This Sunday, Ski Schwarz will celebrate his final Easter Sunrise Service at Loon Mountain.
Having served as the director of the Loon Area Christian Ministry since 1990, Skip almost singlehandedly developed an on-snow worship service that very few other resorts offer. Favoring gondolas over church pews, Skip and his flock worship on skis and snowboards, starting their 11 a.m. nondenominational services at the Summit Café before winding down the mountain, stopping for hymns, prayers, and scripture readings.
After nearly 24 years of service, Skip plans to retire to his native Maine this summer. He will be replaced by fellow Mainer Marcus Corey, who, in addition to working alongside Skip all winter, also runs Loon’s Mountain Host program. We recently took a few runs with Skip and asked him about his time at Loon, and his thoughts about the future of the Loon Area Christian Ministry.
Where did you get the idea to hold worship services on snow?
I wanted to combine the worship with the reason that people came to ski – which is obviously skiing. They have these kinds of services all around the country – a lot of them in the Midwest, but theirs are stationary. I thought to myself, man you can’t have a stationary service out in the East without turning your congregation into a bunch of popsicles.
The idea of just seeing a group of people for 20 minutes didn’t turn me on. I wanted to at least get to know them a bit, build a relationship with them.
How are your services different from those inside a church or other place of worship?
For some reason people gravitate towards the outdoors in terms of spirituality. You have a comprehensive ability to get in contact with God when you’re in the outdoors in the midst of his creation. More so, I think, than sometimes in the middle of a big edifice or something.
The people here are a really friendly group that show up. You got to have a sense of adventure to show up for something like this, because you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.
You must be proud of what you’ve accomplished in your 24 years here at Loon.
I don’t know if proud is the right word. Grateful – maybe that would be a better word for it. God has really blessed what I’ve done, and I’ve been grateful to him for that. I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to be here. When I came here there was nothing here, so I basically started the ministry, and I had a whole lot of cooperation from the mountain, which has remained consistent ever since then. It’s not common for a minister in this kind of ministry to be welcomed with open arms.
The people I’ve met have been really precious. You have relationships. One of the most enjoyable parts of my ministry is marrying people and premarital counseling. I enjoy that.
For the last few months, you’ve been preaching alongside your replacement, Marcus Corey. What has that been like?
I’m so psyched about that. He is a godsend, literally.
The more I found out about him, the more I said ‘For crying out loud, Marcus, you’re a better fit for this place than I am!’ I’m not denigrating what I’ve been able to do here, but this guy has been skiing since he was three years old, he
grew up skiing Sugarloaf. He’s an outdoors guy from the word ‘Go’. He looks like somebody that just came out of the mountains when you first see him. He’s athletic, he’s outgoing as they come.
This opportunity here was just tailor-made for Marcus and all of his gifts. I’m really excited to have someone like that take over.
Was it nice to work with someone this winter, after pretty much running things on your own?
Attendance this year is higher than it’s ever been before. I think a lot of that has to do with Marcus and his presence, but we’re having a great time with it. Marcus – he’s really charged me up. This is kind of an isolated position and something I’ve been doing by myself for all this time. To have somebody else on the same wavelength as you here to help has really been a godsend, and really been invigorating.
-Loon Mountain’s Easter Sunrise Nondenominational Service will run from 6:30 a.m. – 7:00 a.m. at the summit. The Gondola will load passengers from 5:45 a.m. to 6:15 a.m. Please keep in mind we will stop loading at exactly 6:15 am so the service can start on time for sunrise. After the service you may download the Gondola or ski Bear Claw to the base area.