Last Saturday, Eldora christened its new $5.5 million high-speed six-seater Alpenglow chairlift. There were champagne bottles on hand, a red ribbon, a giant cowbell, and a collection of diehard Eldora skiers who’d risen with the sun to be the first to ride the new lift, which is the crown jewel of new owner Powdr Corp.’s $11 million capital improvement plan.
Matt Tomasko, executive director of the local nonprofit Eldora Mountain Ski & Snowboard Club (EMSC), sprayed the crowd—and a good number of ski racers—with champagne. For the record, he did not crack the bottle of bubbly across the bow.
Festivities will continue next weekend, with the Alpenglow Kickoff Party on December 2-3, complete with food, beer tent, giveaways, and live music. (See details below.)
On opening day, Barbara Ferries Henderson, a U.S. Ski Team member who competed in the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, was at the head of the line. Bedecked in shimmering silver pants and a blindingly pink jacket, Henderson was asked by Hunter Wright, who had earned first chair honors by naming the lift, to join her on the inaugural ride.
“I’ve been skiing here since the very beginning, 1961-62,” said Henderson. “Back then, they had a T-bar. It’s been a long time coming, this lift, and it’s amazing.” Henderson, who raced under legendary coach Bob Beattie, and whose teammates included Billy Kidd, Bill Marolt, and Jimmie Heuga, now lives in Nederland. “I thought maybe I wouldn’t see it in my lifetime. It’s the best for Eldora,” she said. “This lift will make the mountain more enjoyable for everybody.”
The lift’s name, Alpenglow, is a nod to Eldora’s signature new color (part of a rebranding that includes changing the name from “Eldora Mountain Resort” to simply “Eldora”). The Alpenglow color was inspired by Powdr Corp. CEO John Cumming’s nostalgic memories of riding the lifts at Eldora when he was racing for the CU Ski Team. Those training sessions were early enough that the racers could watch the sky turn orange at sunrise.
Also at the front of the line was Dirk Larson, who has lived in Nederland and been skiing at Eldora for 35 years. “I try to get first chair every year, and last year I made a point of getting last chair [before] they took the old chair down,” said Larson. “I wake up early anyway. If you get on the first chair in the morning, you can get 10 or 15 runs in.” Larson noted that he won’t get the rest between runs he used to. What was a 12 to 14 minute ride on the fixed-grip Cannonball and Challenge chairlifts will now take less than five minutes. “These old bones take some time to recover,” he said. But he’s happy with the high-tech new lift. “The new owners are putting money into Eldora. Look how many people are out here enjoying the national forest. We’re lucky to have this.”
Serving as master of ceremonies, Eldora president and general manager Brent Tregaskis welcomed everyone, popped a champagne cork high above the crowd, and encouraged guests to check out upgrades at the area’s base lodges, including luxury renovations in the restrooms,a restored fireplace in the Timbers lodge, and upgrades to the rental and retails shops.
The obligatory red ribbon was snipped, sending off the first chairs, which included a handful of raffle winners from EMSC. While the racers, coaches, and former U.S. Ski Teamers milled about at the top, Larson pushed off. “I was the first one to ski down,” he said with a grin at the bottom.
Head to Eldora December 2 and 3 for a grand opening party complete with burritos and mimosas, drafts from 10 Barrel Brewing Company, tunes from DJ Gourmet, and a BBQ. The first 200 riders in the lift maze will score Under Armour quarter-zip base layer tops. The resort will also hand out Eldora trucker hat and host a raffle for YETI rambler water bottles.
On Saturday afternoon The Alcapones, known for their ska and reggae beats, will be playing from 1 to 4 p.m. Banshee Tree will take the stage on Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. with swing and blues tunes.