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December 09, 1992

Lost Areas #7 - Published 9 Dec 1992


The subject is closed Colorado ski areas. Researching lost Colorado ski areas is the hobby of THE COLORADO SKIER. We are 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 pick five lost ski areas for each edition and provide name, location, statistics, and a little history on each area. Then we challenge you to remember five new ones.

ATTENTION Skiers from Vertically Disadvantaged States: If you could care less about old Colorado ski areas, check out our separately posted companion articles entitled: "THE COLORADO SKIER - TRIVIA" (with skiing/ski area trivia questions and answers)



A. How many of those "at least 75" lost Colorado ski areas have we covered so far? Well, as of this issue, we will have discussed 51 "real areas" plus 4 more that were either alternate names (CALICO HILL) or planned and never built (EVERGREEN, LITTLE ANNIE, and RIFLE-2). In a future issue we will review all of the 20 or so "planned" ski areas plus provide the current status of the ones that are still viable (such as ADAM'S RIB).

B. Besides researching old ski areas we like to keep track of the new ones, too. Fortunately we have "The White Book of Ski Areas" as an excellent reference tool. Our contributions to the latest WHITE BOOK are mentioned, sort of, in the second paragraph of the Introduction (page vii) to the 92/93 edition. The sun shines brighter on The Colorado Skier!

C. Tom Moore, from the Boston area, wanted us to mention that he acquired his copy of our "magic book" on old Colorado ski areas from Chessler's Bookstore in Evergreen, CO. Long way to go for a book, Tom - about the same distance as for some decent skiing!



{Copyright 1992, The Colorado Skier. May not be reproduced in whole or in part without expressed "written" consent.}

APEX (Apex), [obscure], Located about 7 miles north of Central City. Listed in the 1952 "Ormes Mountain Guide" (rope tow). Shown on 1964-68 Gousha' highway maps, with no name. This author remembers seeing the single slope, typical small rope tow area, on a (summer) ghost town trip in 1965, but couldn't find it again in the seventies.

FOREST LAKES (Bayfield), [obscure], Located about 10 miles north of Bayfield near Vallecito Reservoir. Appears in a ski history book (circa 1968), the Colorado state highway map in 1977, and "The White Book of Ski Areas" in the 80's. "One Poma, 4 runs".

HOLIDAY HILL (Glenwood Springs), [closed], A rope tow area was opened in the vicinity of the present SUNLIGHT ski area in 1947 to serve Glenwood Springs youth tired of the trip to Aspen. However, competition from the still operating GLENWOOD SPRINGS ski area forced HOLIDAY HILL to close in 1950. This area is not really a predecessor area to SUNLIGHT as SUNLIGHT didn't open until 1966.

IRONTON PARK (Ouray), [obscure], Located in the north end of "Ironton Park", east of Crystal Lake. There are early references (circa 1940) to skiing at "Ironton" as an adjunct to Ouray skiing. One reference indicates three runs and a vertical of 300 feet. A late thirties reference says "... built a ski lift with seven towers and cleared a run of approximately 1800 feet. A fine base lodge". The property was taken over in the 1940's by the "St. Germain Foundation" but was used only in the summer. The caretaker managed to burn the lodge down one winter. One assumes that the lodge foundation, lift remnants, and ski runs may be still visible but our field agents haven't been up there yet. (Update - one of our field agents located the foudation and some lift towers around 1995.)

SAGEBRUSH HILL (Gunnison), [closed], In 1936 the Gunnison Valley Ski Club, helped by the WPA, built a small ski area about two miles west of downtown Gunnison. A rope tow was powered by an old Buick engine. The ski area operated in the 1936/37 and 37/38 seasons and then the club decided to build the PIONEER ski area at a higher elevation several miles north. We visited the area in September 1992 and, amazingly enough, the lift is still there. There are "cribs" (wooden structures filled with rock) at the top and bottom plus two intermediate towers. The bottom crib has a bullwheel on top and the top one has a universal joint for transferring power from the engine (gone) which was in a shack just behind. The "rope", still lying on the ground, is actually a wire cable - how would you like to hold onto that for a trip up! We estimated the vertical drop at 200 feet after climbing up. We have pix. PRIVATE PROPERTY! This area is useless sagebrush (hence the name) but it is still private land. Note: We consider this our most important lost ski area find to date - although PIONEER is fun, too.]




