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Lost Areas #10 - Published 27 Apr 1993

Greetings from THE COLORADO SKIER
 

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 5 lost ski areas for
each edition and provide location, statistics, and a little history on
each area. Then we challenge you to remember five "new" ones.

ATTENTION Junior Birdmen: If you have a limited interest in old
Colorado ski areas, check out our separately posted companion articles
entitled: "THE COLORADO SKIER - TRIVIA" (with skiing trivia
questions) and "THE COLORADO SKIER - SKI NEWS" (current ski news).
 

LOST COLORADO SKI AREAS - EDITION #10 (27 April 93)
 

EDITOR'S REMARKS:

A. Sorry for the long interval since Edition 9. We got all wrapped
up in the "Trams, Gondolas, and Funiculars" issue - which was a lot of
fun. And now back to business.

B. Thanks for the continued interest in lost ski areas. However, we
are running out of lost COLORADO areas. See Section 6 for some ideas
for future issues.

 


1. FIVE MORE LOST COLORADO SKI AREAS

{Copyright 1993, The Colorado Skier. All rights reserved.}
 

ALPINE LAKES (Divide), [obscure], Located 4.5 miles north of Divide
on the grounds of the "Cutty's of Alpine Lakes" RV camping resort.
Has a small hill with one J-bar. Built in 1985 but NEVER OPERATED due
to high insurance costs. Base altitude: 9,000 feet.

This was a fun discovery. We had the name "Alpine Lakes" as a lost
ski area but the name seemed too generic to locate. One day we were
wandering thru the Camping section of the Yellow Pages looking for
another ski area (don't ask!) and discovered the name "Cutty's of
Alpine Lakes". On a hunch we just picked up the phone and called.
Feeling a little foolish, we just asked if they had ever had a ski
area. "Sure", the woman replied. Seems that just as they were ready
to open, KEYSTONE broke a chairlift and killed a customer. Insurance
costs skyrocketed and Cutty's 86ed the planned opening. The lift
still stands, according to the woman on the phone. Gee, a lost ski
area discovered by phone - neato! [PRIVATE PROPERTY]
 

BATTLE MOUNTAIN (Minturn), [planned], Near Gilman and Redcliff.
Planned to be a large area on mostly private (mining claims) land on
"Battle Mtn" between Minturn and Red Cliff and between U.S. 24 and the
VAIL back bowls. Just a proposal, news circa 1984.
 

DEL NORTE HILL (Del Norte), [closed], Located a few blocks south of
downtown on "Lookout Mountain". Base elevation 7900 ft. About 100
feet of vertical. Poma or T-bar. Possible snowmaking.

This was another area we discovered on our September 92 "Steel Wheels
Tour" of lost Colorado ski areas. At least this time we knew the town
name. There the slope was, hidden behind some ramshackle houses.
There were lift towers, but the cable had been removed. A pipe up the
center of the ski slope looked like the stuff that snowmaking dreams
are made of. Strangely, this ski area has never appeared in any of
our voluminous supply of Colorado maps and ski area guidebooks.
 

RATON PASS (Raton Pass at the Colorado - New Mexico border), [very
obscure], There is a real, intact, existing chairlift at the top of
Raton Pass but it faces southwest and probably was used for
sightseeing. There is no evidence of ski runs. The building at the
base looks like it just sold tickets. Once again, curiously, we have
not found this sightseeing (or skiing) chairlift in any guidebook.
BTW, this "area" is not to be confused with nearby "Raton Ski Basin"
(which will be covered in a future issue).
 

VELOCITY PEAK (Silverton), [obscure], Located high (above
timberline) on a mountain west of Silverton. This is where the World
Speed Skiing Championships were held in the early eighties. Several
world records were set there including Franz Weber's 208 km/hr (129
mph) record in 1983. In recent years most speed skiing events
(including the 1992 Winter Olympics) have been held at Les Arcs,
France due to it's easy accessibility. In the 80's access to Velocity
Peak was via 4-wheel drive up to the area and then helicopter shuttles
for the racers.

Most of this information comes from TCS reader HUGH GRIERSON who
reaches us from New Zealand. Hugh competed in the North American
Speed Skiing Championships, held at Velocity Peak in 1991. This time
they had a rope tow for the competitors. However at an angle of 40
degrees it was almost impossible to hang on to the rope. Hugh has a
lot more (some gory) details which maybe he can post.

Obviously this is/was a real ski area, with a lift, and should be
called "temporarily closed". However it was not open to the public
and did not charge admission (for the lift). That makes it "very
obscure". So we compromised and called it "obscure".

