Ghosts of Slopes Past

By Christopher Kolomitz

Skiers seem to always go big.

Big air, big adventures and big falls.

And they dream big, too. This year, many are dreaming of massive amounts of snow following a lackluster season last year. More than 30 years ago, developers of two ski areas in Central Colorado were dreaming as well.

Separated by about 80 miles, the Conquistador and Cuchara ski areas share a remarkably similar and sad fate. They were both within a day’s drive of Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma, and no major mountain passes had to be navigated, which was good for marketing. Both were affordable, low key and offered beginners the chance to learn. They were nestled in idyllic valleys, home to historic ranches and scenic vistas.

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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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Water Update

by John Orr

The National Ski Areas Association Sues the Forest Service

Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs was speaking over in Breckenridge a couple of years back and told the group in attendance that “the water ditch is the basis of society.” Colorado law grew from those simple agricultural roots: put the water to beneficial use first and you get the right to divert the same amount in subsequent water years. Another early beneficial use developed around mining operations.

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