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Lost Areas #2 - Published 10 August 1992


Greetings from The Colorado Skier 


During early July('92) there were several posts on rec.skiing concerning closed Colorado ski areas. Researching lost Colorado ski areas just happens to be the hobby of The Colorado Skier. We even wrote a book on the subject (Would you believe a pamphlet? How about a typewritten list?).

The Colorado Skier is prepared to clarify the history and status of every dead or lost ski area in Colorado. There are at least 75 of them. But that's too many for one posting. So we will pick 5 from the 20 or so discussed in the recent series of articles and provide info on them. Then we will also add five new areas to challenge your collective memories.

If we discuss 10 dead/lost ski areas every week or so, we should have covered them all by the time the snow flies and then can turn our attention to current ski area info.

Editor's Remarks: Thanks for the feedback on Edition #1. A perusal of the text will reveal that we are doing the lost ski areas in alphabetical order. Thus, if your favorite lost ski area starts with a "Z" or even an "S", hang in there, it might take a while. Be assured tho, that we will get to Sharktooth eventually (hint: it is in Greeley). All of the areas which you folks have suggested adding to the list were already in our data base except two, which we will discuss in Section 3. Oh yes, the name is Guanella Pass, repeat GUANELLA Pass; think of guano.







 1. Five lost ski areas you have been discussing:


CUCHARA VALLEY (La Veta), [temporarily closed], Opened under the name PANADERO in 1981 at (or near) the location of the older CUCHARA BASIN ski area. Last operating season was 1988/89. Rumors of an impending sale in July 1992.

Vertical drop: 1562 ft Top: 10,810 Base: 9248

Lifts: 1 triple chair, 3 double chairs, 1 pony lift


ESTES PARK (Estes Park), [temporarily closed], Located a few miles west of town, within Rocky Mountain National Park. Fairly small, no chair lifts. Formerly known as SKI ESTES PARK, SKI ESTES, and originally as HIDDEN VALLEY. Most sources say the area opened in 1955, yet two references have it listed (as Hidden Valley) in 1950 and 1952. There was also organized skiing in Estes Park before 1940, but it's not known if there were any lifts. Recently operated by the Estes Valley Recreation District backed by a group of Estes Park businessmen. Both groups failed to obtain sufficient financing for the 1991/92 season. The long range plans are to eliminate the ski area from the National Park and the Park Service has hinted that the area is already considered permanently closed.

[Note: One other ski area on National Park land is BADGER PASS, within Yosemite National Park. However it is off to the side of a "relatively" non-scenic connecting road. Trail Ridge Road, however, goes right thru the middle of Hidden Valley.] 

[Note: There was also a ski area in Lassen National Park.]

Vertical drop: 2000 ft Top: 11,500 Base: 9,500

Lifts: 2 t-bars, 2 pomas, shuttle bus


FUN VALLEY (Homewood Park), [closed 1970], Located in Deer Creek Canyon about 5 miles south of Tinytown. Operated from 1965 to 1970. Lift complement seems to vary by source. In their own ad in the 1966 Denver Post, they claimed to have two chairlifts. [For the person whose high school ski team trained there, what years? and were there any chairlifts?]

Vertical drop: 550 ft Top: Base: 6900 (est.)

Lifts: 1 single chair, 1 rope tow, 1 poma (night skiing)


GENEVA BASIN (Grant), [temporarily closed], Off US 285 north of Grant near the summit of Guanella Pass. Last operated for the 1983/84 season. Supposedly the lifts and lodge were upgraded in 1986, but the area did not open for the 86/87 season. Was to be renamed ALPENBACH then, and was originally called INDIANHEAD from 1962 to 1965. [two new buyers have made proposals to the NFS in 1992] [Note: Now peremanently closed and lifts removed.]

Vertical drop: 1250 ft Top: 11,750 Base: 10,500

Lifts: 2 double chairs, 2 pomas


HOOSIER PASS (same), [obscure], Two trails are visible on the northeast side of the pass as you head south. It is not clear that there where ever any lifts. A 1940 reference says "tow serves novice trails". A 1950 reference mentions two trails, "tows: none".




2. And here are the Ski Area Descriptions from our last post:


BAKER MOUNTAIN (Rabbit Ears Pass), [closed], Located on (and sometimes called) Rabbit Ears Pass. Appears in a 1940 guide, the 1952 Ormes Mountain Guide ("lighted night skiing"), and 1962-64 highway maps. There is a "Baker Mtn" on the east side of the pass, south side of US 40. Boris, one of our new field agents (and his lovely wife Natasha) checked it out recently. The area is on Baker Mtn but, curiously, faces south and east. There is a foundation from the base lodge but no lift remnants.


CALICO HILL (Durango), [alternate name], This is just another name for CHAPMAN HILL which we covered in Lost Edition #1. The ski area was known as DURANGO in the 60's, CALICO HILL in the 70's, and CHAPMAN HILL since.


CONTINENTAL SKI COURSE (Climax), [alternate name], Sometime early name for the CLIMAX ski area. There was a "Continental Ski Club" at the CLIMAX area and the area is located on the "Continental" Divide. The area was built by the Climax Molybdenum Mine opposite the mine at the top of Fremont Pass. Operated from 1936 to the late fifties. First area in Colorado to be lighted for night skiing.

