Lost Areas #4 - Published 28 August 1992
Greetings from THE COLORADO SKIER
During early July there were several newsgroup posts from several folks 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 #3. Lots of good input, which is discussed under follow-up news in Section 3. Please keep telling us about your favorite lost ski area. We may have already covered it; we may be about to cover it; or by golly, stop the presses, it may be a "brand new" lost area! We are planning a special issue to bring everyone up to date on what "new" areas have been discovered. And as always, we thank you for your support.
AN APOLOGY: We wondered how long it would take before our flippant style twisted somebody's tail. Well, one of the former owners of the PIKES PEAK ski area became irate after reading our statement that the area had gone "bankrupt". It didn't. Bankruptcy is a legal term and does not apply in this case. The ski area was losing money (the biggest problem was a faulty snowmaking system - low water flow) and the owners simply decided to close and go out of business. Creditors were dealt with and the new triple chairlift was returned to the manufacturer to pay off the amount owed. No bankruptcy here! We sorry.
About 40% of the responses to our postings have been from outside Colorado (all the ones in-state are from Boulder!), so maybe one of these days we will reach out and touch another state. For example, do any of you surfer dudes/dudettes remember: Blue Ridge, China Peak, Goldmine, Holiday Hill, or Ski Safari Basin?
LOST COLORADO SKI AREAS - EDITION #4 - 28 August 1992
1. Five Lost Ski Areas you have been discussing:
DALLAS DIVIDE (Ridgway), [closed], Easily visible about four miles west of "Dallas Divide" (on the road to Telluride) immediately adjacent to CO Hiway 62. Operated from about 1962 to 1976. After 1967 it was called SKI DALLAS. The lift was gone as of 1991, but there are still buildings.
Vertical drop: 800 ft Top: 9000 Base: 8200
Lifts: 1 t-bar
RIFLE - 1 (Rifle), [obscure], Located 12 miles north of Rifle near Rio Blanco on CO Hiway 13. Appeared on highway maps from 1962 to 1988. The words "ski tow" appear on the 1973 White River NFS map, about 3 miles south of Rio Blanco at elevation 6930 ft. We have found no text references.
RIFLE - 2 (Rifle), [planned], Would have been 10 miles south of Rifle on Mamn's Peak/Battlement Mesa. In the planning stages since 1968. The Forest Service approved the draft EIS in 1982. Planning talk continued, circa 1987. The principal developer died in a plane crash while surveying the area. The oil shale bust also destroyed enthusiasm. Dormant.
STAGECOACH (Steamboat Springs), [closed 1974], Located about 15 miles south of Steamboat Springs to the east of Hiway 131 and visible south and west of Rabbit Ears Pass (further south and west than the proposed LAKE CATAMOUNT). Operated during the 1972/73 and 73/74 seasons. Went bankrupt with the Woodmoor development near Colorado Springs. Probably the largest ski area in Colorado to permanently close. The lifts were still in place a few years back but we haven't been there lately. The base lodge was temporary and looked as fragile as a movie set - probably gone.
Vertical drop: 1700 ft Top: 9150 Base: 7450
Lifts: 3 double chairs
STONER (Stoner), [closed 1985], Operated from 1951 to 1985 by the Ski-Hi Ski Club of Cortez. A hefty vertical drop for a small, obscure area. Advertised for sale in 1987. Lifts appeared to be gone in 1991. Easily visible from Hiway 145 at Stoner.
Vertical drop: 1200 ft Top: 8800 Base: 7600
Lifts: 2 t-bars, 2 rope tows
This concludes the rundown of lost ski areas that y'all were discussing in the early July posts, except for Lake City which we are being coy with - it will show up later under a different name. Did we miss any? We will continue the other list (Section 2) of Lost Colorado Ski Areas from our data base until we have covered all 75. With this issue we have covered 35.
2. And here are the Ski Area Descriptions from Edition #3:
MANCOS (same), [obscure], A 1950 reference says it was located eight miles east of Mancos along U.S. 160 on "Mancos Hill". No sixties references. Not readily visible.
