Have you ever felt the cold wind on your face while skiing down a snowy slope in Colorado?
Once upon a fleeting time in the late 1800’s, gold and silver miners worked in the high mountains. Travel was difficult because of the area’s large quantities of wintery snow.
The miners that were from Scandinavian countries knew how to ski and taught others. Spruce trees were cut down, sawn into thin boards, and the tips boiled in large kettles so the ends would curl up. Mailmen harnessed these 11-foot wooden planks onto their boots with bear trap bindings and skied from one mining camp to the next delivering mail.
One of the pioneers of skiing in America was Carl Howelsen, who emigrated from Norway to Colorado. He was the first person to put baskets on the bottom of ski poles and to cut grooves on the bottom of skis. Carl was so good at ski jumping that the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus hired him to perform as “The Sky Rocket.” In 1914, he organized Steamboat Spring’s First Winter Carnival and Howelsen Hill Ski Area was opened. It is the oldest operating ski area in North America. 92 Ski Olympians have trained there.
A portable rope tow was installed at a ski hill near Georgetown in 1936. It was eventually named Loveland Ski Area and is Colorado’s 2nd continuously operating ski hill. It was the first to have snowmaking capabilities.
Monarch Mountain, located on the Continental Divide near Salida, was the 3rd ski area to open. It gets 350 inches of snow a year and in 1939, a season pass only cost $1.00.
During World War 2, soldiers were needed to fight against Hitler’s troops. Camp Hale, near Leadville was built to train the 10th Mountain Division for military combat on skis. One night in Italy, the troops climbed 1500-foot sheer cliffs and bravely completed a mission that eventually led to the Germans surrendering. After the war, these brave, skiing soldiers opened nearly 60 ski areas across America.
Downhill skiing’s popularity brought development to Colorado’s mountain towns. And today, Colorado is the most popular destination for skiing and outdoor recreational activity in North America. In the recent past, there were over 13 million ski visitors in one season!
Would you like to learn how to ski? The Epic Schoolkids Colorado Pack is a free program for Kindergarten through 5th grade that provides four days of skiing and riding at each of the state’s top-ranked resorts: Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Crested Butte.
Do you live near any of Colorado’s other ski areas?
Arapahoe Basin, Aspen, Bluebird Backcountry, Buttermilk, Chapman Hill, Copper Mountain, Cranor, Echo Mountain, Eldora, Hesperus, Howelsen Hill, Kendall Mountain, Lake City, Lee’s, Loveland, Monarch, Powderhorn, Purgatory, Silverton, Ski Cooper, Ski Granby Ranch, Snowmass, Steamboat, Sunlight, Telluride, Winter Park, Wolf Creek.
Do your best to get up to the mountains and enjoy the terrific sport of skiing!
Bibliography: Coloradoinfo.com;Uncovercolorado.com; Coloradoencyclopedia.org; Rocky Mountain PBS Colorado Experience Monarch Mountain