Tales from the Tread: Columbine Lodge once housed guests on Rabbit Ears Pass

Cheri Daschle and Candice Bannister
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
This is a 1950s postcard of the Columbine Lodge.
Tread of Pioneers Museum/courtesy

Traveling over remote Rabbit Ears Pass today, without a gas station, motel or services for over 50 miles, it’s hard to imagine the popular Columbine Lodge, located on the east summit of the pass, served travelers for over half a decade. The lodge was the only stopping point between Walden and Steamboat Springs, 62 miles apart, and between Kremmling and Steamboat, 57 miles apart.

In the June 12, 1925, issue of the Routt County Sentinel, it was reported that “Mr. and Mrs. J. R. Goff of Columbine Lodge, established last year just east of the summit of Rabbit Ears Pass, were in Steamboat yesterday, making arrangements for a number of improvements … at their popular stopping place. They are now equipped to care for a small number of travelers who may desire to stop for the night, and they have a dining room of considerable size where they serve meals.”

The lodge provided hot and cold water via water piped from a spring, as well as a telephone and filling station. Over the years, more cabins were added, and Columbine Lodge became a popular summer resort for Steamboat visitors and other travelers, offering Sunday dinners, parties, dancing, large gatherings and celebrations. The pass was not open during the winter in those days.

Because of its isolated location, the lodge also was used by highway maintenance crews and served as a snow depth and water content station through the 1990s. 

By July 1953, Columbine Lodge had new proprietors, D.F. (Ted) and Inez M. Schefler. According to an ad in the Steamboat Pilot, the lodge offered “the finest in foods” with no liquor or beer served. And it was suggested to “bring the whole family.”

An ad later that same month said the lodge specialized in “tender T-bone steaks and fried chicken.” By December 1953, AAA emergency road service was provided at the lodge through their Texaco service station. 

That July, the Scheflers drilled a deep well on the property in hopes that the lodge might be able to be open in the winter. They also installed five new guest rooms and a modern bath on the lodge’s second floor.

Columbine Lodge got a boost in business when ski enthusiasts initiated the Baker Mountain Ski Club to serve the Kremmling and Walden areas. Just three-quarters of a mile from the lodge, Baker Mountain opened in December 1953 with a 500-foot rope tow and three runs. Food and lodging were then conveniently available at Columbine Lodge for weekend skiers.

In December 1962, Columbine Lodge was purchased by Richard and Virginia Laurdisen of Greeley. They intended to run the lodge starting January 1963. No further information surfaces about the lodge until 1973 when Steamboat Pilot articles indicate Columbine Lodge had guests staying overnight.

One such guest was Derek Ingham, who was arrested for car theft in Routt County and gave the lodge as his residence. Owner Owen Geer stated the man had “done miscellaneous jobs” at the lodge, and when he left, Ingham not only owed a large bill but also took money from the lodge’s register.

During the winter of 1966-67, snowmobilers used the Columbine Lodge parking lot to unload their sleds and ride from there. The couple who operated the lodge at the time sold Johnson snowmobiles, and they groomed a trail from the lodge to Harrison Creek and to the Meadows on the Continental Divide. Meals were enjoyed at the lodge at the end of the trail riding day. For a time, in the 1970s or 1980s, Columbine Lodge was called the Continental Inn. 

After more than 50 years serving as a restaurant, service station and resort, Columbine Lodge “reverted back to the Routt National Forest” in August 1984.

The beautiful Columbine Lodge is remembered fondly for all of the hospitality, chicken dinners and special occasions that were celebrated at the top of Rabbit Ears Pass.

Candice Bannister is the executive director of Tread of Pioneers Museum. Cheri Daschle is a museum volunteer.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.