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Chabad Scales Steep Slope in Steamboat Springs

Rabbi Isaac and Chaya Abelsky recently founded Chabad in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Nestled in the Rocky Mountains in northwestern Colorado, the town is famous for its skiing. Unique weather conditions create what skiers call “champagne powder,” particularly dry snow that is ideal for winter sports. More Olympic skiers have originated here than any other town in the United States.

The mountain town of some 13,000 full-time residents has a small Jewish community of several hundred, but those numbers swell during the winter skiing season and the summer hiking season, when visitors and part-time residents from around the world fill the town.  

Much of the Steamboat local community is made up of people who moved here specifically for the outdoor beauty, expecting little in the way of religious life.

Rabbi Isaac Abelsky shares matzah with a snowboarder in Steamboat Springs, Colorado

“People move here because they’re very engaged with the outdoors,” Irv Edelman, a Steamboat Springs resident told Lubavitch.com. “They move here assuming that if you want something Jewish, they would have to do it on their own.”

Edelman and his family were such people.

They moved to Steamboat from Madison, Wisconsin, and enjoy the beauty and seclusion of the small community—”the smallest I’ve ever lived in,” Edelman says. But while student rabbis regularly visited Steamboat and invited Edelman to join Passover seders and other events, Irv says he wasn’t really interested in what they had to offer. “When I grew up, for some reason there was a sense that Chabad was the ‘other,’” he said. 

Passover is welcomed at the Abelsky home in Steamboat Springs, Colorado

But then October 7 happened, and Edelman’s soul was ignited. “In response to October 7 I’ve become more observant; I pray three times a day and put on tefillin each day,” he said. This moment of personal spiritual awakening coincided with the arrival of the Abelskys, who hosted the community for Purim and Passover events and have begun hosting regular services and classes.

“Rabbi Abelsky is a genuinely gracious man,” Edelman said. “We met up and spoke, and it resonated with me.” Edelman took up the Abelskys on their invitation, and they exchanged visits several times. 

“It’s wonderful to have them as a resource for people who want a more observant experience here,” Edelman said. “I’m hoping to participate in Chabad and learn with and from Rabbi Abelsky.”

Rabbi Isaac Abelsky does a mitzvah with a fellow Jew in Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Rabbi Isaac Abelsky reads the Megillah in Steamboat Springs, Colorado
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