Vertical drop: 150 ft Top: Base 8,000
Lifts: 1 rope tow
MEADOW MOUNTAIN (Minturn), [closed 1969], Operated 3 seasons from 1966 to 1969. Had Colorado's only Luge run. Purchased by VAIL and closed in the summer of 1969 (clever way to eliminate competition!). The base lodge (now a day care center) is still visible between Minturn and I-70 on U.S. 24. Ski lifts have been removed (Vail used the chairlift). Some land was sold to the Forest Service for back country access.
Vertical drop: 900 ft Top: 8800 Base: 7900
Lifts: 1 double chair, 1 Poma
MERCURY (Alma), [obscure], The ski trail is visible on the northwest side of town as you head south from Hoosier Pass. Looks like your typical small rope tow area. The area appears on all Gousha’ highway maps from the sixties and seventies, altho usually located at Hoosier Pass, which had a separate ski area (covered in Edition #2).
MESA CREEK (On Grand Mesa), [closed 1966], Visible along Hiway 65 about two miles past the Powderhorn turnoff. Originally opened in 1950 under the name GRAND MESA with two rope tows. Used the name MESA CREEK in the early sixties. The name came from a creek running thru the area. The area was moved to a new location nearby and reopened under the name POWDERHORN in 1966. Some locals refer to the area as "Old Powderhorn".
Vertical drop: 300 ft Top: 9300 Base: 9000
Lifts: 2 pomas, 1 rope tow
MONTEZUMA BASIN (Aspen), [closed], Summer skiing (circa mid-60's) on a glacier-like area above Ashcroft near Aspen. Skiers had to ride a four-wheel drive vehicle about 3 miles past the end of the Ashcroft (Castle Creek) road to get to the area. Used a portable rope tow in 1966 and a portable poma in 1967 with 1000 feet of vertical. Open from August thru October. Listed in Skiing's 1971 "Ski Area Guide" as 1100 ft vertical, 2 t-bars, June-Oct. Some sources say there were also plans to develop a permanent ski area at the site. Note: The area is still popular for summer skiing - no lifts. One guide to summer skiing in Colorado calls it MONTEZUMA GLACIER.
3. Follow up to Editions #2 and #3
a. And we have a winner! Mr. "R.O." of Boulder, CO correctly identified all four of the gondolas at Colorado ski areas which have been removed or replaced (described in Edition #3). Someone else remembered the first gondola at Steamboat and had enjoyed "those high towers". Congratulations, Rick!
b. Rick hinted that the Lions Head gondola was replaced after the accident and thus indirectly suggested that the answer might really be FIVE dead gondolas. We do not believe that the Lions Head gondola was "replaced". Repaired, yes. Refurbished, yes. Improved, yes. Replaced, no. The towers are the same. The top and bottom lift machinery is the same. The gondola cars are the same. The "haul" cable was replaced, as it unravelled and caused the problem. Sensors were added to the lift towers to detect derailed cables (thus causing stoppages on windy days until they got the sensitivity tuned). Devices were added to each car to allow passengers to signal a problem. A rope was added to each car to aid in raising rescue equipment. So, a lot of overhaul - but still the same gondola system.
c. CLAUDINE LONGET - Why did we mention her name? Claudine was a petite, gorgeous creature who made records and TV movies, and was married to singer Andy Williams. After she divorced Andy she moved to Aspen and took up with famous pro ski racer SPIDER SABICH. When she tired of him, she took out her cute little pearl handled revolver and blew him away! Proving that the rich and famous can't just hire a high powered lawyer and get off scot-free, Claudine actually did serve 30 days in the county jail for her little misdemeanor. She still lives in Aspen and we saw her playing softball one day, looking a lot like Goldie Hawn in "Private Benjamin".
[Sure hope Claudine and her lawyer don't read REC.SKIING!]
How does this relate? Well, the killing took place about the time of the Vail gondola disaster. Hence the line: "What is the worst possible luck for a Colorado skier? Answer - Riding on a Vail gondola with Claudine Longet!"
