January 14, 2007

Colorado's lost ski resorts

Many of Colorado's failed ski areas could be summed up in this quote about the Stagecoach area near Steamboat Springs, which operated briefly in the early 1970s.

The whole rationale for the ski area was to sell condos and home sites, but the area was such a ragtag operation that the real estate folks had no traction at all.

"To sell condos and home sites" was also the rationale of the sometimes snow-starved Conquistador area near Westcliffe, which lasted from 1976 until the late 1980s. I can think of two other small day areas here in Custer County, such as Silver Park on Colorado 96, which also came and went fairly quickly. Now another is planned near Lake Isabel, but the developer keeps missing meeting dates with the county zoning board.

One area not mentioned is Ski Broadmoor, where at least two generations of Colorado Springs kids learned downhill skiing, if they were not at the Pike's Peak ski area, which is also gone as well.

This trend troubles me: I have not gone downhill skiing for years, just Nordic, but where do people go who don't have the bucks for the Vails, Breckenridges, etc.? Where can you learn to ski after school if you do not live in a bona fide ski town? That was the important niche that areas like Ski Broadmoor filled.

In skiing, like hunting, there are plenty of opportunities for the well-heeled, but the entry steps are getting higher and higher, unless you are connected through a club or something.

Right now, another ephemeral ski area is open, right here at Owl Lodge. After three feet of snow in the last three weeks--not that all of it is still on the ground--we have reopened our Nordic ski trail system that involves our driveway, the sloping lawn of the rental cabin, and a little bit of the 1870s Siloam Stage Road that runs through the property.

Apres-ski activities include writing book reviews and syllabi, but the bar is open.


Reid Farmer said...

I believe Eldora is still open west of Boulder. That's where I learned to ski when I first came to Colorado. They had night skiing and I would go up after class.

Chas S. Clifton said...

Yes, Eldora has bucked the trend of Front Range day areas closing down.

So has Monarch, which has marketed itself heavily to Oklahoma and Texas church groups, etc., for group trips.

Anonymous said...

Living in Nederland I spent a lot of time at Eldora. When I worked for BVSD I was even paid to ski for a month during the kids program (just in case of a student injury, a school staff member would be available). Sweet. My daughter started there when she was four and within the first season she knew almost everyone that worked there and more importantly—they knew her, a situation that sure does not exist at the mega resorts. I grew up in St. Paul, MN and almost every winter weekend the entire family went to one of many local areas. It was not a “destination vacation,” it was our way of life. My family also had a ranch in Steamboat, and when I began skiing there it was called Mount Werner and the commercial development consisted of a warming hut at the base that served hot chocolate. We also went to Howelsen Hill to ski at night and watch the jumpers as well as hit many of the smaller, now gone, areas such as Geneva Basin north of Bailey and Sugarite by Raton. Now, we are lucky to afford a week skiing or plan far enough in advance to get reservations. A way of life has been lost.

Anonymous said...

The family ski experience and skiing for the sake of skiing is alive and well. Sure, there are elements of the past that we all wish for. However, there are few things which, upon light reflection, seem better in the past than today. However, in almost every case, if you REALLY remember all of the details you will realize that the things and experiences of times past are full of bad memories as well. For my family and I skiing every weekend is not only a reality, we are skiing far more vertical feet than was ever possible in a day 20 yrs ago, in clothing and boots which are extremelly comfortable and well made, and on equipment that is truly amazing. Although I do not regret a moment of the past, but I sure am enjoying today, and look forward to tomorrow.