As the bright leaves of autumn turn brown and crispy in the frost and delightful piles of powdery snow sweep up to our doors, we turn our thoughts from the hustle and bustle of the start of the school year, and from the spooky excitement of Halloween, to the winter season and its special holidays. Storefront displays of turkeys, trees and garlands herald the advent of Thanksgiving and Christmas — times of year that bring twinges of nostalgia and moments of thankfulness for the people and possessions we are fortunate to have in our lives.
Here in the High Country, it seems we have even more to be thankful for. Why else do thousands of tourists flock to our towns every year, braving crowded airports and snowy roads, just for the privilege of walking our streets and skiing our slopes? But it’s more than that, which is why so many decide to stay and make Summit County their home.
This winter season, we’ve decided to focus on four aspects of Summit County we’re especially grateful for and, frankly, couldn’t live without — the outdoors, community, local generosity and the arts.
Let’s start with the obvious. In any season, Summit County abounds with opportunities to explore and experience the great outdoors, from the snowy ski slopes to the twisting biking and hiking trails. Those breathtaking views of the Tenmile and Gore ranges are one in a million.
Frisco Adventure Park manager Jon Zdechlik knows this as much as anyone else. Lately, he’s been spending all of his time at the park, making sure its slopes are snowy and ready for winter adventurers.
“It’s such a special place,” he said of Summit County. “I drive into the Adventure Park every morning, and I always stop on the first corner because the views are just killer and I’m just thankful that I live in such an incredible environment. I’m blessed that this is where I go to work every day. … I couldn’t be more thankful for that. It’s spectacular.”
A highly changeable population doesn’t keep Summit County from having a close-knit sense of community. This shows itself in the wide variety of groups one can join, from sports and hobby circles to book clubs, support groups and more. One of those groups is BreckMoms, which creates a community among Summit County mothers. Founder Erin Opsahl had this to say about the sense of community in the county:
“First, Summit County, as a whole, truly is a community. We have so many families from different backgrounds and walks of life, and when we come together, whether it is in person or online, we support each other. As diverse as we are, we have much in common. I have been able to witness strangers become friends and an often overwhelming flood of encouragement and support for any need that is shared. To live or even spend any amount of time in an area that cares about one another is something to be thankful for.
“Something that continues to amaze me is the many opportunities there are in Summit County to make a difference in the world around us. Regardless of your interests and talents, there is always a way to get involved and help others. This is truly a place where you can be known for who you are and where your voice not only matters — it is heard. We can all ‘be the change,’ and for that, I am thankful.”
Summit County may not be all that big in size, but it is home to more than a hundred different nonprofit and charity organizations. Some are organizations with national reach, and others focus specifically on small groups within the area. Every week brings more fundraisers and festivals, with benefits going not only to the nonprofit organizations but, more often than not, local individuals struggling with unexpected medical bills or other crises.
“I think just the generosity of people in this community is really amazing,” said Anita Overmeyer, development director of the Family & Intercultural Resource Center (FIRC), a local nonprofit. “I really think that everyone looks out for each other, and I think a lot of this is seen with the Summit County Cares fundraiser that we have. It’s that fundraiser specifically (directed) toward helping locals when they’re in their biggest time of crisis. The fact that the fundraiser has continued to grow every year — it raised $60,000 last year — it just shows that people want to be there for their neighbors. Everyone always seems like they want to help, they want to improve this community one way or another. I really think it’s special.”
While the natural views around Summit County are undoubtedly stunning, plenty of gorgeous views can be found inside the county’s numerous art galleries, as well. Anything from watercolors, oils and acrylics to photography can be found hanging on the walls at a number of locations around Summit, all accompanied by displays of locally handmade jewelry, pottery, textiles and more.
“I’m thankful for the community of artists we have; we have a wonderful community of artists. That, to me, is the key thing, people are involved, and … to me, that’s really cool,” said Todd Powell, a local photographer. Powell is also a member of the Arts Alive Gallery in Breckenridge, a cooperative effort among 40 local artists. “I’m also thankful that people support the arts here; that’s as much a part of it, too. The locals and our visitors and our second homeowners — they are very supportive of my own endeavors, the Arts Alive endeavors, as well as all of it.”
Summit County is also home to two theaters — Backstage Theatre in Breckenridge and Lake Dillon Theatre Company in Dillon — that provide the community with award-winning productions by actors and directors from all over the country.
“Without our thriving local arts scene, Summit County would be less vibrant, less exciting and less prosperous,” wrote Mari Geasair, development director for the Lake Dillon Theatre Company. “The arts are a natural complement to the active lifestyle of our community. Creative and cultural offerings benefit us all— both socially and economically.”
Fans of music can also spend an evening swept away by sound by any of a number of locally based groups, including the National Repertory Orchestra, Summit Community Orchestra, Summit Choral Society and more.
Whatever your passion, whether it’s exploring the beauty of the outdoors, making friends and supporting the community or soaking in art and culture, Summit County will find a way to feed it.