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



a. HIDDEN VALLEY - More Curious Stuff

Most sources say that the HIDDEN VALLEY ski area (near Estes Park) opened around 1950. Yet there are many references to "Hidden Valley" before that. (Note that "Hidden Valley" is also a geographic reference to a spot in Rocky Mountain National Park, not just a ski area name.) References:

o Ski Club in ESTES PARK, mid-twenties. o Colorado Ski History: "Other ski areas operating well before WWII were at ESTES PARK, ..." o 1940 AAA Guide: "Estes Park had its HIDDEN VALLEY". o 1940 ski guide: ESTES PARK - many ski slopes in the park, all types of runs, novice, intermediate, and advanced (no tows mentioned). o STU, of RIST CANYON fame, reports an automobile powered rope tow - what year, Stu?

b. GARY JOBSON - We mentioned chatting with Gary in the last issue and wondered if anyone had heard of him. Amazingly, we got four responses! We have combined and paraphrased their responses: "Any sailor worth his "Timberlands" will know who he is. Of course, Gary Jobson is a world famous sailor and yacht racer. He worked on several America's Cup syndicates and was most famous for being the Tactician for Ted Turner." or the last three America's Cups he has been the on-water analyst for ESPN (we even heard from Dave, in Australia, on that point). He also reports on other yacht races for ESPN. We talked to him while he was taping a boating/yachting/racing video in the Baltimore Inner Harbor. He still races in 30 events a year! (down from 60 pre-ESPN)

BTW, none of our friends, relatives, or co-workers in Colorado had ever heard of Gary Jobson. That says something about the popularity of sailing in Colorado!

c. THE "NEW" VAIL LIFTS: Vail has installed three new surface lifts this season. Two are convenience lifts at the top of the big bowls, and one is a beginner lift on Golden Peak. Two of those lifts came from the HIDDEN VALLEY ski area in Estes Park which closed in 1991. The other lift came from the INDIAN MOUNTAIN ski area in South Park, near Como. This is pretty amazing because INDIAN MOUNTAIN has been closed for 12 years! Where has that lift been! Has it been sitting out in the elements all that time or has it been gathering dust in a warehouse somewhere, like an old carousel or motor car waiting to be restored? Curious.

d. THE VAIL TRADITION - This isn't the first time that VAIL has bought "previously owned" lifts. In 1969 they bought the MEADOW MOUNTAIN ski area in nearby Minturn and acquired it's chairlift. In 1974, VAIL bought a chairlift used as a sightseeing ride at the Worlds's Fair in Spokane, WA. In that case the fair ended in the late fall so time was critical. VAIL cleared the lift path and poured the concrete footers in advance. Then they dismantled the lift in Spokane, trucked it to Colorado, and had it re- assembled, all in one week's time! (The Spokane "Riverfront Park", site of the exposition, also has a gondola ride. Has Vail made an offer?)

So, the next time you ride a VAIL ski lift, consider it's history. Why, it once might have been at Disneyland!

e. Back on 7 Nov there was a picture on the newswires showing a snowboarder catching some air in the fresh powder at "POWDERHORN" ski area. The papers which printed the cutline accurately, however, said correctly that the ski area was "OLD POWDERHORN". If you have been paying attention to our descriptions, you will remember that "Old Powderhorn" is a local nickname for the old GRAND MESA ski area which closed when POWDERHORN opened in 1966.



a. We had an error last issue. It was ELDORA that opened on 13 Nov, not BUTTERMILK. BUTTERMILK traditionally doesn't open until Dec.

b. Please provide your city name in E-Mails to us. We like to keep track of where our readers hail from (and where you reign at). Dew you think you could do it? S'now problem, we hope.


"I'm not dumb. I just have a command of thoroughly useless information."

Calvin (of "Calvin & Hobbes")

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