"SNL" did a cute bit with a film showing lots of expert skiers falling down on a steep bump run. Every time a skier fell, there was the sound of a gunshot. Then the announcer said: "In the news, Claudine Longet visits local ski area!"
d. Remember the confusion over the first rope tow in Colorado? We claimed BERTHOUD in 1937, a faithful (we hope) reader claimed the first was at CLIMAX in 1936, while we remembered Climax as having a T-bar. Well, the other day we were reading a history book which states "the first rope tow west of the Mississippi was opened on PIKES PEAK in 1937 by the Spruce Mtn Ski Club". So now we have another candidate.
We find that ski club name interesting as another reference says that the "Silver Spruce Ski Club" operated a ski area (sans lifts) north of Woodland Park near "Edlowe" (which is west of Woodland Park, not north) in the early thirties. Later that club moved to Pikes Peak and built a ski lift. Curious, eh? We love it when trivia comes together.
"We were reading a history book"? Do you mean to say that the virile, athletic, gung-ho skiing, outdoors person called "The Colorado Skier" actually goes to dark, dank, damp, old libraries to read boring old musty, dusty history books? You bet! How else would we know all this stuff?
4. Who remembers these Lost Colorado Ski Areas?
- PETRIFIED FOREST
- RAINBOW VALLEY
And the list goes on and on and on ...
5. Answer to the Edition #3 Bonus Question - The questions were:
a. Which ski area operated the first QUAD chair in Colorado?
ANSWER: Breckenridge - 1981
(Boyne Mountain had the first quad anywhere way back in 1964. By 1981, Boyne Mtn and Boyne Highlands had 3 quads apiece.)
b. Which ski area operated the first DETACHABLE (hi-speed) quad chair in Colorado? ANSWER: Breckenridge - 1981
One of our faithful readers lived in an apartment overlooking the site and watched it being built. Curiously, Breck advertised it as "the fastest chairlift in the western hemisphere" for 3 years. Then, in 1984, they suddenly switched to "first detachable quad chair in the world". Besides our eyewitness, we quote a very reliable ski publication which in 1981 said: "World's first detachable grip quad chairlift."
(In case you were wondering how Vail was staying competitive in the quad chair race, they added four Super Quads in 1985.)
c. Which ski area operated the first "SIX-PACK" (6 passengers) chairlift in Colorado?
ANSWER: None, so far. All right, it was a trick question - so sue me! The first Doppelmayr "Six Pac" operated at MT. ORIGNAL (Moose Mtn), Quebec for the 1991/92 season. The second six-pack is scheduled to open at BOYNE MOUNTAIN, MI in Dec, 1992. None is scheduled for Colorado so far, altho Vail is "studying the situation".
Note: BOYNE MOUNTAIN has always topped our list of the most "excessively" lift served ski areas in the country. They have a vertical drop of 415 feet (less than Ski Broadmoor) and they serviced that last season with 11 chairlifts, including 4 quads, for a total lift capacity of 17,000 skier per hour! And now a six-pac. Wow!
6. New Bonus questions:
a. Name the five NEWEST ski areas in Colorado.
b. Name the five OLDEST Colorado ski areas still operating (not counting Berthoud Pass).
c. Name the NEWEST ski area in the country.
d. Somewhere between the Rockies and the Appalachians was a ski area called TRAIL RIDGE. In what unlikely state was it located?
e. Which ski area CLAIMS to be the "largest ski area in the country" even tho they do not lead in ANY category, including: vertical drop, number of trails, acreage, number of lifts, lift capacity, number of skier days, or even highest lift ticket price. They do, however, lead in size of ego.
7. Trivia Question of The Year (Mother of All Trivia Questions?)
Here is advanced notice of Edition 5's primo question.
"Which Colorado Ski areas receive the most snow?"
The answer will involve base depths, rather than yearly snowfall so that we can be precise and won't have, for example, 3 areas tied at 350 inches. We will explain the ground rules next time. Be thinking about it. No early guesses on the NET, tho. You won't want to tip off your buddy and have him or her steal one of the nifty prizes!
Cheers from THE COLORADO SKIER
"A day without liftlines has got to be rated at least GOOD!" (Lee Fry, alias "Tattoo", 1976).