Dates of Operation: 1937 - 2001 (Note: did not operate every year in period)
-Elevations: Summit 12,015 ft; Base 11,022 ft; Vertical Drop 993 ft
-Typical Season: October - Early June
-Trails: Beg 40%; Int 40%; Adv 20%
-Rates: 1984 - Adult $10.00; Child $6.00
-Services: Base Lodge with ski shop, restaurant, cafeteria, and ski patrol
-Pre 1989: 1 Constam T-Bar, 1 Heron-Huntington Double
-Post 1989: 1 Borvig Triple, 1 Borvig Quad (1 Borvig double removed in 1991)
-Shuttle buses were also used to transport skiers using the pass.
A special thanks to Lucy Garst and Jon Miorelli for contributing to this article.
The first skiing done on “The Pass” is shrouded in the mists of time. However, starting in the early to mid
1930s, when the highway department began keeping the road over the pass open in the winter, skiers
flocked to the improvised trails at Berthoud Pass.
Berthoud Pass straddles the Continental Divide and sits in two Colorado counties—Clear Creek to the south
(generally to the east) and Grand to the north (generally to the west). At a base-lodge altitude of 11,314
feet, the vicinity has always enjoyed abundant natural snow.
In the 1930s, the “in” thing to do was to drive to the top of The Pass, send a car to the bottom and all but the
driver skied down. Both sides of The Pass—7-Mile to the north and Pump House/Floral Park to the south—
were very popular.
The first lift on The Pass was a rope tow that climbed the west side through the trees. The story is told of a
group of skiers, who had traveled to Sun Valley in 1936, meeting at the Navarre restaurant in downtown
Denver. They supposedly drew out the plans for a lift on some butcher paper. The motor for the lift was
donated by the Ford dealers in the Denver area, and the original skiers volunteered their time to operate the
lift on the weekends.
The tow began operations on February 7, 1937. The story of that first day may have been a harbinger of
things to come. Along with the excitement of this new adventure, there was a bit of tragedy. During that first
day, two German refugees did not return from skiing and search parties were organized to look for them.
Their bodies were later found, the next spring, under the cliffs on the slope across the road from the old
Berthoud Pass Inn. It appeared that they had been caught in an avalanche.
There is some debate about whether the construction of the Berthoud rope tow created the first ski area in
Colorado. While the Glen Cove area, near Colorado Springs, did see a rope tow installed in late 1936, it
appears that lift was used for a private club, only, and not available to the public, unlike the one on Berthoud.
Many of the “old timers” maintained that Berthoud Pass was Colorado’s first ski area. The debate continues
to this day!
After World War II, the US Forest Service (USFS) issued a permit to operate the ski area, which was now
under that department’s jurisdiction. A group of people from three prominent families in the Denver area
became the owners of the ski area: the Grants, the Shafroths and the Tolls. Each family held 30% of the
company, called Berthoud Pass Lodge, Inc., and the remaining 10% was owned by Sam Huntington.
Huntington was a miner from Idaho Springs. The Grants, Shafroths, Tolls and Huntington owned the area
from 1946 to 1972.
The venture enjoyed success from the very beginning. In 1946, Berthoud hosted 30,000 of the 100,000
skier days recorded for the state of Colorado. Berthoud was always popular, since it was one of the closest
areas to Denver (57 miles), easy to reach and already very well-known.
Sam Huntington is credited with coming up with the idea to construct a double-seated chair lift, all the better
to get skiers up the hill. He convinced Bob Herron, a Denver engineer, to make his ideas come to life,
although Heron requested that the owners sign a waiver, in case the darn thing didn’t work. The Corporation
took out, and was granted, a U.S. patent on the double chair lift in 1947. (The patent, however, was never
enforced.) The lift began operating on February 17, 1947. The capacity of the lift was 400 per hour, a vast
improvement for the day.
In 1949, The Grants, Shafroths, Tolls and Huntington built the lodge that stood at the crest of the summit for
over 55 years. The lodge was built of native stone and knotty pine that was milled on site. Describe as
“spacious” it boasted over 5,000 square feet, and included: a restaurant, bar, lodging rooms, bathrooms and
offices. The lodge was only one third of what was initially planned, but it sufficed for many years, and was a
grand example of ski lodges of that era. Additions were added in 1957 (a warming house), 1977 (a patrol
room) and 1987 (front extension and decks). The historic building was unceremoniously (and without notice)
demolished by the US Forest Service in June 2005.
