Over the years, there have been a lot of ski resorts in Colorado. Many have seen great success while others didn’t fare so well. There have been more than 175 ski areas in Colorado since skiing became popular in the early 20th Century. Today, less than 30 resorts operate on a regular basis. While many closed ski areas shuttered their doors due to lack of snow or poor attendance, many had some awesome terrain that we wish could rip today. Let’s look at some lost Colorado ski areas that we’d love to ski today.
Berthoud Pass first saw skiers in the early 1930s clamoring to say they skied the Continental Divide. The ski area operated most years from 1937 to 2001 and had a base lodge at 11,314 feet. Runs were accessed by a T-bar lift and one double chair prior to 1989, when a new triple chair and quad chair were installed and used until the resort closed in 2001.
The base lodge had a ski shop, restaurant, cafeteria and ski patrol, and runs were open from October to early June. The resort had a nice vertical drop of close to 1,000 feet, and there was usually plenty of powder. The terrain was mainly geared toward beginners and intermediate skiers, but about 20% of the resort was rated expert.
Ski Idlewild was a smaller ski area in what is now downtown Winter Park. The resort operated from 1961 to 1986 and was geared toward beginners mostly, along with four intermediate trails. The Ski Idlewild Lodge base lodge sat at 8,700 feet with a summit of 9,100 feet. There was no snowmaking at the ski area and runs were open from late November through mid-April. When the resort opened in 1961, skiers could reach the top via a double chair lift. A platter surface lift was installed in 1967. The resort had a base lodge with a ski shop, cafeteria-style dining, a bar and ski patrol.
Idlewild Guest Ranch was built three years before the ski area opened and was owned separately at times over the years. The Idlewild Lodge Hotel was part of the ranch and was a popular spot for cross-country skiers. (At one point there was an epic cross-country adventure from Winter Park to Frasier held in conjunction with Devil’s Thumb Ranch.) There was also a barn at the ranch with an ice-skating rink.
Ski Idlewild closed in March 1986, but the guest ranch continued to offer cross-country skiing. In 1994, the Idlewild Lodge Hotel was sold and renovated. It reopened for a couple of seasons but closed in the summer of 1996. It has been closed to the public ever since.
Arapahoe East Ski Area opened in 1972 and was renamed Ski Golden in 1982. The resort operated until 1984 just off Interstate 70 at Genesee. The small ski area was the brainchild of Arapahoe Basin founder Larry Jump and featured snowmaking and night skiing. The base lodge was at 6,800 feet and the summit was about 7,400 feet. Runs were accessed by a double chair lift.
The ski area was close enough to Denver to attract some business and private functions. The Denver Playboy Club bunnies were frequent visitors. Though conveniently located, the ski resort never got off the ground. One of the main reasons was lack of snow. (Let’s just say that snowmaking wasn’t what it is today.) A permit to install an alpine slide was denied in 1978. Ski Golden closed permanently in 1984 to join the list of lost Colorado ski areas.
Geneva Basin had huge powder and lots of it – about 300 inches a year. The ski area first started under the name Indianhead but was later changed. It opened with a T-bar and a double chair, and two Poma lifts were installed later to improve bowl access and beginner terrain. The resort had a restaurant, bar, ski shop and childcare center.
Initially, Geneva Basin suffered as the pass was unimproved. It went into foreclosure in 1965 and sold at auction. It was sold again in 1972 and changed hands numerous times over the years due to financial troubles. While the resort changed hands over the years, maintenance fell behind and the resort was forced to shut down the ski area in 1984. It was sold yet again in 1985 with hopes of reviving the resort, but the owners went into bankruptcy and the ski area was stripped bare.
In 1991, Geneva Basin was set for another rebirth, but nothing evolved from that endeavor. In 1993, voters were asked to approve a recreation tax to reopen the ski area. It was widely denied. Two days after the Park County vote, the ski area’s lodge was burned down by the Forest Service to avoid any liability thus creating another one of the lost Colorado ski areas.
The ski area known as Conquistador was short-lived, but the resort near the town of West Cliffe had some fun, lengthy runs and a good amount of vertical thrills. Conquistador operated from 1978 to 1988 and saw a revival in 1992.
The resort had a 6,000-square-foot base lodge and opened with two surface lifts in 1978. Many residents of the area were opposed to the ski resort, citing lack of interest and little snowfall. Conquistador installed two new lifts in 1982, but the investment never paid off. The resort went through foreclosure and was operated by the government until it closed in 1988.
The resort reopened for the 1992-93 ski season under the name Mountain Cliffe, but poor weather forced the ski area to open late and close early that season. It never reopened again.
St. Mary’s Glacier Resort opened in the 1950s, but skiers had been cruising the nearby glacier for decades. It is located just off Interstate 70 at Idaho Springs near the town of Alice. The ski area had a base of 8,500 feet and a summit of 9,760 feet and served up some awesome advanced skiing for intermediates to experts.
The ski area was also called Silver Lake in the 1970s and Silver Mountain during the 1979-80 season. There were plans to revive the resort as a snowboard resort in 2002 but plans never developed.
Sharktooth Ski Area has a dubious distinction: It’s the lowest elevation of any ski area ever in Colorado. Located just outside of Greeley, the ski area had a base of 4,600 feet with a vertical drop of only 150 feet. There was one tow rope and one open slope that is 1,000 feet long. While the resort was dainty, it did have a sweet vibe. There was fun night skiing, tubing and ice skating available at Sharktooth from 1971 to 1986. (OK, maybe we’re not dying to rip this one, but it would have been pretty cool to check out nonetheless!)
Do you have a favorite Colorado ski resort that’s been closed and lost to the ages? Share your memories here and let’s keep the conversation going. Add your favorites or reminisce about your memories for the ones we mentioned. We’re sure there are a lot of untold stories out there!