Author maps the way to 36 abandoned ski resorts |

Author maps the way to 36 abandoned ski resorts

Joel Reichenberger
The Cuchara Mountain Resort in southern Colorado closed in 2000 after cycling through eight different owners in fewer than 20 years of operation. The base-area buildings are abandoned but remain on private property. The pristine powder blanket behind them, however, is on public ground and available for backcountry skiers to attack.
Courtesy Photo

'Powder Ghost Towns'

By Peter Bronski


Available locally at Epilogue Book Company, 837 Lincoln Ave., and on order at Off the Beaten Path, 68 9th St.

On the 'Net

- Peter Bronski, author of "Powder Ghost Towns," has written many other books and magazine articles about adventuring exploits. To read them and browse his two other books, "At the Mercy of the Mountains: True Stories of Survival and Tragedy in New York's Adirondacks," and "Hunting Nature's Fury: A Storm Chaser's Obsession with Tornadoes, Hurricanes and other Natural Disasters," check out his Web site, http://www.peterbronski....

- Additional historical information for the resorts featured in "Powder Ghost Towns" and many of Colorado's other lost ski areas can be found at http://www.coloradoskihi..., a site that features extensive histories and pictures from the more than 200 areas that have sprung up and disappeared throughout the years.

General Douglas MacArthur explained in 1951 that old soldiers never die.

“They just fade away,” he told Congress, preparing to fade away himself.

The same apparently can be said for ski resorts. Peter Bronski’s “Powder Ghost Towns,” released last month, is built around the history of 36 defunct ski resorts spread across Colorado. Bronski details how that history can be revived with some of the best not-so-natural backcountry skiing to be found.

Bronski explained his captivation and motivation while displaying his perspiration Tuesday night, when he spoke about writing the book and showed slides of the process in a presentation at Epilogue Book Co. in downtown Steamboat Springs.

Compiling all the information for the 244-page book took the 30-year-old Boulder resident two winters and 40 days of skiing and hiking in the backcountry – along with countless hours spent studying maps, conducting interviews and plotting the quickest and safest way for readers to enjoy the ski resorts of yesterday.

He piled up 7,000 miles during his trekking to and from each potential location.

“I lost track of how much time I spent tracing the histories and preparing the book,” Bronski said.

When he was finished, his book included the history of three dozen ski areas and directions to accessing and skiing the forgotten powder.

Nearly 200 lost resorts dot Colorado, but Bronski narrowed the list with a set of qualifications.

He only included runs on, and accessible from, public land. That immediately cut his potential resorts by half and ousted the inclusion of the former Stagecoach Ski Area, one of the largest abandoned resorts in the state.

He also eliminated former ski destinations that no longer receive adequate snow. That ruled out many Front Range locations, including one at the famous Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs and another near Greeley that featured a peak elevation of 4,750 feet.

“The list whittled itself down pretty quickly,” Bronksi said. “At some of the places, there isn’t a lot left to see, or sometimes there wasn’t terrain skiers would like to ski.”

He was left with a wide variety of slopes that, for those inclined to make all the stops, offers a history tour of skiing in Colorado.

Pioneer Ski Area near Crested Butte installed the state’s first overhead chairlift in 1939, a 30-chair machine cobbled together with old mining parts and strung atop a series of wooden towers.

The resort closed in 1952, but the terrain – including the once-harrowing Big Dipper ski run – still is accessible after about a mile of hiking.

“Some of the most significant milestones in skiing happened at lost ski areas,” Bronski said. “The first overhead chair lift, night skiing and the rope tow all started at lost ski areas.”

There are about two dozen major resorts still operating in the state. The book includes some resorts that only just have begun to fade away slowly.

The Cuchara Resort, located in the Sangre de Cristo mountains in southern Colorado, opened in 1981. It was expanded several times but became crippled by foreclosures and eight different owners. It finally closed in 2000.

The former resort’s base area and condominiums all are private property, but the 340 acres of the actual ski mountain are on public ground and accessible after a short hike.

Several former lift-served slopes near Steamboat also are featured in the text. The terrain of the former Steamboat Lake Ski Area (actually on the banks of Pearl Lake) are partially on public land and accessible.

Emerald Mountain’s former life as a lift-served ski mountain also is addressed, as is Baker Mountain, a slope that originally opened in 1950 east of Rabbit Ears Pass.

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