We often forget that skiing in the Wild West began on small hills that rose right out of the soon-to-be-famous resort mountain towns in Colorado -- the oldest being Howelson Hill in Steamboat Springs.
These “town hills” were soon dwarfed by the major resorts, but they still encapsulate the legacy of American skiing. Plus, they are cheap, uncrowded and, above all, unpretentious.
So when out skiing and riding in the Colorado Rockies, set aside some time (often in evenings) to take a few turns on what were known then as “ski areas” and be part of skiing’s 100-plus years of history in this nation.
Here’s a look at some SnoCountry.com favorites:
· Howelson Hill. Up and running in 1915, the city-run hill has a poma that runs in the evenings on Tuesday-Sunday, and the chair that cranks up on weekend days. It’s also home to the top ski jumps in the country – and nearly 70 Olympians.
· Kendall Mountain. Silverton’s 1960-circa town hill’s chairlift runs 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday-Sunday. Four runs, plus routes through the trees with terrain-park features cover 240 feet of vertical in the heart of the San Juan Mountains.
· Ski Hesperus and Chapman Hill. Just outside Durango, night skiing highlights the action at Ski Hesperus that opened in 1962. Vertical drop of 700 feet dives off 8,800-foot summit, served by one rope tow and one double chair. Located below Fort Lewis College, city-run Chapman Hill’s two rope tows turn into the evening after Jan. 1 – seven days a week.
· Cranor Hill. Run by the city of Gunnison, this town hill began on a private ski ranch and became public in 1966. The four runs and one poma are open Fridays through Sundays during the days after Jan. 1.