It’s hard to imagine what Colorado must have been like before the ski resorts were built. What did people even do during the Winter?
Luckily, we will never need to know the answer to that question! Colorado’s illustrious ski history dates back to the 1800s. In fact, many of Colorado’s resorts have probably been around for a lot longer than you think. For example, did you know that Monarch Mountain near Salida, Colorado is turning 80 this year?
That got us wondering, how did skiing come to Colorado?
According to coloradoinfo.com, we can thank European immigrants for bringing skiing to Colorado during the early mining days. In those days, skiing was a necessity as miners used skis to traverse heavy snow in the mountains. Even the mailmen would strap 11-foot boards to their feet in order to deliver the mail in mountain towns.
Flash forward a few years and skiing began to pick up traction as a recreational sport in Europe and on the East Coast of the United States. After the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, interest in skiing grew in the United States and smaller ski areas began opening around Colorado. Some of the first ski resorts in Colorado opened in the late 1930s, including Monarch Mountain, which opened in 1939!
While the resort itself may have opened 80 years ago, people have been skiing on Monarch’s mountains since at least 1914. The original operating permit from the United States Forest Service was issued to the City of Salida, the first owners of Monarch Mountain! In 1955, the resort was sold to the Berry Family and has been privately operated since then.
For almost 20 years, the mountain had just two tow ropes until construction of the first lift began during the 1957 season. Little by little, chair lifts, a ski lodge and parking were added until Monarch Mountain resembled the ski resort we know and love.
Today, Monarch Mountain prides itself on its down-to-earth and uncrowded atmosphere. Locals love it for its laid-back vibe. To celebrate its 80 years of history in Colorado, Monarch Mountain will be celebrating all year long with special events at the ski area. If you pass through Salida this summer, you may even notice an orange butterfly illuminated on Tenderfoot Mountain signaling the start of Monarch’s celebration. Keep an eye on Monarch Mountain’s Facebook page for more updates about special events and the history of this Colorado gem!
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Katie is a graduate student studying International and Intercultural Communication at the University of Denver. Originally hailing from the Midwest, she still remembers her first-time laying eyes on the Rocky Mountains and falling in love. In addition to exploring mountain trails, Katie enjoys checking out Colorado’s craft breweries and scouting the Front Range for the best scoop of ice cream.