In the early 1960s, Irma Hill was hired to operate the winter and summer concessions on The Pass. Mrs. Hill
always told of coming from a background that included working for William Randolph Hearst and operating
concessions for the City of Denver, including the original airport, Red Rocks Amphitheater, Echo Lake
Lodge, the Denver Race Track and many more. She was widely known as a true character. Mrs. Hill later,
in 1972, purchased the Berthoud Pass business; she continued to tolerate the winter business. Mrs. Hill
mainly liked having the summer concessions and did not put much into the skiing operations, opening only on
weekends and holiday periods.
In early 1977, Ike Garst began negotiations with Mrs. Hill to purchase the ski area. Mr. Garst grew up on an
Iowa farm, learned to ski in college, managed a small ski area in Northern Minnesota (Quadna Mountain)
and worked for a year at the rental shop at the base of Keystone Mountain. He was passionate about skiing
and had plans for the revitalization of Berthoud.
Garst closed on negotiations to purchase the area on June 1, 1977. Three days later he married and brought
his new bride, Lucy, to the lodge on June 10. They operated the ski area and summer business for 11
summers and 10 winters, from 1977 to 1987. The Garst family, which came to include Beth and Nicole,
lived in the lodge at 11,314 feet elevation. (Another daughter, Ashley, was born later in 1987.)
The ski operations opened under the new Garst management on November 12, 1977. Lift tickets cost
$6.50 and a rental package cost $3.50. In the beginning, the ski area was open seven days a week, from
October to as late in the season as the snow would allow, several years lasting until July 4th. Later the Garsts
went to a Wednesday through Sunday operation and the last two years a Thursday through Sunday
The area included two lifts, the Heron double chair lift on the west side and a Heron/Constam t-bar on the
east side. While the runs were short by industry standards, over 18 runs and 80 acres of terrain offered a
quality experience to those willing to give this gem of an area a chance. Beginner terrain accounted for only
25% and 75% was intermediate/advanced terrain. Some of the runs, such as “The Plunge” and “The Roll”
were excellent expert areas and challenged many a skier.
All the snow at Berthoud was natural, although there was a one-night experiment in 1977 to make snow; it
proved to be too time-consuming for the small crew and too demanding on the limited water supply, which
was needed for the lodge operations. Most years saw at least 360+ inches of snow and in 1983 the area
recorded 653 inches; it snowed 12 inches or more 27 days in a row! Berthoud was always known for
having pristine, unpacked champagne powder mid-season and for being open early in the fall and late in the
spring. The earliest opening was Oct 2 (only because there was a snafu with the Forest Service issuing the
winter permit) and the latest closing was in 1986, on July 4. The Garsts used to tell summer employees that it
snowed 11 months out of the year—which it did—but in 1987, it snowed on July 9, making an even 12
months when the ground around the lodge had snow on it.
Berthoud Pass Ski Area, during the time the Garsts owned it, catered to both families and small groups
looking for a bargain and to the expert skiers who wanted an unpretentious experience. While the lodge was
called “funky,” it was also was warm, intimate, and unique; the staff was small, but also friendly and fun,
emphasizing customer service. The Garsts were owner/operators and were on site doing everything from
selling lift tickets to peeling potatoes for French fries. Even Beth was at the register at the age of 7.
The area operated with a volunteer ski patrol, overseen by a paid professional. At times there were over 90
patrollers who provided guest emergency services, did control work on the ski runs, held avalanche trainings
and conducted out-of-area rescues.
The Ski School consisted of 30-40 instructors who taught a variety of skills to customers as well as hosted
school groups from the Empire and Georgetown schools, hosted inner city school groups from Denver,
church groups from across the country and other not-for-profit organizations.
Mountain operations were managed by John Deitchel, one of the original crew when the chairlift had been
built in 1946-47 season.
While Berthoud was one of the smallest areas in the state, it offered all the services of the larger areas, albeit
on a smaller and less grandiose scale.
Ticket prices in later years were economical, but increased steadily. In 1987 a single lift ticket cost $15.00
and a season pass was $100.00.
Berthoud Pass Ski Area witnessed many firsts and recorded many historic events. Besides being the first
Colorado ski area and building the first double chair, the area also enjoyed being the first to use a severely
discounted and transferable season pass; the first area to allow snowboarding on the slopes in the state of
Colorado; and the first to stage the Rocky Mountain Championship Snowboarding Contest. The area also
hosted the Masters and speed skiing contests.
Skiing/boarding really was supported by the summer operations. Ike used to joke, “If Lucy has a good
summer, we can afford to ski.” Summer operations utilized the double chairlift for scenic rides and for
passengers who wanted to eliminate that first 700 feet of vertical on their hike along the Continental Divide.
