasters call for flurries, that's when we usually get nailed.

I woke up Monday morning to a trace of new snow and it was snowing fairly steadily as I wrote this at 9 a.m., so who knows, maybe Tuesday will be one of those classic midweek powder days.

I'm not holding my breath, though, but I would consider it a minor miracle if this winter got back on its previous pace and finished as strong as last season. If the new pastor brings that kind of mojo, then I'm really in his camp (OK, I'm in his camp anyway after that first sermon ... welcome to town, Scott, from!).

And speaking of miracles, Chesley Sullenberger, the "Miracle on the Hudson" pilot who so deftly landed his airliner on the Hudson River last month, saving everyone on board, was reportedly staying at the Tivoli Lodge in Vail over the weekend.

Figures he's a skier. Only skiers are possessed of such steely nerves. Way to go. Hope you enjoyed your well-deserved vacation in Vail.



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