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‘Ski for Sisu’ fundraiser epitomizes the Spring Gulch spirit

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By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff Writer

Dust off your historically inaccurate horned helmets and grab your cross-country skis; “Ski for Sisu” returns to Spring Gulch on Feb. 5. 
The 25th annual noncompetitive family event runs from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. with refreshments, Norse costumes, a silent auction and short course for youngsters. A minimum donation of $15 for individuals or a family supports the Spring Gulch cross-country trail system. 
The name “Sisu” is the legacy of the late Paul Lappala, one of the pivotal figures in the founding of the community cross-country ski area 30 years ago. “Sisu” is perhaps best translated as stoic – “kind of that resilience and grit and determination that’s supposed to embody the Finnish spirit,” explained Mt. Sopris Nordic Council board member John Armstrong. 
He also views the event and the trails it supports as a reflection of the local spirit. 
“It’s a pretty big cooperative effort – part of that volunteer energy that makes Carbondale so special,” he said. 
The free ski area operates on land owned by the North Thompson Cattlemen’s Association for summer grazing. It offers about 21 kilometers of trail, with several loops for different ability levels specially staked out for Sunday’s event. 
“It’s something for everybody,” Armstrong observed. “You see the whole range of demographics, from real elite Nordic skiers flying by to someone in jeans with their kids, and everybody’s smiling.”
The event usually draws upwards of 100 people, which allows for plenty of socializing at the base but leaves room for solitude out in the snow. 
“It’s really burgeoned over the years, even in the last four or five, but there can be 70 cars in the parking lot and then you hit the trail and you hardly see anybody,” Armstrong observed.
Carpooling is recommended due to limited parking – one of the issues that the fundraiser may help address. 
“We’ve got the trails pretty dialed in, so we really want to concentrate on improving the parking lot and the access,” Armstrong noted. 
There’s also the ongoing expenses of equipment and grooming. 
“It costs us about $500 a day to operate the ski area,” he added. “It’s a substantial investment.”
You can also donate through the website,, but participation is ideal. 
“We hope people can come out and support it and just have fun,” Armstrong said. “I think it’s really one of the gems on the Western Slope. It’s so close to Carbondale, but you get up there and it’s really high quality Nordic skiing.”
To get there, go west through the Carbondale roundabout and continue six miles on Thompson Creek Road. And don’t let the fact that it’s Super Bowl Sunday discourage you. 
“We do it early enough so that you can get down and see the Patriots win,” Armstrong quipped.

Published in The Sopris Sun on Feb. 2, 2017. 

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