The Geiger Counter: Ullr Fest brought the snow |

The Geiger Counter: Ullr Fest brought the snow

This December’s 57th annual Ullr Fest was a delight, and hopefully next year’s is just as fun.
Liz Copan /

Don’t know what to do this weekend? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Pull up a seat to the counter, and I’ll tell you about everything that’s hot and happening.

There are various activities going on in the coming days, but chances are most people are going to spend their waking hours skiing and riding on as much fresh snow as possible. If you’re the superstitious type, you may chalk up the good conditioners to last week’s successful Ullr Fest — Breckenridge’s annual festival to invoke the powers of the Norse god.

This was not only the first Ullr Fest I was finally able to attend, but it was also the first I judged. After picking up my clipboard and scoring sheet, I saddled over to Phil Lindeman with Krystal 93 and Leslie Ford of Always Mountain Time and the three of us watched the parade floats roll by Breckenridge’s Blue River Plaza as we meted out points.

My personal favorite, and the winner, was Charter Sports’ “The Lion Kingdom of Breckenridge.” The elaborate float borrowed design ideas from the Broadway version of “The Lion King” with clever costumes. It probably had the largest group of participants, and it was impossible to not smile when Simba was lifted high, confetti flew into the air and people started singing along to the movie’s famous soundtrack.

Thetford Landscaping’s Ullr After Schooler float was the traditional ski jump built on the back of a 1951 Chevrolet truck. It was great to witness the kids having a blast in person after years of seeing their photos. Though they didn’t place in the top three, Breck Moms also did a standout job dancing down the street in their blue and silver wigs. They showed that you don’t need a vehicle to be an interesting “float” as long as you put in more effort than a sign taped to a truck.

Snow was falling before the parade began, and I fortunately made the right call suiting up in all of my ski gear: coat, gloves, pants and long underwear. I didn’t wear ski socks, thinking my Bean Boots would be insulated enough, but that turned out to be a mistake as my toes did get chilly toward the end of the parade. However, it still wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be or as others said it had been in past years when the festival was in January.

Keeping my head warm was my custom-made Ullr helmet from the talented Mindy Armstrong, who has created judge’s helmets throughout the years. I’m not a guy who usually wears costumes for special events, but I wore the cap painted with the Colorado flag and a buffalo with pride. It was also neat to see all of the other helmets and compare and contrast the designs.

Yet the coolest part was how many familiar faces in the crowd I recognized, which was surprising given the amount of people and how many visitors the event attracts. Though I don’t have a previous year to base it on, it seemed to me like the change in date from January to December didn’t damper spirits or turnout, either.

Ullr only knows if I’ll be judging again next year, but if I manage to make it out as a regular ol’ attendee, I hope to see you there.

Jefferson Geiger is the arts and entertainment editor for the Summit Daily News and managing editor for Explore Summit.

What I’m Listening To

‘A Family Christmas’ by Jars of Clay and SHEL

I may be the only millennial who doesn’t listen to Spotify on a daily basis because I still prefer my iPod and owning physical media. Those habits change, however, as the holidays near, and I load up my eclectic and ever-growing Christmas playlist that has more than 40 hours of songs and a dozen or so genres.

I curate based on the album’s uniqueness (hello, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Jimmy Buffett and Sufjan Stevens), trim away a few repeats (I don’t need 20 different versions of “The Christmas Song”) and eliminate all recordings of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” I don’t care if in historical context it wasn’t a creepy song, it sounds creepy today and just frankly isn’t that great.

A new addition to the playlist this year is “A Family Christmas,” a six-track EP made by Christian rock band Jars of Clay and Colorado-born folk band SHEL. I don’t recall listening to Jars of Clays songs before, but having seen SHEL numerous times in Fort Collins and Alamosa, it’s safe to say they’re one of my favorite bands.

SHEL — which stands for the band members/sisters’ names of Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza Holbrook — has done a handful of Christmas tracks before, like “Toyland” and “I Saw Three Ships,” but this EP adds a few more original songs along with classics.

The harmonies of the sisters and four men on “Auld Lang Syne” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain” are rich and layered while Eva’s airy voice creates a hauntingly beautiful “What Child Is This.” The two bands blended well, yet I also enjoyed being able to isolate Hannah’s keys, Eva’s mandolin, Sarah’s fiddle and Liza’s percussion. The album feels like a cozy and intimate concert in one’s holiday home.

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