Vertical drop: Top: Base: 11,350

Lifts: 1 t-bar


CRANOR HILL (Gunnison), [open, small], Located about 3 miles north of town and 1/2 mile east of Hiway 135. The lift is visible from the highway on treeless terrain. Opened in 1964.

Vertical drop: 262 ft Top: 8162 Base: 7900

Lifts: 1 poma, 1 rope tow


HOLIDAY HILLS (Woodland Park), [closed 1971], Small area a few miles west and south of Woodland Park on the flanks of Pikes Peak within the "Holiday Hills" subdivision. Operated six seasons from 1965 to 1971. The Colorado Skier made a field trip there recently. Altho the area is hard to find, there are several lift remnant, including a V-8 truck engine used to power one rope tow. The day lodge (at the top of the ski area) is presently a private residence. [Note: The area is now posted, but you can drive across one trail.]


Vertical drop: 400 ft Top: 9600 Base: 9200

Lifts: 1 j-bar, 3 rope tows




3. Follow up to Edition #1 (answers to questions)


a. What is a Mitey Mite? Answer: A Mitey Mite is the brand name for a rope tow with handles, sometimes called a "handle tow" or a "pony". It is sometimes also spelled "mitey mite" or "mighty mite".


b. Why isn't the BERTHOUD top elevation shown as 12,015 feet? Answer: The elevations and vertical drop for Berthoud have changed more often than any other ski area we know of. The top elevation, base elevation, and vertical drop have changed a total of 11 times in the last 25 years even with the same lifts! Most of the "data" published by the area is wrong. Either they can't read topo maps or they have very long noses. Read on.

First the ground rules: 1) The data we listed for BERTHOUD PASS is from the Colorado Ski Country USA yearly guide books and is for the NEW Borvig lifts. 2) We list elevations and verticals for lift served area only, not for the shuttle bus. 3) The Berthoud Pass (highway) elevation is 11,315 feet. The ski area is at the top of the pass. The lifts go up. Therefore the Base Elevation is always 11,315 feet.

The original chairlift supposedly had a vertical drop of 685 feet. That means the top elevation must be 12,000 feet. (that number is not supported by topo maps - read on) In the late 60's the vertical drop of Berthoud suddenly changed to 1000 feet, then 973 ft, then 978, and then to 993 feet, with no lift changes. Then the top elevation changed to 12,280 feet and then to 12,015 feet which became the popular number. One year the vertical drop was listed at 1415 feet, using the shuttle bus. That was wrong, too - see below).

The big revelation came in 1987 when the area became TIMBERLINE. Timberline used a topo map in their ads and the map clearly revealed that the highest knob on the west side of the pass (served by the chair) was at 11,963 feet. However, right next to that figure, were the added numbers "12,015 ft". Apparently the chairlift let you off 52 feet in the air. Talk about chutzpah! The lower bus stops were also shown (accurately) on the map and show the max vertical as 1030 feet, not the 1415 ft which Timberline claimed. Note that the Borvig lift served area starting in 1989, claimed a shuttle served vertical of over 1000 feet, which is correct.

Heard enuff? 2 more. For a while Berthoud Pass was reporting a base elev of 11,022 feet which is 300 feet below the base lodge - once again no lifts. And, in 1971 they advertised a base of 10,307 and top of 11,307 putting the whole ski area below the base lodge and below all of the lifts! Is that crazy or what?

And you wonder why we don't use 12,015 as the top elevation?

To recap, these are our best guesses (new = Borvig lifts):

Old area: Top: 11,880 Base: 11,315 Vertical drop: 565 ft

New area: Top: 11,850 Base: 11,315 Vertical drop: 535 ft

If you have any suspicions about other areas, ask. We will do the research. The Colorado Skier is in favor of truth, justice, and fresh powder. We have a great story about Ski Broadmoor which we will share another time and also have problems with Breck and Copper which have added vertical drop without building lifts.


c. Are you sure that BERTHOUD PASS had the first rope in Colorado, and not CLIMAX? Answer: We are not prepared to defend the first rope tow date (at ANY area) with much vigor but will tell you what we know. It is well documented that BERTHOUD opened, with a rope tow, on 7 Feb 1937. Our records show that the CLIMAX ski area, on Fremont Pass opened in 1936. But, they had a T-bar, not a rope tow. Gotcha!

The rope tow was invented in Canada in 1932, and the first installation in the U.S. (Vermont) was in 1934. It would seem, then, that the technology and interest were available to build a rope tow in Colorado in 1935 or 36. Indeed there were many portable rope tows in the late 30's. But, as for first? Who can be certain?

For the record, the first permanent ski lift of any kind in Colorado was the "boat tow" on HOWELSEN HILL in 1934. The Aspen boat tow on ROCH RUN came along later in 1937. The first single chairlift was at _____. Whoops! Better stop, before we blow a good trivia question!


d. Thanks for the two "new" ski areas:

CHAUTAUQUA PARK, in Boulder. One rope tow. What years? Was it fixed or portable? Has anybody seen it?

RIST CANYON, west of Fort Collins. What years? Is the T-bar still there?




4. Who remembers these Lost Colorado Ski Areas?








And the list goes on and on and on ...


BONUS QUESTION: Name four (4) former Colorado ski area GONDOLAs which have been removed or replaced.


Cheers from The Colorado Skier


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