 


2. WHO REMEMBERS THESE LOST COLORADO SKI AREAS?

CAMP HALE

MOUNTAIN LAIR

ROZMAN HILL

SAN ISABEL

SUGARITE
 

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

 


3. LOST SKI AREA FOLLOW - UP

a. GENEVA BASIN - Chester, from Gunsmoke (AKA Chester Bullock from
Prescott - rhymes with "biscuit" -, AZ), has some first-hand input on
the "new triple chair", supposedly added at Geneva in 1985. First, to
provide perspective, we will REPEAT our entry for Geneva Basin
(originally posted in LOST - 2, back in August, 92).
 

GENEVA BASIN (Grant), [temporarily closed], Located off US 285, 8
miles north of Grant, near the summit of Guanella Pass. Last operated
for the 1983/84 season as ALPENBACH (was originally called INDIANHEAD
from 1962 to 1965). Supposedly the lifts and lodge were upgraded in
1985 (a new triple chair), but the area did not open for the 1985/86
season and has not operated since. Note that the last owner just
walked away from the area, so the improvements, e.g., lifts and
buildings, now belong to the U.S. Forest Service. The USFS says that
they want an operational commitment or the "improvements" will be
removed by summer 1993. Two potential buyers made proposals to the
USFS in 1992, but nothing happened. [PRIVATE PROPERTY] Stats:

Vertical drop: 1250 ft Top: 11,750 Base: 10,500
Lifts: 2 double chairs, 2 Pomas (possibly a triple chair)
 

Chester was a member of the local Platte Canyon HS ski team which had
an opportunity to pack snow and receive a season's ski pass in return.
While he was up there one weekend, they were installing the new lift
towers (for the triple) with a helicopter. It was very impressive.
Alas, the cable never made it onto the pulleys, and the bullwheel at
the lower station never made it's way off the ground. The ski area
did not open, and the facilities became property of the Forest
Service. Sadly, it looks like Geneva will never open again. :(
[Chester, formerly of Bailey, CO]
 

b. YMCA OF THE ROCKIES - In the last issue (while discussing the
tubing hill in Fraser) we asked why the State of Colorado map calls
the cross country facility north of Fraser "YMCA of the Rockies" but
John Cooley calls it "Snow Mountain Ranch". Thanx to John and George
for this clarification. "YMCA of the Rockies" owns two facilities:
The one near Fraser is called "Snow Mountain Ranch" and the other,
south of Estes Park, is called "Estes Park Center".
 

c. LAKE CITY - This ski area, once called WINTER WONDERLAND, is a
small area just south of Lake City which we covered in "LOST - 6" and
also visited, last September. We just ran across an article on the
area which clarifies a few points. The area was started by the town
in 1966 with an old Poma lift from A-Basin installed on a small slope
with 287 feet of vertical. The slope was mostly used by local town
youth. Things were fine for many years until 1986, when the Colorado
Tramway Board's new regulations required safety features that the town
couldn't afford. So the lift and the ski area shut down.

In 1989, during a visit to Lake City, Colorado Governor Romer was
asked to relax the rules. He said he couldn't do that but would get
help. Soon, representatives from Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail, Royal
Gorge Bridge Company, and Poma of America came with parts and
expertise and got the lift up to code. (An estimated $20,000 worth of
parts and labor were donated.) The lift was certified and has been
operating since 1989. The stats:

Vertical drop: 287 ft Top: 8987 Base: 8700
Lifts: 1 Poma
 

d. BERTHOUD PASS - A stirring in the grave. You may recall that the
owner of record didn't pass the Colorado Tramway Board safety
inspection in 1991 and the area did not open for the 1991/92 season.
Then the area was put up for sale. In 1992, Jim Pearsall, a financier
and manufacturer from New Jersey, made an offer to Berthoud Pass Ski
Corp. and applied to the USFS for an operating permit. The
application was denied as the Forest Service said: "It did not
display the technical expertise and financial feasibility (?) we were
looking for."

In the Fall, the area creditors claimed the lift equipment and the
chairlifts were partially dismantled, as reported by two of our field
agents (the lifts are still at the area, however). Now, in April, Mr.
Pearsall has applied to the USFS again and has made an offer to the
creditors for the lift equipment. The Forest Service is skeptical.
They do not believe that BERTHOUD is a viable ski area. Stay tuned.
[Update: The ski area finally reopened in January 1998.]

 


4. RESURRECTION - Two ski areas previously on our "lost" list have
come back from the dead, at least temporarily. Here are their
stories.

CUCHARA VALLEY - Originally opened in 1981 under the name PANADERO.
Closed in 1989. Was re-opened by a new owner for the 1992/93 season.
They opened on 10 December and closed on 4 April. The highest base
depth was 68 inches on 4 March. Nothing negative in the press. We
don't have their body count yet, but we have to assume that CUCHARA
has survived it's rebirth. [Update: Since then, the area closed, re-
opened with a new owner, closed again, and finally re-opened with
still another owner and has stayed open for a few years.]
 

