banishing the darkness as 2012 dawns

By Jim Stanford on January 4, 2012

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Warding off evil spirits.

The New Year’s Eve torchlight parade on Snow King has become a must tradition, part pagan solstice celebration, part night-skiing derby and part community rally.

2011 wound down with a carefully choreographed, if a little slow, procession of lights on Snow King, capped by a fireworks display. A familiar face was back to help lead the festivities: former Ski Area Manager Jim Sullivan.

With White Pine near Pinedale closed, Sullivan has returned as an instructor to the King’s ski school, where he began his career in 1973 under the tutelage of Bill Briggs. Sullivan is applying many of the precepts Briggs taught him as he guides clients, including a blind skier last week.

The torchlight parade on the King dates to the 1940s or ’50s, Sullivan says.

This year skiers used only the Cougar lift, owing to thin snowpack on the upper mountain. On a crisp but not punishingly cold night, Jupiter aligned in the sky beside a crescent moon. The roughly 100 participants split into two groups, with friends and members of the Jackson Hole Air Force forming a giant “H” atop the slope, a visual Auld Lang Syne in honor of the late Howard Henderson.

The procession of lights reaches the base of the hill.

A year ago, the roles were reversed: It was Howie, after Sullivan was let go by Snow King, who helped rally the troops to keep the tradition alive. Now Sullivan was back carrying the torch for the departed Howie. Life’s crazy like that.

(Photos by Sam Petri)

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Posted under Holidays, Religion, Ski Resorts, Sports

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