Born 1960, Privatized 2012, Public Again 2015
Evergreen, Colorado N 39° 41.071 W 105° 31.231
Squaw Pass Ski Area has had at least three lives: as a family ski area from 1960 to 1975; a glorified terrain park from 2005 to 2012; and now, as a private downhill race training club. I included it on my list of lost ski resorts because this last incarnation is not open to the public.
If you have been following this series so far, you probably realized the 1960’s were truly the heyday of the small family-run resort. This was the case when Tom and Nancy Creighton founded the little area on Squaw Pass Road west of Evergreen. There was no I-70 to whisk local skiers to the big destination resorts and small operators could make decent money by operating only on weekends and charging skiers $3 a day.
With a T-bar, a rope tow, and 5 runs, the area primarily served Evergreen and Clear Creek County residents for fifteen years. The ski area received an average of 225 inches annually, most of it in the late spring. My friends who were raised in the Evergreen fondly remember it as a place where the parents “parked” them on a winter’s day as they ran errands in town. Stop in Musser’s Ski Repair in Evergreen and Jim Musser will regale you with stories from the days when he worked there on ski patrol.
Squaw Pass shut down in 1975, probably more a casualty of rising costs than for a lack of snow. It lay dormant for 20 years, though locals still skied it on powder days. Some even fired up the diesel lift motor until the property owners got wise and removed it.
In 2005 its new owners saw a viable existence for the small area as a local terrain park. The sport of snowboarding made it possible for a small area to offer a unique experience close to home. Finally, it seemed, a formula that would allow the small foothill ski area to prosper.
This was (along with Berthoud Pass) the only “Lost Ski Resort” I have skied myself. The runs were too short to interest a 50-year old skier who has no desire (or nerve) to launch a double-cork twist whatever from his twin tips. It was a good place to take snowboard lessons and give the sport a try, or enjoy a spring powder day after an upslope dumped a foot in the foothills.
One of the weirdest moments in Echo’s history came when Darren Taylor, a.k.a. Professor Splash, dove from a wobbly 35-foot platform into a baby pool with less than a foot of water. I don’t know how they came to pick Echo for the stunt. Perhaps the dramatic mountain backdrop or the challenge of “swirling mountain winds” added an element of drama to the event. The stunt was filmed for Discovery channel and a 3-minute video is available on You Tube: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L88jPvZbz7I).
In spite of tripling skier visits to 32,000 in six seasons, owner Jerry Pettit put Echo Mountain on the auction block in the summer of 2012. The buyer was a Denver-area woman named Nora Pykkonen who was tired of hauling her ski-racing children all the way up to Vail for practice. A newspaper article at the time claims the area will eventually have 1,500 vertical feet of skiing, a Super G course and a video tent at the bottom where the kids can review their run after they finish. They also boast a coaching staff comprised of former World Cup skiers.
Update: The ski area owners have opened Echo Mountain to the public once more. Season passes and day tickets can be bought, though access will still be limited at certain times of the week.
ColoradoSkiHistory.com web site: http://coloradoskihistory.com/lost/squaw.html
Denver Post. August 29, 2012. “Echo Mountain Ski Area Bought to be Converted into a Training Facility.” Jason Blevins.