The Garsts had an abiding interest in history and collected Berthoud memorabilia and photos, which
decorated the lodge. Each year they hosed a celebration, on or near February 7th, to commemorate the
history of skiing in Colorado. On that day, lift rides were 25 cents each, harkening back to days gone by. In
February 1987, the Garsts hosted a dinner at a Denver hotel to celebrate the tradition and legacy of ski areas
in Colorado. Over 150 people attended, including many ski pioneers.
Berthoud Pass in the “Garst Era” was one of the last Mom-and-Pop operations in Colorado. It remained a
true ski area, as opposed to the mega-glitz ski resorts which were becoming the norm. The Garsts sold the
area in 1987 when their Iowa partners opted out of the ski business.
Berthoud Pass was sold to a group named Timberline Mountain Inc, which changed the ski area’s name to
Timberline. Improvements to the ski area included a terrain expansion of 1,200 natural ungroomed acres
serviced by shuttle busses on the Empire and Winter Park sides of the pass. During the group’s first year of
ownership, the double chair malfunctioned, injuring one skier. The Colorado Tramway Board shut down the
lift citing safety issues. Loss of revenue from the lift accident caused Timberline Mountain Inc to file for
Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
By 1989, Berthoud Pass was sold to Gary Schulz of Pine Island, NY. Schulz, owner of the ski lift
manufacturing company Borvig, was looking to enter the Colorado lift market. During summer of 1989,
Schulz removed the old double chair and T-bar and replaced them with state-of-the-art lift equipment. A
quad chair was installed in a similar alignment to the double, while a triple chair replaced the T-bar. A
beginner’s double lift was added on the east side of the pass to entice families.
With the new lift improvements, Berthoud Pass could handle 5,100 skiers per hour with over 1,300 skiable
acres of terrain. Lift tickets for the 1989-1990 season cost 17 dollars with the season ending in mid May.
By 1991, Schulz’s ski area was facing financial troubles. The area filed for Chapter 11 protection later that
year. By 1992, an attempt to sell the ski area failed to gain Forest Service approval, creditors pushed to
move Berthoud Pass into Chapter 7, which allows liquidation of assets. This motion was eventually granted.
As a result, the double chair was removed, lodge stripped of valuables and the triple and quad lifts were
partially disassembled. Since a costly helicopter was required to fully remove these structures, they were left
During 1992, James Pearsall and Sandra Miorelli (James’ sister) began negotiations with Gary Schultz to
purchase the ski area out of bankruptcy. In 1993, James and Sandra bought the ski area from Schultz and
formed the Berthoud Pass Recreation Corporation (BPRC) and applied for a new operating permit from the
USFS. The permitting process would prove to be very difficult for Berthoud Pass over the next five years.
Berthoud’s lodge was to be burnt down around this time period by Forest Service officials for fire
department training. Despite pleas from locals, the USFS was determined to close the area. After the story
broke to news officials, a first grade class in Clear Creek’s Belmar Elementary wrote letters to the USFS as
a class project and pleaded to officials to leave the lodge. Eventually, the USFS backed off from their plans,
but continued to hinder the reopening of the ski area.
Even by 1993, lodge and lifts had fallen victim to vandals; meaning major renovations were required to
reopen the ski area. By 1997, the ski area was still closed and Jim and Sandra’s funds to get the ski area
operational were exhausted. Paul Wiebel was formally brought in by Jim to provide additional funding,
although he was already involved with the area. Paul and Jim knew each other from Nabisco where Jim was
the director of outside distribution. An operating permit was still in the process and was eventually issued for
the south side of the pass only. This meant that only the triple chair could operate.
For the first season, Berthoud reopened with the one Borvig lift and two shuttle buses to pick skiers up
below the lodge level. The following season, the USFS issued a full permit, allowing the quad chair to be
refurbished and opened. In November of 1998, on the way home from working at Berthoud Pass, Jim
Pearsall hit a patch of black ice outside of Empire and died in the accident. Sadly, his dream of Berthoud
ended with him.
The ski was sold to Marise Capriani of Sol Vista (Silver Creek) in 1999. Her idea of Berthoud was to turn it
into a family-type ski area, similar to Sol Vista. Berthoud did not live up to her revenue expectations and she
decided to close the chairlifts down after the 2000-2001 season, citing they could not compete with other
area's buddy passes. The ski area decided to operate with only powder cats, lasting for two seasons. On
March 10, 2003, Berthoud announced that their powder cat operation was no longer and ski lifts would be
removed before summers end. The quad chair was sold to Berkshire East Ski Area in MA and the triple
ended up at a small ski area in the mid-west.
