Eldora Mountain Resort opened in 1963 to a lean snow season. Today, it’s a locals’ favorite. We caught up with John Waugh, Eldora’s official marketing photographer, to chat about opening day 50 years ago.
What was that first day like?
I was 10 years old. My family had a cabin in the town of Eldora, so on the first day, they said, “Let’s go see this new little hill.” Rather than a chairlift, the mountain had a T-bar. When we got halfway up the mountain, it plunked my sister down and knocked her off. The cross bar went up the back of my coat and proceeded to drag me up the mountain. And that was my first ride at Eldora.
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What’s your most memorable moment at Eldora?
The winter of 1964–1965 we got a big blizzard with a lot of wind and the road was completely snowed over. So we had a couple hundred people spend the night at the ski area and made all the mac and cheese they had. That, and in 1990, I logged 30,000 vertical feet in a single day. That’s doable at Vail, but I think I had to ski 31 runs that day to make it happen at Eldora.
How would you describe the skiing?
Eldora has wonderful diversity of terrain, from little kids’ hills to double black diamonds. If you’re a hiker, they now offer a wilderness access gate that goes west into the Indian Peaks Wilderness—that’s where you can find the mid-thigh stuff. Eldora has gone from a little ski area where you can get bored in a couple of hours to a spot that will give you everything you want in a day of skiing.
What can we expect between now and Eldora’s 100th?
In the master plan they submitted to the Forest Service, they're going to replace the front two chairlifts with one high-speed chair, which will provide easier access to the back and front sides. They also applied for an on-mountain restaurant so people can have a place to eat finally. But what I really love about Eldora is that there are no plans to put any beds on the mountain. They’re going to keep real estate development out of it. You just go there to ski, and ski a lot. They say, “It’s the big E, where every day’s a holiday.” And that won’t change.