Tales from the Tread: Lost ski areas

Tamra Monahan/For the Steamboat Today
The Tread of Pioneers Museum is hosting a "Lost Ski Areas of Colorado’s Front Range and Northern Mountains" discussion at 6 p.m. Thursday.

The Tread of Pioneers Museum is hosting a “Lost Ski Areas of Colorado’s Front Range and Northern Mountains” discussion at 6 p.m. Thursday.

For more than 50 years, skiers from all around the world have traveled to Steamboat Springs to experience our Champagne Powder, but Storm Peak was not the first ski mountain in Northwestern Colorado. Scattered all across the counties of Grand, Routt and Moffat counties are remnants of recreational ski areas dating back as early as 1912.

The success of Steamboat Ski Area is due in part to these pioneering ski areas that blazed a trail in the Champagne Powder — places like Bungalow Hill in Hot Sulphur Springs, Capitol Hill and Cowboy Peak in Oak Creek, Clark Community Hill in Clark and the Cathy Cisar Winter Playground in Craig.

Colorado ski slopes, small and large, dotted the state’s mountainous landscape, creating a ski mecca in the mid-1900s for this burgeoning recreational sport. Although most of these original ski resorts are long gone, their history remains alive in the book “Lost Ski Areas of Colorado’s Front Range and Northern Mountains” by Caryn and Peter Boddie.

This fascinating book tells the story of our state’s ski industry by chronicling the many and varied ski resorts that no longer exist, from single hills on ranches to slopes at the edge of towns and tiny mom-and-pop enterprises. Each resort has a unique and colorful tale that the Boddies bring to life using interesting facts and numerous photographs.

We invite you to join the book’s authors at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Tread of Pioneers Museum and venture down the slopes and ski runs that made Northern Colorado a skier’s paradise.

The book opens with a look at the origin of recreational skiing in Colorado, which had its humble beginning in Grand County. Surprisingly, this multimillion-dollar sport started in the tiny town of Hot Sulphur Springs when an ingenious real estate developer named John Peyer had a plan to lure tourists to the town year round. In 1911, Peyer teamed up with Norwegian ski jumper Carl Howelsen and created Bungalow Hill, the first ski area in Colorado.

Recreational skiing may have started in Hot Sulphur Springs, but Howelsen’s move to Steamboat Springs sparked a passion for the sport that lives on in Ski Town USA. Howelsen’s influence transformed Routt County’s winter months from mere existence to fun and athleticism. The book tells of ranchers like John Fetcher, who attached a tow rope to a tractor and created Clark Community Hill, and Jack Holderness, who operated a single rope tow on his ranch near Hayden.

Small ski resorts like these have come and gone all across Colorado’s mountains, leaving in their wake a legacy of ski folklore and legends. Each account of these ghost ski resorts in “Lost Ski Areas of Colorado’s Front Range and Northern Mountains” gives the reader a unique perspective into the origins of skiing in our state.

According to Caryn Boddie, “Our book gives the untold story about how recreational skiing started in Colorado, the challenges communities faced with small hills and how ski hills were created and lost. It also gives a look at the remarkable communities, heroes and heroines that got the ski industry going.”

Tamra Monahan works for the Tread of Pioneers Museum in downtown Steamboat Springs.

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