Where was Summit County’s biggest eclipse party? Mid-mountain at A-Basin, of course
August 21, 2017
They came armed with cereal boxes, welding masks, binoculars aimed backwards at sheets of paper. At least one crafty soul brought a leafy tree branch. Another strapped half-a-dozen sunglasses together as an improvised camera filter.
In threes and fours, they trundled up the Black Mountain Express lift at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area on Monday morning, homespun viewing devices in hand, to catch a shadow of a glimpse of the Great American Eclipse.
Bob McGowen of Falmouth, Massachusetts, was a prominent sight on the patio of the Black Mountain Lodge, hoisting a 5-foot long cardboard box he had fashioned into a pinhole viewer.
"I looked all over for eclipse glasses, but everywhere was out," he said. "I figured there would be at least a few people who I could barter with for a quick look into theirs."
Given the shortage of eclipse glasses across Summit County — most suppliers ran out weeks ago — you'd think the lucky bunch that had them would guard them jealously.
Not so. Most were happy to pass around their coveted cardboard glasses for a quick view of the sun as it is so rarely seen: first a perfect disc in the sky, then a crescent, then a fingernail-like sliver.
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The last time the entire lower 48 got such a view, in 1918, Woodrow Wilson was president and World War I was four months from ending.
The next total eclipse didn't come to the U.S. until 1979, although it didn't make such an impressive streak across the country.
An event so rare is hard to plan for.
"We were thinking, 'Are we going to get 10 people or 10,000?'" said A-Basin's marketing director, Leigh Hierholzer. "It was hard to predict. This is a once- or twice-in-a-lifetime event."
Hailey and Avery Russer, 9 and 7 years old, now have a good shot of getting even more chances than that. They sat with their parents, Brad and Maja Russer of Silverthorne, eagerly watching the eclipse through welding lenses taped to cardboard.
Brad and Maja used Citradelic and Voodoo Ranger IPA six-pack containers.
"I had a plethora of these in the recycling, so I thought, 'Why not make some beer goggles?" Brad quipped.
(They decided LaCroix was more appropriate for the kids).
By 11:30 a.m., 15 minutes or so before the eclipse's peak, roughly 1,000 people had taken the chairlift up to mid-mountain, by A-Basin's estimate.
Why did they make the trip? The answer was almost always the same:
"They said they were having a party!"
The shadow of the moon grew, and along with it the beer line. An odd twilight set in, not quite morning and not quite evening. People looked up through glasses, boxes or masks, blind to everything but the pale orange sliver above.
Hovering above the Continental Divide, the eclipse reached roughly 90 percent totality. Since the sun was never fully blotted out, it wasn't clear when the cosmic dance reached its zenith.
People looked around. "Is this the peak?"
Soon though, a cheer echoed out from somewhere and grew, rippling across the grassy slopes for a short moment.
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