An organization called “Friends of Berthoud Pass” headed by John Strand lobbied the USFS to keep the
historic lodge standing to assist backcountry skiers in the area. Citing high maintenance costs and low
projected usage, the Forest Service opted to tear down the lodge during the spring of 2005. All that remains
at the ski area are chairlift tower foundations and trails.
(Click for larger views!)
|Area Pictures before 1980:
|Left: Colorado's first double chair built by Heron
Right: Berthoud's historic lodge in the 1960's
|Area Pictures from the 1980's:
|The Heron/Huntington Double Chair *
|Area Pictures during the Late 1990's:**
|Berthoud's Triple Chair
The area operated for a couple summer seasons, providing chairlift rides.
1. Berthoud's quad chair after the ski area's lift system closed for the last time.
2. The refurbishing of the quad chair in preparation for operation during the summer of 1998.
3. The triple chair caring skiers to fresh powder.
4. After the chairs closed in 2001, this snowcat was used to transport skiers.
|1. Looking north from the top of the quad 2. Glades on the west side of the pass 3. A ski patroller turning in
fresh powder 4. The east side of the ski area, which contained the triple chair and the lodge 5. The chair
reserved for Elvis. Unfortunately, Elvis never made an appearance.
This was terrain served by the quad chair on the west side of the pass. # / ##
|The east side of the area served by the triple chair.
|The line of the
removed in the
Berthoud's historic lodge was torn down in 2005 by the US Forest Service.
|Have you ever skied at Berthoud Pass?
If so, email us your memories.
"In the early 1970's Berthoud Pass Ski School was headed by a former Austrian National Team member named Herb Hyna. Being a
young racer who thought that he was hot stuff because he was a ski school director at Arapahoe East, I would go to Berthoud and catch
the powder days and harass Herb.
For several seasons I kept challenging the old Austrian to a race from the top of the chair down to the highway. He would always laugh
and say that I wouldn't have a chance.
One day, I started bagging on Herb in order to impress my girlfriend and a couple of my ski buddies. This time he took the challenge. I
grabbed his White Stars and of we went. Herb took his own chair up, I followed in the next chair, it was a long silent ride to the top.
At the top, neither of us said a word to each other. Here we were, the 65 year old Austrian champion and the 22 year old hot shot. I
launched off preemptively, only to see Herb shoot by me on the right. With each rolling pitch Herb put more distance between the two of
us. I remember seeing Herb drop over the final face leading to the road. At this point, I knew that I had just been schooled in the Austrian
By the time I reached the bottom of the run and the highway, Herb was strolling across the parking lot and back to the lodge. After that
day we became good pals and kept in touch through the years, until his passing a number of years ago."
- Tom P.
"I worked at Berthoud Pass 1950-51, for Sam Huntington. Had many wonderful times there and enjoyed skiing whenever possible. I
have climed all over the hills on both sides of the road and walked many miles along the tops of the mountains. The area sure has changed
down through the 53 years. I know Sam is dead, and suppose many of the others who worked there in those days are also."
“Berthoud Pass was very nearly the end of my college career! In the fall of 1977, after a change in ownership, and during my Sophomore
year at the Colorado School of Mines, Berthoud offered a free season pass through a local radio station contest.
From Friday evening, all through the weekend, I dialed repeatedly every
20-30 minutes in the hope of being the right caller (there was NOT auto-redial then, although we did at least have a push button phone!).
Finally, Sunday evening at 7:30PM, I scored! Needless to say, I didn't get all my homework done that weekend, but it would get worse,
During the ski season that followed, I skied 53 days...while being enrolled in 18 semester hours of engineering school!
I discovered that I could make it from Golden to the parking lot in just over 30 minutes, even in my severely underpowered '66 Volvo
122s! I also discovered that it was easy to skip Thursday Chem Lab in order to ski all day, not to mention all day Sat/Sun, and usually a
half-day on Tues if I skipped my one afternoon class. None of this helped an already lax student to excel...
On the other hand, all of this instilled a love of powder skiing, searching out unknown glades, jumping off of windblown (small) cornices,
skiing down either side of the pass to hitch a ride back up, and hooking up with new ski buddies. It also created a forever powder fiend,
part of the reason I've lived in Utah since 1985!
Incidentally, my story has always included that in my 53 ski days that season, only 5 of them didn't include SOME fresh snow.
