Lost Areas #5 - Published 17 September 1992
CLOSED SKI AREAS in COLORADO - Post 5
The subject is closed Colorado ski areas. Researching lost Colorado ski areas just happens to be the hobby of The Colorado Skier. We are even writing a book on the subject. 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 10 lost ski areas for each edition and provide location, statistics, and a little history on each area.
ATTENTION Flatlanders: If you could care less about old Colorado ski areas, check out our separately posted companion article:
THE COLORADO SKIER - TRIVIA 1
EDITOR'S REMARKS: One of our staff members decided that our posts were getting too long. And we were mixing our original subject of "Lost Colorado Ski Areas" with a lot of ski area trivia and other garbage. The staffer said that no skier would stare at a computer screen for more than a few pages. We agree. The average attention span of a skier is only a few minutes - at this time of year - because they have to keep going to the window to watch for snow clouds (you thought it was going to be nasty, didn't you!).
So, starting with this issue, "Closed Colorado Ski Areas" will be just that, with a section listing Ten Lost Areas, a Do You Remember section, and a short section on Follow-up. The Ski Area Trivia and Miscellany sections have been moved to a new post:
"THE COLORADO SKIER - TRIVIA" which debuts today with EDITION #1.
LOST COLORADO SKI AREAS - EDITION #5 (September 1992)
1. Ten More Lost Colorado Ski Areas
(Note: We only listed five names last time but we will cover ten areas so as to pick up the pace.)
CREEDE (Creede), [closed], Located 6 miles south of town on Hiway 149. There was a tow and toboggan run, circa 1959; a rope tow in 1968. Listed in "Ski Area Guide" for 1970 and 71. We couldn’t find it on one recent attempt.
Vertical drop: 300 ft Top: 8860 Base: 8560
Lifts: 1 rope tow
EVERGREEN BASIN (Evergreen), [planned], Planned but never built when Federal financing fell through in 1965. Almost a hoax. In 1965 the area was described in detail in many publications:
Colorado Ski Country Guide
Colorado Ski Country Map
Rocky Mtn News
AAA Colorado Guide
The Colorado Skier was fooled as well and spent some time in the Evergreen area looking for a nonexistent ski area!
Vertical drop: 1200 ft Top: Base: 8400 (est.)
Lifts: 3 double chairs (NOT!)
HESPERUS (Hesperus), [small], Located immediately adjacent to US 160, about 12 miles west of Durango. Picture available. Started showing up in the literature about 1965, sometimes as HESPERUS SKI CENTER. Around 1990 the original T-bar was replaced by a double chairlift. In 1991 there was new paint and a new slope groomer was parked at the base lodge, However, it is not known if the area is still operating. Private Property!
Vertical drop: 600 ft Top: Base: 8200 (est.)
Lifts: 1 double chair, 2 rope tows
LA VETA PASS (La Veta Pass), [obscure], Appears in some older references in the fifties, once as "Top O' La Veta", and on the 1962 - 1972 ENCO highway maps (with no name). The symbol "ski lift" also appears on the DeLorme Colorado Atlas. It is on "old" La Veta Pass, a few miles south of the current pass. The 1968 and 1969 Ski Area Guides show a BLACK MOUNTAIN ski area at "La Veta". There is a "Black Creek" and "Black Canyon" in the vicinity.
Vertical drop: Top: 9500 Base: 9300 (est.)
OURAY (Ouray), [open, small], Located in the southeast corner of town (3rd Ave), small, one rope, children only. "children's rope tow in town" says the 1978 AAA Guide. The 1990 Ouray Vacation Guide says: "For kids, free rope-tow skiing at the ski hill." Also appears in one reference (with picture) as a very old area (circa 1938-40). One of our field agents has pix. We saw it in 1993.
Vertical drop: 100 ft Top: 7900 Base: 7800 (est.)
Lifts: 1 rope tow
PETRIFIED FOREST (Divide), [obscure], Shown on maps about 4 miles south of Divide just west of Hiway 67. One of our field agents (actually me) moseyed out there a few years ago and found it. The area is on the grounds of the "First Methodist Church Camp". There is a large lodge building and some picnic tables. One rope tow and about 100 feet of vertical. Appeared as if it could still be operating. We are still checking on the area NAME as "Petrified Forest" appears to be an accidental cartographic confusion left over from the nearby "Florissant Fossil Beds" which was formerly called "Petrified Forest". On Gousha maps, when the name "Fossil Beds" first appeared, the name "Petrified Forest" also appeared. Then the latter name slowly migrated over to the location of the ski area! Note that the NFS map only says "ski tow", not "Petrified Forest". Private Property! UPDATE: We drove to the camp in 1996 and chatted with the caretaker. He says the tow was closed due to high insurance costs and that it was never called "Petrified Forest". He let us (I was with PC Jr) climb up the lift hill. A typical home-built rope tow. The tow shack at the top is still intact. About 3 runs thru the trees. This was more for skiing than snowplay.
