Powder and prayer: ski with Summit County priest
By Julie Filby
As the snow stacks up on Colorado’s majestic mountains, Father Randy Dollins provides skiers and snowboarders in Summit County a chance to combine their love for the great outdoors with prayer and fellowship.
Since moving to the Rocky Mountains three years ago, the 36-year-old Denver native has offered Powder and Prayer with Padre, a ski ministry for area and visiting Catholics.
“You don’t choose where you go as a priest,” Father Dollins told the Denver Catholic Register. “When I got assigned to Summit, I was like ‘great,’ because I love the outdoors.”
The ministry came about during a conversation with friends around a fire pit in Father Dollins’ backyard shortly after he arrived in Summit County the summer of 2010.
“We were brainstorming: how could I do the fun outdoor stuff up here and combine it with ministry?”
The resulting Powder and Prayer with Padre entails him meeting skiers at 11 a.m. at a designated spot at a ski resort: Keystone, Breckenridge, ABasin or Copper Mountain.
“It’s in the bulletin, on the website and announced at weekend Masses,” he said, “I keep the same meeting places at all four resorts, so repeat people know where to meet.”
The gatherings are almost always on Mondays.
“We thought if people heard about it on Sunday, it would be really good to have it on Monday to catch the visitors who are up here for the week,” he said.
Participants look for Father Dollins in a black helmet and navy blue jacket. To make him stand out more, he wears a bright orange bandana printed with “Powder and Prayer with Padre.” He also gives one to each participant: they often tie it around their arm or leg to make it easier to locate each other.
“The orange bandanas work out well for identifying,” Father said. Shortly after meeting, the group circles up for prayer.
“I start us off in prayer and anyone can throw in any petitions,” he said. “I usually pray in thanksgiving for the snow and man’s ingenuity to develop snow skiing; and that no one gets hurt.
“And that we don’t lose people,” he added with a laugh. “It doesn’t happen that often.”
Participants add their prayers for relatives, those who are sick, or intentions related to their vacation. Then they determine what runs they’ll hit and head to the lifts for an hour or so of skiing. Skiers are encouraged to ride the lift with someone different each time to get to know as many participants as possible.
“We usually get in three runs,” said Father Dollins, an admitted daredevil skier in high school, who’s been hitting the slopes since first grade. “Then we’ll go to a mountain-top lodge for lunch.”
Lunch usually starts with a few laughs.
“It’s always funny because everyone has met each other wearing helmets and goggles,” he relayed. “So when everyone takes off their stuff … you’re like ‘Oh, I’ve seen you in Mass, I had no idea.’”
Participants buy lunch or brown-bag it.
“It’s all fun, but the pay-off is really the table fellowship,” Father Dollins said. “People are talking about where they’re from … there’s people from all over (as far away as Australia), and visitors and locals.”
While Father Dollins heads out about 1 p.m. to teach a middle-school group, he appreciates hearing about the friendships formed through PPP.
“I love when I hear that people end up skiing the rest of the day together,” he said. “Or meeting up two or three more times to ski that season. Then they made a ski buddy.”
While the group has averaged eight to 10, the most recent gathering—in Breckenridge Feb. 11—drew 22 people, the largest group yet.
“This ministry touches a whole lot more people than actually do the skiing,” he said. “I hear so many people talk about it … they think it’s great that the priest is athletic and he’s going out and praying with people and going skiing with them.
“It helps the image of the priesthood.”
He offers a comparable summer ministry as well: Hail Mary Hikes.
Father Dollins invites all who are interested to join him at the remaining gatherings for the season: Feb. 28 at Copper Mountain, March 4 at Keystone, or March 11 at Breckenridge. For more information, visit www.summitcatholic.org or call the office at Our Lady of Peace in Silverthorne at 970-668-3141.
Julie Filby: 303-715-3123; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.twitter.com/DCRegisterJulie