Letter: Visit the Cranmer Memorial Chapel

Cranmer Memorial Chapel, the small log cabin located at 75 Hi-Country Drive, was originally constructed in 1949. It was used as a residence and for church services many years before it was donated to the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado by Mr. and Mrs. Victor T. Vestman in 1983. This historic building even predates the Town of Winter Park, which was incorporated in 1979.

The main mission of the chapel is to provide a Saturday evening eucharistic church service with a warm mountain atmosphere for locals, second-home owners, seasonal workers, and visitors. The chapel is frequently used by the Grand County Jewish Community, AA meetings, and is occasionally used for small group events like retreats.

From 1969 to 1985 Rev. Chappell Cranmer was Vicar of St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Granby and Trinity Church in Kremmling. He completed the property transfer and necessary updates to comply with the building code, so that religious services could continue after the ownership was transferred. The chapel was named St. Columba’s Mission after a 6th-century missionary. In 2000 the church was posthumously renamed Cranmer Chapel, to honor Rev. Cranmer and his extensive work in Winter Park.

Rev. Cranmer was born in 1918 in Denver, where his father, George Cranmer, was a politician and the Manager of the City of Denver’s Park system, including the Winter Park Ski Resort. The Cranmer ski run continues to honor George Cranmer’s important role in developing the ski area. Chappell Cranmer fought with the Marines in WWII, and rose to the rank of Captain before being discharged. He was a world-class mountain climber and an avid outdoorsman.

The most well-known use of Cranmer Chapel are the free Community dinners, served every other Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., from Thanksgiving until the end of March. The dinners were started 23 years ago-, when Joan and Ken Van der Heiden and other parishioners of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Granby invited Winter Park Resort employees to their homes for Thanksgiving dinner. They wanted to provide a hot meal in a homey atmosphere for seasonal employees, living away from their supportive families, to celebrate the holidays. As the program grew in popularity, the parishioners reached out to other churches and organizations for help. This project is organized by St. John’s, and now includes the following sponsors: Winter Park Resort, the Grand County Jewish Community, the Church of the Eternal Hills, the Lord of the Valley Lutheran Church, the Grand County Catholic Churches, the Winter Park Christian Church, the Fraser Valley Lions Club, the Mountain Family Center and the Advocates for a Non-Violent Community. The cooperative support of all these sponsors make it possible to achieve the amazing results of these pot-luck style dinners and to show our community’s appreciation of our workers.

As of January 2022, we have served over 30,000 meals, including three special meals generously provided by Winter Park Resort, C Lazy U Ranch and Epicurean Catering from Denver. Unfortunately, we can only serve takeout meals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Everybody misses the community and friendship of sitting down to a meal within the chapel, and we plan to return to that method next year.

All are welcome to “come as you are” to the historic Cranmer Chapel, right from skiing or work, to join us in worship at 5 p.m. on Saturday. Well-behaved dogs are allowed to accompany their owners to our mountain service.

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