Winter Park is a special place. It’s a place of picturesque peaks, rushing rivers, and thriving forests that has been loved by many long before the resort was founded. It’s also a place that is critically connected to surrounding ecosystems by the Colorado River. There Is Snow On The Ground is a multifaceted art installation that speaks to the importance of Winter Park’s location from the perspective of the land’s original stewards. For over four years, we have worked with Indigenous artists and our partner NativesOutdoors to explore the connections between people, place, and snow to deepen our relationship with the land.
The resulting project invites guests to see snow beyond recreation and engage in public conversations about our collective role in the environment.
Heniiniini’: There Is Snow On The Ground
“Skiing can be a space for Indigenous people to connect with the land and experience the joy with these elements that have always been a part of our cultures.”– Connor Ryan, a proud Lakota professional skier born and raised on the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute homelands at the foot of the Rocky Mountains
This multi-part, public art installation is centered around the Arapaho word heniiniini’ which translates to ”there is snow on the ground” in English. It’s not only a proud embedding of the Arapaho language on the mountain, but the phrase also acts as a catalyst for critical (and often complicated) conversations about snow, land, ecosystems, recreation, and climate change. As visitors to the mountain, this work allows us to consider the interconnectedness of these elements and their vital role in our daily lives.
While viewing these art pieces and updated signage, we invite you to consider a few questions:
- How and why do we connect to snow?
- Why is snow important? How is it revered?
- What are the effects of a threatened snowpack?
- How do these effects show up in other areas of our lives and our cultures?
Winter Park + Water
Nestled within Fraser Valley, Winter Park Resort is located at the headwaters of the Colorado River. This allows the resort’s snowmelt to feed into the Fraser River and then join the Colorado River 18 miles downstream in Granby, CO. Running for 1,450 miles, the Colorado River then goes on to nourish people, plants, and animals all along its route — making the snowmelt from Winter Park a life-sustaining force.
In many watersheds in the Western United States, more water is stored in the mountain snowpack than in the region’s human-built reservoirs. However, as the climate has warmed, spring snowpack across the American West has declined by nearly 20 percent on average between 1955 and 2020 — and by significantly more in certain locations, according to an analysis done by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Four Elements, One Story
The comprehensive story of snow and the life it gives is told by four identifiers around the mountain. The pieces work together to inspire reflection upon water, land, and people from an Indigenous perspective.
- The heniiniini’ ecological art installation (located near Sunspot Mountaintop Lodge at the top of the Gondola)
- The Winter Park snow stake (seen through our on-mountain live camera feeds)
- Updated historical markers (located across the mountain)
- Updated trail signs (located across the Eagle Wind terrain zone)
Heniiniini’ Art Installation
The heniiniini’ art installation showcases four mountain outlines — Longs Peak, Mount Blue Sky, Byers Peak, and Parry Peak — a nod to the four directions that ground us to this place. A river winds its way down from the peaks to nourish a garden bed that will house native plant species in the summer, reminding us of the water kept in the snowpack we recreate on each winter. The word heniiniini’ is boldly displayed along with a pattern created by Jordan Craig and Vernan Kee.
Winter Park Snow Stake
The snow stake at Winter Park is a valuable tool for skiers and riders, and during the winter, it’s a point of daily conversation. As a part of There Is Snow On The Ground, the snow stake now also serves to remind us that accumulating snow has a meaning beyond powder days and perfect turns. Its incorporation into the project is an invitation for all guests to take a moment and consider our relationship to the mountain, recreation, and the environment.
The backdrop of the snow stake uses the same four outlines of Longs Peak, Mount Blue Sky, Byers Peak, and Parry Peak — grounding us in the four directions that anchor Winter Park. A river marks the snow’s journey: from its gentle fall to runoff to nourishing all living things downstream. The ruler and backdrop feature patterns created by Jordan Craig and Vernan Kee.
Updated Historical Markers
Winter Park has a rich history commemorated in several historical markers around the resort. These signs pay tribute to figures who helped shape the resort since its founding in 1940.
In 2021, we saw an opportunity for betterment in storytelling, and we partnered with key Native and Indigenous peoples to issue a land acknowledgment. This statement was one of many steps toward sharing a complete, authentic narrative of our region and the people who love it.
Today, we are updating our existing historical markers with that statement as well as a pattern created by Jordan Craig and the four mountain outlines. We will also add additional markers noting Eagle Wind and other Arapaho place names.
Updated Eagle Wind Trail Signs
People have lived in and cultivated relationships with the Fraser Valley landscape long before Winter Park Resort was built. As the land’s original caretakers, the Cheyenne, Ute, and Arapaho peoples all have ancestral ties to the region. In fact, ‘Eagle Wind’ is the Arapaho name for the land where the resort sits today.
To recognize the heritage of the land, Northern Arapaho Tribe elders visited the resort before the opening of the Eagle Wind Lift in 2006 and consulted with resort planners. Each Eagle Wind terrain zone trail name emerged from those discussions as a way to pay tribute the the area’s history.
As part of Winter Park’s continued commitment to honor the full story of the land, and as part of this project, the trail signs will be updated with a pattern designed by Jordan Craig, and the trail names will now feature a translation in the Arapaho language.
NativesOutdoors is a Native-owned athletic and creative collective working to empower Indigenous communities through storytelling for a sustainable world.
Winter Park Resort has forged an ongoing partnership with NativesOutdoors as part of our People Planet, Community initiative. They were an integral part of our land acknowledgment, have played a critical role in our content strategies, and have been a bridge as we seek to build deeper relationships with Indigenous communities. They are an invaluable partner we rely on for insight into land stewardship, as well as to implement Indigenous perspectives and values into multiple aspects of our work.
As a part of our work with NativesOutdoors, we also had the honor of gaining insight and knowledge from Dr. S. Neyooxet Greymorning. Professor Greymorning holds joint positions in Anthropology and Native American Studies. He is a political anthropologist who has conducted research among Indigenous peoples of Australia, Canada, Colombia S.A., New Zealand, E. Timor, and the United States. Professor Greymorning’s research interests include Native American language maintenance and restoration, Indigenous sovereignty issues, and contemporary Native American issues.