By Beth Dodd:
Teller County is home to a countless number of avid skiers who have to travel two hours or more to reach the nearest ski resorts, but that was not always the case. The north side of Pikes Peak once boasted a number of small family ski resorts, most of them now forgotten.
The earliest of these lost resorts was at Glen Cove, close to timberline on the Pikes Peak Highway. It operated from 1924 through the 1940s. In the beginning, skiers accessed the mountain from the Pikes Peak Auto Highway or by special skier’s outings from the Cog Railroad. Then in 1936, the auto road switched from private ownership to management by the U.S. Forest Service. The prior $2.00 auto toll was abandoned, and skiing at Glen Cove boomed. The area had possibly the state’s first rope tow by the end of 1936, and a second rope tow was added by 1940.
Glen Cove skiing faded in popularity when the Pikes Peak Ski Area opened just below Elk Park about a mile from Glen Cove in 1939. The place had a temporary base lodge and access to the trails via a few small lifts and by bus. Lift tickets in the beginning were just $3.00. If you ask around, you can probably find someone who remembers learning to ski there.
The Pikes Peak Ski Area tried to expand in the early 1980s. A new triple chair replaced the bus service to move skiers to higher terrain above the timberline. More new terrain and a permanent base lodge were also planned, but inconsistent snow, problems with snow making, and high winds on the upper slopes all contributed to the resort closing in 1984 before the expansion was completed. The runs are still clearly visible today, and a few hardy souls still access the bowls by car like they did back in the 1920s.
The early success of skiing on Pikes Peak and its growing popularity across the state probably encouraged others in the area to try it. As gold production slumped after World War II, Cripple Creek began to convert to an economy based on tourism instead of mining. The Tenderfoot Mountain Ski Area was likely an effort to bring tourists into town while having some good times close to home.
Built a couple miles east of town by members of the Cripple Creek Ski Club, Tenderfoot Mountain operated from 1948 through the early 1950’s. The terrain was mostly beginner runs and a few intermediate runs. There was a base lodge as well as a summit warming hut, two rope tows, and a J-bar to get skiers up the mountain. When the ski hill opened one local newspaper said, “[There was a] white gold strike on Tenderfoot Mountain.” The area most likely closed because of insufficient snow and the lack of expert terrain. An alpine slide later operated there for a brief time, but closed after a couple of years possibly due to insurance concerns. The area’s J-bar was relocated to Monarch Mountain in 1956.
The Holiday Hills Ski Area was another local operation which served skiers from 1963 through 1973. The ski hill was located west of Woodland Park in the Holiday Hills sub-division developed by Harlan Nimrod, and at one time averaged 350 skiers a day.
“We had a place with snow on it, and we weren’t hampered by previous knowledge,” said Kay Nimrod about Holiday Hills in a 2006 interview with the Summit Daily when she was 75 years old. She and her husband, Harlan, ran the ski hill with their children. In addition to the lifts and ski runs, they had a warming hut and an A-frame lodge where they sold lift tickets, chili and hot chocolate.
“We had three tow lifts and nine ski runs. Our daughter worked inside with me, running the food and ticket concessions, and our two sons worked outside with my husband. We had three or four people running the tows. We had ski patrol and ski school and a rental operation. We charged $3.50 for a lift ticket,” she said. “It was fun, and it was hard work.”
Like many small ski resorts around Colorado, the area was closed by high insurance costs, inconsistent snow, and low attendance. There was some talk of the area being reopened by a new owner, Juan Mijares, who bought the property around 1998, but so far no public skiing has been revived there.
Another little ski area was tucked into the hills between Divide and Cripple Creek at Rainbow Valley Ranch. It was open for a brief time during the 1960’s and had just one rope tow and one run. The run is still visible from Highway 67 South if you know where to look. The skiing at Cutty’s Alpine Lakes north of Divide never even got started. The area had a J-bar brought from Holiday Hills after it closed and two ski runs, but never opened because of the exorbitant cost of insurance. The J-bar was still there as of 1999.
Many people also still remember Ski Broadmoor, a two lift resort opened by the Broadmoor Hotel in 1959 on Cheyenne Mountain. The resort had two lifts, a lodge, night skiing, and an alpine slide in the off season. The resort was sold to the City of Colorado Springs in 1986 and then to Vail Resorts in 1988. They were unable to make a profit from it and closed it in 1991.
In spite of all the resorts that have come and gone since the 1920s, the Pikes Peak ski resort dream remains alive. Before his death in March of 2012 mountain climber Harvey Carter was promoting ‘The Resort at Pikes Peak’, a planned ski resort and lodge south of Divide near The Crags. After Carter’s death, his business partner John Ball, a former telecommunications executive and CEO of The Resort at Pikes Peak, and his son Scott Carter, executer of Scott’s estate became entangled in a legal battle involving the 320-acre property on the northwest side of Pikes Peak. Both men say they would still like to see Harvey Scott’s dream come to life once the current legal issues are resolved, but for now any possible ski resort is years away.