PIONEER (Gunnison), [closed 1951], A true Colorado pioneer. Located 20 miles north of Gunnison on Cement Mtn. Built by the Gunnison Valley Ski Club with help from the WPA. Operated from 1939 to 1951. Colorado's first chairlift opened here in 1939. Still visible if you look carefully off Cement Creek Rd about 2 miles east of Hiway 135. It closed due to a realization that it was in a poor location, subject to avalanches. Club operations then shifted to ROZMAN HILL a few miles north on Highway 135. Pix available. [Note: This area has been closed for 40 years, yet the runs are still visible - says something about the growth rate of trees at high altitude!]
Vertical drop: 1300 ft Top: 10,500 Base: 9200
Lifts: 1 single chairlift, 1 rope tow
RAINBOW VALLEY (Divide), [obscure], Listed (but not shown) on the 1963 ENCO map as a weekend area. There is a resort about 6 miles south of Divide called "Rainbow Valley Ranch". On a recent field trip we found a single wide slope with about 150 feet of vertical, a rope tow path and remnants of the lift towers and the top machinery building. One of our field agents had been sledding and tobogganing at the ranch in the mid-sixties and doesn't remember the ski slope being in operation. Private Property!
REDSTONE (Redstone), [closed], Operated by the Redstone Lodge for their guests and paying customers in the late sixties. Appeared for many years (1969-74) on Gousha maps. Listed in the 1969 AAA Tour book and the 1968 & 1970 Ski Area Guides. One of our field agents passed by there recently and reported no ski lift residue but there is, barely visible, one ski run overgrown with aspen. Private Property! (Need to take the tour and ask questions.)
Vertical drop: 160 ft Top: 7360 Base: 7200
Lifts: 1 t-bar
RIMROCK (Cedaredge), [closed], Located 10 miles north of Cedaredge at the south edge of the Grand Mesa. A former work associate says he skied there as a youth, circa 1960. Appears on the 1962 to 1974 Gousha maps, sometimes as CEDAREDGE (60's) and sometimes as RIMROCK (70's). (data from AAA book, 1969)
Vertical drop: 275 ft Top: Base: 10,300
Lifts: 2 rope tows
2. Who remembers these Lost Colorado Ski Areas?
And the list goes on and on and on ...
3. FOLLOW - UP
a. LITIGATION. A reader from California points out that by publishing the locations of closed ski areas we are, in effect, inviting pinners to go there and ski. If they got hurt, we could be liable. Sort of contributing to the "attractive nuisance" point of law. We disagree. First they would have to find us to sue us and no one knows who or what "The Colorado Skier" is! (good luck to Mark, tho!) But seriously, we contacted our barrister at "Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe" and worked out the following theory.
Winter: You wouldn't want to ski at the privately owned Lost Ski Areas; they are too small - and you would be trespassing. The Lost areas on public land are open to the public and we can't stop you or encourage you. If you were to go pinning at MARBLE because you read about it here, that is no different than skiing on Mt. Sopris because your buddy suggested it.
Summer: We feel a little responsibility here. Some of these areas are on private land. Drive by, stop and take pictures if you like, talk to the owners. But if you walk on their land, you are trespassing. In our privately produced printed tract: "Finding the Lost Ski Areas of Colorado", we carefully point out the private/public status of each area and caution readers accordingly.
b. GRAND LAKE. We now have a location for the sixties-era GRAND LAKE ski area. If you plan to be up there soon (and would like to become an official "field agent"), E-Mail Mark and he will send the location.
c. CONQUISTADOR. Some of you who have never been south of the Denver Tech Center might not know where CONQUISTADOR is and we forgot to include directions in our original post. It is about 6 miles southwest of the town of Westcliffe. Stop at the "four corners" and look at the huge map painted on a store wall. Drive thru Westcliffe one half mile south on Hiway 67. Turn right (west) on the Hermit Lake Rd. for about three miles. Turn left at the signs and follow directions. In case you have forgotten, CONQUISTADOR is reopening for the upcoming (92/93) ski season. In fact, their hotel is already open. [Note: The area opened as MOUNTAIN CLIFFE for one season and then closed.]
d. HELP. 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!
Cheers from THE COLORADO SKIER
"What was Ye Olde Ed attempting to do one winter morning at Breckenridge when he discovered that he had his thermal underwear pants on backwards?"
Quote from original "The Colorado Skier", 1978