Skiing in Colorado / The Ski Industry Snowballs / Ski Colorado / Edwards Country

Skiing in Colorado / The Ski Industry Snowballs / Ski Colorado / Edwards Country (HM29EJ)

Location: Edwards, CO 81632 Eagle County
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Country: United States of America
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N 39° 38.736', W 106° 35.378'

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Skiing in Colorado

The earliest recorded use of skis in Colorado dates to 1857, when mountain guide Jim Bridger fashioned a crude pair to bail out an army unit snowbound in the San Juan Mountains. Such was the function of "snowshoes" (as they were then known) on the frontier-they were survival gear, not sporting goods. Miners, freighters trappers, and others who spent winters in the mountains depended on them for hunting and communication; mailmen strapped them on to make their alpine rounds. The most prolific Colorado skier of the nineteenth century was probably Father John Dyer, who plowed across a far-flung parish encompassing Breckenridge, Leadville, and Fairplay. At ten feet long and an inch thick, these primitive boards were heavy and unwieldy, but warded off frostbite, cabin fever—and death.

Early Recreational Skiing

Though Colorado's first ski clubs formed as early as the nineteenth century, the activity hardly qualified as recreation. Practitioners had to hoof it up the slope, then find their way down without the aid of signs, cleared trails, safety markers, or groomed snow. Very few caught the bug. That began to change in the 1910s, when winter festivals popularized all manner of cold-weather amusements. The 1932 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New York,

further broadened interest in the sport, and newly improved mountain highways paved the way for a number of Colorado resort openings. These prewar locales (including Berthoud Pass, Loveland, Monarch, and Winter Park) offered a hardy, adventurous brand of skiing with flew luxuries. But enough people discovered the joys of schuss to give rise to a new Colorado industry.

The Ski Industry Snowballs

With the development of Aspen Mountain in the late 1940s, Colorado skiing entered its golden age. At last the state had a world-class resort the equal of any in the European Alps. Other ski areas tried to capture Aspen's glamour, embroidering their slopes with gourmet restaurants, five-star lodgings, and fashionable shopping districts. Resorts grew larger, richer, and more crowded; the snowy mountains, long cursed as travel barriers, were now international travel destinations. But if the ski industry brought millions of visitors and billions of dollars into the state each year, it also produced side effects such as traffic jams, pollution, and high housing costs. Coloradans even rejected an opportunity to host the 1976 Winter Olympics, citing environmental concerns. They continued, however, to ski in record numbers—proof positive of their devotion to the sport.

Skiing Technology

Colorado's first ski lift, a surface-level

rope tow unveiled at Berthoud Pass Ski Area in 1937, guaranteed rapid, effortless ascent—for skiers, and for skiing's popularity. Subsequent technologies (T-bars chairlifts, gondolas) made the ride uphill even more rapid and convenient, while innovations such as slope groomers (invented 1957) and snowmaking machines (popularized in the 1980s) ensured uniformly good conditions. They also, however, generated some grumbling about the sport's increasing tameness. Equipment makers responded with faster, lighter skis, and the high-flying snowboard provided new thrills (by the new millennium, roughly a fourth of Colorado resort visitors were snowboarding). Others turned to rugged variants such as backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and telemark skiing, which harkened back to the sport's beginnings. No lifts, no machinery—just mountains and snow, and skiers propelled by their lungs and their muscles.

Ski Colorado

Like the gold miners of yore, Colorado skiers in the first half of the twentieth century combed the mountains restlessly, searching for the mother lode. Ski areas rose and fell with dizzying speed, lasting only until better prospects were reported a few miles or mountain range away. Nearly two hundred commercial resorts operated in Colorado during the twentieth century. Many just wrung a few winters' recreation out of one rope

tow and a single well-tracked hillside; others an for decades before closing. Here and there decaying lift towers, vacant trail cuts, and tumble-down warming shacks stand as ghostly monuments to these expired snow playgrounds. The resorts that have survived into the twenty-first century are among the world's finest, mining Colorado's abundant peaks sunny winters, and dry, powdery snow to produce pure skiing gold.

Edwards Country>
{Area map of historical & geographical highlights}
HM NumberHM29EJ
Year Placed2001
Placed ByThe Colorado Historical Society, Colorado Department of Transportation
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Monday, July 16th, 2018 at 7:01pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)13S E 363607 N 4389630
Decimal Degrees39.64560000, -106.58963333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 39° 38.736', W 106° 35.378'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds39° 38' 44.16" N, 106° 35' 22.68" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)970
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 220 Edwards Access Rd, Edwards CO 81632, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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