Park City Mountain Resort celebrates 49 years of torchlight parades
Park City Mountain Resort will celebrate 49 years of snow crunching and kids bunching when Santa skis down PayDay run during the 125-person torchlight parade on Christmas Eve.
The parade is scheduled to begin at 6:10 p.m.
Once the skiers and snowboarders reach the base, around 6:20 p.m., they’ll split up into to lines and Santa will ski down between them, said Meisha Lawson, senior marketing manager for PCMR.
"After he takes off his skis, we let the kids run up to him and get their moment with him," Lawson said. "He doesn’t stick around too long, because he has places to go that night, but it’s a special moment for everyone."
The parade is a sight to see, said Mike Thurgood, PCMR Ski and Snowboard School manager, who also coordinates the procession.
"We try to take up as much as the hill we can and go from outside edge to outside edge in a manner that is a safe, comfortable speed for the participants," Thurgood told The Park Record. "We can do it in a way and have the whole hill lit up."
Thurgood first saw the parade when his father, Dave, was its coordinator.
"He has been affiliated with the resort for nearly 40 years, so I first saw the procession when I was in junior high school," Thurgood said. "I’ve been working at the resort for 18 years and originally participated in the event, but for the past eight years, I’ve been the main guy who puts it together and make sure it runs without a hitch."
That means Thurgood has to make sure there are enough people to form the line and make sure the flares that are used as torches work.
"I make sure all 125 people get on the lift to the summit around about an hour before the parade," he said. "At the top, we have to attach the flares to ski poles for the skiers and to bamboo rods for the snowboard participants."
Depending on the weather, it can be challenging keeping everyone warm.
"It gets cold up there when we’re waiting to come down," Thurgood said.
Of course, there is the lighting of the flares.
"That can be difficult at first because we don’t have any light and everyone’s hands are cold," Thurgood said. "But once the first couple are lit, we are able to light the others easily. After that, it’s all about the procession."
The parade has not, and will not, yield to inclement weather.
"We’ve done it when the snow has been coming down really hard and we’ve come down when the night has been crystal clear," Thurgood said. "We’ve skied in nice and comfortable temperatures and during the other times when it’s been just plain frigid.
"This is family tradition that a lot of people, me included, have grown up with over the years," Thurgood said. "My kids and grandkids have made it their tradition, too, and we’ll continue to do this as long as people are here and want to participate."
The torchlight parade is only one of the many events that will take place at the resort that day.
Before Santa skis down with the parade, he will make appearances all over the resort between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Lawson said.
"He will be out and about, getting his exercise before he goes on his big adventure that evening," she said. "He’ll visit our kids ski and snowboard classes and will make appearances at the restaurants and other places to hand out candy canes and take photos."
At 5:30 p.m., after the parade participants have jumped on the lift, the resort will provide free hot chocolate and cookies on the plaza.
"The goodies usually run out by six o’clock, and that’s when everyone migrates to the PayDay run to see the parade," Lawson said.
The nice thing about the parade is that it starts early enough that people will still have time to participate in their other Christmas Eve traditions.
"We want to encourage everyone to arrive by six o’clock at the latest, because it’s heartbreaking to see a family rush up the plaza stairs after it’s all over," she said.
Park City Mountain Resort will present the 49th annual torchlight parade on Monday, Dec. 24, beginning at 6 p.m. Prior to the parade, free hot chocolate and cookies will be handed out to guests at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit http://www.pcmr.com.
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