Born 1920, Died 1956
Golden, Colorado N 39° 42.026 W 105° 16.954
The automobile made recreational skiing possible in Colorado. No longer tethered to street car lines, the people of Denver could do more than gaze longingly at the mountain front.
Skiers looked to the nearby foothills for ski jump sites. Genesee Mountain and Homewood Park were the two locations near Denver where jumps were built in the 1920’s. Ski jumpers from the Denver-Rocky Mountain Skiing Club, based out of Denver and Jefferson County, competed against ski jumpers from Homewood Park (southwest Jefferson County), Hot Sulphur Springs and Steamboat Springs throughout the 1920’s.
There was no Interstate highway to whisk skiers to Genesee Mountain in the 1920’s, nor was there a U.S. Highway 40 clinging to the side of Mount Vernon Canyon. Only a disused wagon road. Weekend skiers had to navigate the harrowing Lookout Mountain Road out of Golden, to get to the site. Spectators took the streetcar from Denver to Golden, the funicular railway up the side of Lookout Mountain, then hiked through snow for 2 miles. Nonetheless, some competitions had as many as 10,000 in attendance.
Situated on the north-facing slopes of Genesee Mountain, the Genesee Park ski jumping area was the site of national ski jumping competitions from 1921 to 1927. As many as four jumps are reported to have been built on the mountain. The longest jump was reported to be 2,000 feet long with a vertical drop of 700 feet. Often, snow was trucked in from higher elevations for the competitions, forming a thin white ribbon for the jumpers to land upon.
Although jumping was the only form of competitive skiing in the 1920’s, the sport of Alpine skiing first blossomed during this era. European instructors from the Arlberg Club taught Telemark and Christiana turns to Denver-area skiers. The Denver Post even ran a feature article in 1929 about a club of Denver socialites and winter sports enthusiasts who spent weekends on the north slopes of Genesee, gliding through the glades while executing these exotic ski techniques. They even had a sidebar describing the fashions that were worn by the skiing set at Genesee.
Poor snow conditions eventually doomed the ski hill in the 1930’s. The crowds dwindled as the better skiers migrated westward to Steamboat Springs and Estes Park. There was a brief revival in the mid-1950s when the University of Denver hosted annual college meets at the hill. The last was held in 1956 and the ski jumping site was soon overtaken by development, when I-70 was punched through Mount Vernon Canyon in the 1960’s.
These days the condominiums crowd the lower portion of the main jumping areas. The cache is located on Denver Mountain parkland at a vantage point where at least two of the jump “cuts” can be seen. The largest is about ¼-mile to the east, above the Chimney Creek condos.
ColoradoSkiHistory.com website: http://www.coloradoskihistory.com/lost/geneseemt.html
McMillin, John, 1997, Mountains of Memories, Mountains of Dreams: A History of Skiing in Jefferson County, 10:18, pp.7-14