Born 1956, Died 1957
Golden, Colorado N 39° 42.696 W 105° 12.823
Magic Mountain may be the ultimate “lost” ski area – the actual slopes no longer exist! Magic Mountain, which was located just south of present-day Heritage Square Amusement Park, did not survive beyond its inaugural season. The property was eventually acquired by Western Aggregate (now part of the Lafarge Group) to be quarried. It is now a hole in the ground.
The Foothills Ski Area at Magic Mountain was the brainchild of George “Lefty” McDonald. He leased 600 acres of land on Jackson Hill from the Magic Mountain Corp., which was formed by local businessman Walter Cobb. Cobb aimed to capitalize on the success of Disneyland by hiring C.V. Wood, Disneyland’s first General Manger, along with many of the engineers and art directors who worked on Disneyland, to create the world’s second theme park in Golden.
The beginner-oriented slope was 1,100 feet long and had a vertical drop of only 700 feet. Two rope tows were built to serve the area. The double chair lift that currently serves the Alpine Slide was built long after the ski area closed. Most of Jackson Hill, south of the lift, has been quarried.
The Foothills Ski Area at Magic Mountain operated for only one season, but that single season had an outsized impact. Magic Mountain pioneered the concepts, such as artificial snowmaking and night skiing under lights, that helped modernize the ski industry in the decades that followed. The lower elevation (about 5,800 feet above sea level) required they somehow augment Mother Nature’s bounty. McDonald set up a network of irrigation pipes and spray nozzles, then trained his snow “guns” on the brown slopes, building a base thickness of 2 feet. It was the first artificial snowmaking operation west of the Mississippi.
Magic Mountain was enough of a success (5,000 skiers that season) to warrant continued operation. The Denver Post even sponsored a ski school at the area. The amusement park, however, couldn’t pay all of its bills and unpaid contractors filed liens against all of the assets at the park. It took McDonald 3 years just to get his equipment back. When he did, he took his snow guns south to Colorado Springs, where he created the largest snowmaking system in the world (at the time) at the Broadmoor Hotel.
The cache is placed at Magic Mountain’s successor, Heritage Square. There is no admission fee to enter Heritage Square or reach the cache. You will likely pass a large rounded, brown-banded outcropping of Fountain Formation sandstone on your way to the cache. The park has named it “Magic Mountain,” perhaps in tribute to the ski area that – like magic – has disappeared from the face of the earth.
ColoradoSkiHistory.com website: http://www.coloradoskihistory.com/lost/magicmtn.html
McMillin, John, 1997, Mountains of Memories, Mountains of Dreams: A History of Skiing in Jefferson County, 10:18, pp.7-14