Mom-and-pop ski areas are slipping away in Colorado |

Mom-and-pop ski areas are slipping away in Colorado

R. Scott Rappold
The Denver Post

Wolf Creek Ski Area is remote, surrounded by Rio Grande National Forest in southern Colorado. Traffic is nonexistent, and you can park practically right next to the lifts — no long bus rides from the free parking lot. They’re all free. Lift tickets are affordable, and you can feed the family and not have to take out a second mortgage. Lift lines are rare outside of the holidays and spring break.

Since the mountain is rarely crowded, powderhounds can find fresh tracks days after a storm. And skiers have pristine views of an undeveloped landscape; no ski-in, ski-out condos or boutiques here.

But Texas billionaire B.J. “Red” McCombs has been trying for three decades to build the Village at Wolf Creek, a massive housing development that could someday host several thousand people and fundamentally alter the environment atop Wolf Creek Pass, where the ski area is the only development for miles in any direction.

It’s just one example of the pressure felt by mom-and-pop ski areas across the industry, an industry where small ski areas are increasingly being bought up by major corporations that collect resorts like so many chips in a poker game. Crested Butte Mountain Resort was the latest to fall this year, when longtime owners the Mueller family sold it to Vail Resorts.

It begs the question: In skiing, is bigger always better?


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