Pioneer Ski Area – Colorado’s First Chairlift

By Duane Vandenbusche

The Pioneer Ski Area began during the winter of 1939-40 and was located three miles up Cement Creek and eight miles south of Crested Butte on the side of spectacular Cement Mountain. Pioneer would become famous as the first ski area in Colorado to employ a chairlift.

The ski area was hatched in the minds of Gunnison skiers Rial Lake, Art Fordham, Chuck Sweitzer and Wes McDermott. All of these men had skied off Monarch and Marshall Passes in the 1930s, but they yearned for a ski area that could eliminate the long treks to the tops of mountains. The four men knew the region around Crested Butte to the north had everything needed for a great ski area – tremendous snow, high mountains, and a great ski tradition dating back to the early 1880s.

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The Western State Ski Team: “The Little Engine That Could”

By Duane Vandenbusche

The Western State College ski team began innocently enough. Shortly after the end of World War II, veterans returned to the college. Some had been members of the famed 10th Mountain Ski Division, which trained at Pando near Tennessee Pass and had fought in the mountains of Italy. The idea for a ski team came from two veterans of the 10th Mountain: Crosby Perry-Smith from New York and Dick Wellington from Maine.

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