By Claire Barber
As Keystone and Arapahoe Basin wake up from their summer break, snowfall settles on other resorts with runs free of monolithic pass mongers and overpriced lodge chicken fingers.
They are lonely lifts that stand dormant: remnants of independent mom-and-pop resorts. The snowy, ice-encased lifts are waiting to creak to life, to carry another skier, to cradle them in a nice, cold embrace, and to carry one more butt up the mountain.
But these lifts will likely never move again. There are over 100 abandoned ski resorts in Colorado. However, in many places the lifts still stand, and the runs still send. Skiers and split-boarders skin up among the desolate remnants of a human desire to conquer a malleable and vulnerable nature.
Their icy corpses are all around us. Look towards the Broadmoor and you’ll see the long-shuttered “Ski Broadmoor,” a little ski hill that now makes a clear stripe on Cheyenne Mountain. It was abandoned by Vail Resorts in 1991.
Right up on Pikes Peak are traces of The Pikes Peak Ski Area, which closed in 1984. Its runs are still easily accessible by road. All the hardware has been removed and little saplings spring up where snow cats used to groom, struggling to reclaim their territory.
Last year, a documentary called “Abandoned,” produced by “The Road West Traveled,” premiered. The film follows backcountry skiers as they visit abandoned resorts across Colorado, one of which is Cuchara Mountain Resort.
Cuchara Mountain Resort is located in La Veta, Colo., about two hours south of Colorado Springs. Almost everything still stands — the lifts, the lodge — frozen in time. We are reminded of the implications of the ski industry: the booming growth of corporate powerhouses (I’m looking at you, Vail) and variable, poor snow conditions that have left little guys behind. Cuchara closed in the early 2000s after its inability to attract enough visitors and limited snowfall prompted the Forest Service to remove its Special Use Permit.
As a skier, I feel morally obliged to ski at these closed resorts. We’ve conquered these places: we put in our metal and our snow machines and parking lots. We’ve moved on. Our protests of the big resorts are weak. We flop around and eventually buy one pass or another. Clear cut and graded runs take a long time to return to their wild state — grading practices especially complicate recovery. The land is scarred, and it’s easy to forget. These places are hidden, caught in a peculiar crossroads of wild and industry. Most of us ski their relatives, the big guys with big condos and big six person chairs. But abandoned nearby, chairlifts stand icy and desolate, waiting for one more skier to carry up the mountain.