MOUNTAIN CLIFFE - (not such good news, here) Opened in 1977 using the
name CONQUISTADOR. Closed in 1988. Re-opened with a new name and new
owner for the 92/93 season. They opened on 5 December but had to
close for a few weeks when heavy winds blew all the snow off the
slopes. At that point, the owners replaced the upper level
management. One of the major complaints was with the lift ticket
pricing. When we (TCS) did our research by extrapolating their ticket
prices from previous years, and comparing their facilities with their
closest competition (CUCHARA VALLEY and MONARCH), we came up with a
price of $20. However, they charged $25. As it was too late to
change their published rates, they resorted to heavy discounting,
offering some free days to Pueblo residents. We saw a billboard on
the front range advertising a price of $15. Unfortunately we saw it
one week after they had closed for the season!

MOUNTAIN CLIFFE closed for the season (rather early we thought) on 8
MARCH, citing marginal snow conditions and the sea of mud in their
parking lot as the reasons. The average closing date for their
predecessor, CONQUISTADOR, was 3 APRIL. It remains to be seen whether
or not Mountain Cliffe makes it open for next season or goes back to
lie with the fishes (snowsnakes). [Update: They never re-opened.]

 


5. FINDING FUN IN THE FIELD - Chuckie B., who recently moved to
Colorado, wanted to know if it is fun to be a TCS field agent. Well,
finding a lost ski area for the first time is a rush for us. Here are
some anecdotes.

a. While looking for HOLIDAY HILLS (closed 1971) on the slopes of
Pikes Peak, we unknowingly parked on a new road which cut thru a ski
run. It just looked like an overgrown meadow but we decided to hike
down anyway. Suddenly we spotted a weathered board attached to a
tree. The faded paint said "Katy's Run". We were thrilled and still
have a pic of the sign.

b. While looking for SAGEBRUSH HILL in Gunnison, we got off on the
wrong road thru a subdivision. We looked carefully behind each house
for a telltale slope or lift. Suddenly our eyes fed a picture to the
brain of two vertical towers, connected by a cable, from which hung
some kind of tram. The brain did a cursory analysis and then
proceeded to distribute adrenaline, choke off the throat, and send
cold sweat to the hands! However, within a half millisecond the brain
did a detailed analysis and concluded that this was a horizontal tram,
over a river, used by miners and ranchers for transporting tools and
supplies over a river when a bridge would be too expensive. Our brain
then told our eyes to resume scanning. We resumed breathing but the
sweat and adrenaline remained!

c. Finally we (TCS and our friend Sissy from NH) spotted two large
"cairns" (which turned out to be crib-like lift towers) on a hillside
and pulled up to park in front of a power substation. We glanced at
the sign. It said "Ski Tow Substation". We were home!

 


6. WHITHER LOST SKI AREAS?

We are running out of lost COLORADO ski areas to talk about. We said
there were 75 and as of this issue we will have covered 62. By
sneaking in the occasional "planned" or "very obscure" area (not
counted in the 75) we can stretch for a few more issues. Also we have
some special issues in the works on Planned Ski Areas and Ski Area
Name Changes. So, "Lost Colorado" will continue. But, what of the
future?

ANNOUNCEMENT: We plan to start a new series on the LOST SKI AREAS of
"__________". It's the "blank" we want to talk about. What area or
state should we do next? We lean toward CALIFORNIA because there are
lots of lost ski areas and we have lived and skied there. Or, we
could do all of the ROCKY MOUNTAINS outside of Colorado. However we
have very few readers (responders, anyway) in the West so these two
may not be popular choices.

MINNESOTA has been requested and there is a treasure trove in
MICHIGAN. Frankly, not our fave. (Altho we are from Michigan, we
never skied there.) We have already covered most of the little areas
in the PLAINS and SOUTHEAST in trivia questions. We have no opinion
on the MID-ATLANTIC states. NEW YORK would be good. We already know
of 75 lost ski areas there. And of course, there is NEW ENGLAND.
With six states there must be a bezillion lost ski areas. And that
would track with some readership interest.

Actually, we have already made up our mind and have started collecting
data. But, let's have a vote and maybe we can change.

So, what STATE or AREA of the country would you like to see covered
next, in terms of "Lost Ski Areas"? [Remember this was 1993.]

 


7. EPILOG

a. Please include your CITY NAME for our records.

b. In our last post we mentioned the decline in traffic and hinted
that we would stop publishing for the summer if responses to TCS
dropped below 10 per post. Sorry we brought it up. We only received
11 responses to "Ski News - 3" with very few from regular readers. Is
this all there is to a ski season?

 


Cheers from THE COLORADO SKIER
 

"Colorado is best known for the breathtaking beauty of the Rocky
Mountains. It's no wonder that each year millions of skiers come to
experience the state's superb emergency medical facilities!"
Dave Barry



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