Legendary ski patroller leaves behind void in Breckenridge
summit daily news
For longtime Breckenridge residents, the loss of their friend Jim Rogers came as a stunning, shocking blow.
“There’s really a void up here without him,” said CJ Mueller of Breckenridge, one of Rogers’ longtime friends. “It’s a big hole for the old timers.”
Rogers, 70, was killed in a head-on collision near Hutchinson, Kan., June 20, according to the Hutchinson News. Before returning to Kansas at the beginning of the year, he had lived in Breckenridge for 40 years and was a fixture on the mountain and in the community.
“It’s been hard, the idea that he was here for so long and now he’s gone,” Mueller said. “I think he just loved Breck and the mountains. It just felt like home to him.”
Rogers’ and Mueller’s mutual history goes back quite a ways. Mueller said he worked with Rogers on one of the first renovations to Breckenridge’s Main Street relocating water mains; that project began in 1973, according to the Breckenridge Public Works Department. Rogers and Mueller were also roommates in an old apartment complex on Main Street. Mueller said Rogers’ sharp memory of those early days was one of the things he was going to miss the most.
“It seemed like he remembered everybody and everything that happened in this town,” Mueller said.
And there was a lot for Rogers to remember. Kevin Ahern, director of the Breckenridge Ski Patrol, said Rogers started working for the ski area in 1969, first as a lift operator and then as part of the patrol. Former patroller Rick Sramek said Rogers was his “somewhat reluctant and impatient mentor” when he joined the patrol in 1973.
“He was a very knowledgeable guy,” Sramek said. “If you asked for help, he was always willing to help.”
Sramek said Rogers had a bit of a prickly exterior and took a while to open up to people. This meant they had to work to call him by his nickname.
“Not everyone could call him Jingles, and nobody called him Jim,” Sramek said. “He always introduced himself as ‘James D. Rogers.'”
The origin of ‘Jingles’ is somewhat of a mystery among Rogers’ friends. The best explanation comes from the Hutchinson News story, which says the moniker came from his rather distinctive facial hair.
“With his white hair and beard, he looked like Santa Claus. Everyone called him Jingles,” Rogers’ niece, Tamlyn Jo Hoppes, said in the story.
Sramek said the one group of people Rogers got along easily with was kids.
“Jingles could be gruff, but with children he was wonderful,” he said. Sramek said Rogers even played Santa Claus for the kids of many local families.
Rogers had another passion during his lengthy tenure in Breckenridge: The ski patrol. Sramek and Mueller both said Rogers took great pride in his job and took the responsibility of it very seriously. The patrol was also the setting for some of Rogers’ best stories.
Mueller said he was skiing in Breck during one of Rogers early years on patrol when he slid out and crashed at the top of Springmeir.
“I was worried I’d ripped my head off,” Mueller said. Rogers had seen the crash from the top of the old Chair 5 and was getting ready to race down when Mueller called out to him.
“Jingles! Call the patrol!” Mueller said. Then he looked at himself and realized he was probably OK. “Never mind!” he said. Rogers went down anyway to make sure Mueller was all right.
Sramek said one of Rogers’ best words of wisdom came from their early years on patrol together. During Sramek’s first season in the winter of 1973, the two of them were working on Christmas morning and were heading to the old No. 1 lift.
“Merry Christmas Jingles!” Sramek said in keeping with the season.
“Rick, it’s just another (friggin’) day,” Rogers replied.
Rogers eventually became somewhat of a mountain celebrity, gaining fame in parts of Summit County beyond Breckenridge.
“He was well known throughout the ski patrols within the state,” Ahern said. “Anytime you went to visit another ski resort the patrol would always ask how Jingles was doing.”
Breckenridge town councilmember Jeffrey Bergeron, who knew Rogers from his years on the mountain, agreed. He added Rogers was a big part of the mountain culture
“People like him lend character to our community,” Bergeron said.
Rogers’ friends are still figuring out what to do now that he’s gone.
“I was thinking of him earlier today,” CJ Mueller said after skiing down Mt. Baldy on Monday morning.
Rick Sramek said it was hard to come to grips with the fact he wouldn’t see Rogers again.
“It’s saddening to think of someone in the past tense,” he said. “He was one of those personalities that enriched the fabric of your life.”
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