The story ended that season with my being invited to NOT return to school the following year, although I was provided an opportunity to
plead my case to the Readmission board. With the help of my then-girlfriend and future ex-wife, I did so successfully, remained in school,
and graduated on schedule in 1980...whew!
My season at Berthoud redirected my life and made me the skier I am!”
"Sad to see the "pass" is now closed, we were there in 2000 around 10 of us from Scotland had travelled to Colorado, what a day and
what runs through the back country! I'll never forget the climb by car on the way up, talk about steep. The memories of Berthoud will live
in me forever...."
"I skied the Bert one time at Thanksgiving in 1978? (Winter Park was closed at that time). I remember it well because during that trip I
overcame my fear of the steeps and discovered my undying love of
back country skiing which lasts to this day."
"We had friends that owned The Yodel Inn in Hideaway Park. We would come up in November to help them get ready for the new ski
season. We would go up to Berthoud Pass to ski. I remember being thrilled to get to ski so early in the season. That place was cold and
windy. It was an experience skiing there. I remember steep slopes at the time."
"Sad to see the "pass" is now closed, we were there in 2000 around 10 of us from Scotland had travelled to Colorado, what a day and
what runs through the back country!I ll never forget the climb by car on the way up, talk about steep. The memories of Berthoud will live in
"In 1964 my parents enrolled me in the Eskimo ski club (I was twelve years old) that ran buses from Denver to Berthoud Pass Ski Area
from January until April. We got on the bus at the old Bear Creek Shopping Center somewhere around Sheridan and Alameda. The
interstate was not completed and US 40 was two-lane highway. As a youngster you could really learn to ski all types of conditions at
Berthoud Pass, I remember being stuck at tower number four for three hours one time in a blizzard, we got off the chairlift only after the ski
patrol throw a rope up and we were lowered down in a sling, what a wonderful time. I also remember seeing Warren Miller filming at
Berthoud that winter. It was always an adventure to ski from the top of the chairlift down to Winter Park and hitchhiking back up to the
Berthoud Pass Lodge.
In high school, I worked at Gart Brothers both on Larimer and the “castle”. I became good friends with Herb Hyna the famous Director of
the Berthoud Pass Ski School; he was a great skier and great guy. Herb was a member of the Austrian National Ski Team, and during the
Nazi occupation of Austria, Herb was forced to teach skiing technique to the Nazi soldiers, or be sent to a concentration camp. He didn’t
talk about it much, but it goes to his deep love of skiing. He truly was at home at Berthoud Pass Ski Area, and I don’t know of him ever
missing a weekend at the ski area during the seventies."
"I skied Berthoud Pass a few times while a student at CU Boulder, class of '52. I fell off that double chair once -- because I was enjoying
conversation with my seat mate and didn't see the hump of snow we were approaching. My tips dug in and I fell on my face. The chair was
so close to the snow that it knocked my hat off passing over me! Uninjured, except for my pride,I managed to roll to the side before the
next chair got to me.
Another memory is of trying out for the CU girls' ski team by running a slalom course on the other side of the highway (T-bar there). I made
the first cut, but washed out next time, so didn't make the team."
"Back in the early 1970's, the lift attendants would rarely check for legitimate lift tickets at Berthoud Pass. Being young and short on cash,
this ski area was quite popular with my friends and I."
"It was late in the season 2001, and the spring breakers had all gone home, and looking for the beach. I was living in Breckenridge at the
time, and there was a storm coming through. A friend of mine is a weather junkie, and loves to try to predict storms. The day before it
started to snow, he was claiming that Berthoud Pass was going to the biggest dump. It snowed about 10 inches in Breck, so it was hard to
leave my home mountain with fresh snow. We showed up to Berthoud with about 30 other people, and proceeded to ride 36" of fresh
snow all day long. This was about 2001, when they still ran the lifts, and had a bus to pick you up at the road. The Ski Patrol would open
up a new section of terrain every 2 hours, so we would just keep following them to the dropped ropes. We rode chin deep powder until 4:
30 on our last traverse out, and there was still more snow to ride. One of the best riding days of my life!"
|Copyright © coloradoskihistory.com
All Rights Reserved.
History Thanks to:
The Colorado Ski Museum Resource Center
* Scott B., # Jason S., ## Brad C.,^ RSN, ** The
Colorado Ski Museum, $ Jonathan M.
|Pictures from 1997-2000 by RSN:
|The Heron double chair's
grip. (Picture thanks to
|The new USFS rest area is almost complete where the lodge once stood.