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Editor’s note: This winter, we’re honoring five Colorado resorts celebrating milestone anniversaries, including Copper Mountain, Vail Ski Resort, Eldora Mountain, Steamboat Ski Resort, and Telluride Ski Resort. Read more about their history, hear from their fans, and learn how you can join in on the fun.
In 1958, a former ski champion and Hungarian immigrant locked eyes with an elk as it drank from a lake near Nederland. For locals, the event would have likely been commonplace (elk abound in those parts), but for Gabor Cseh, whose homeland’s mythic founding story involves a white stag, it was a sign. Cseh had long hoped to open a ski area and, once in Colorado, decided to do so near the masses living along the Front Range. When he saw the ungulate, he knew precisely where to build.
Eldora Mountain Ski Resort opened five years later, explain Rett Ertl and Andy Bigford in Eldora: Six Decades of Adventure. Its lifts–at the time just two t-bars–first spun for the public the weekend of January 5-6, 1963, almost two months behind schedule due to a lack of snow. Those first patrons paid $3.50 for an adult lift ticket and a chance to ski on a meager base. Today, that same ski area has installed the most expansive snowmaking infrastructure in Colorado and grown its collection of lifts to 10, while remaining a convenient choice for Front Range skiers and retaining the welcoming, low-key vibe it’s always had. This year, Eldora celebrates its 60th anniversary.
Eldora’s first seasons were rocky, both figuratively and literally. Turmoil amongst the owners (including Cseh’s ousting after the first season) led to management woes, and a lack of early-season winter storms paired with the resort’s now-notoriously windy landscape meant rocks often peeked out from under the snow. Yet the new resort still drew guests, many of whom came up for just a few hours. Even back in its second season, management officials reported selling “an extraordinarily high number” of half-day tickets, historians say.
Over the years, Eldora has grown to 680 skiable acres–respectable, but still a fraction of the acreage Western Slope ski areas like Snowmass, Vail, and Steamboat offer.
Despite its comparatively small size, however, the resort has often been on the forefront of ski industry and inclusivity trends. In 1967, it became the second resort in Colorado to make snow. (Today, it can blanket all of its groomed terrain in manmade white.) Historians believe Eldora had the first female ski patrol director in the state (maybe the country) and note it was one of the first resorts in the U.S. to put a woman in the mountain manager post. When Eldora hired a snowboarding instructor in 1987, it was on the forefront of welcoming snowboarders at ski resorts.
Eldora’s successful management teams–and to be sure, not all of them were successful–played to the mountain’s strengths. “We’ll never be able to compete on the basis of the size of facilities, or the size of the mountain,” Eldora’s leader at the time, Andy Daly, told The Daily Camera in the late ‘80s, “but we can certainly compete on convenience, and the quality of the product that we’re able to provide.”
That’s a motto Eldora lives into today. In preparation for its 60th season, the resort invested roughly $10 million to enhance the guest experience, including adding parking infrastructure that created a 50% net increase in spots, installing electric vehicle charging stations, and improving snowmaking capabilities. The upgrades will continue for seasons to come with a new Ignite Adaptive Center and ski school facility set to finish in 2024, as well as new terrain openings and lift replacements in following years. Notably, there are no plans for base area expansions and mega hotels.
After 60 years, Eldora knows precisely what it is, Eldora President and General Manager Brent Tregaskis tells the authors of Eldora: Six Decades of Adventure: “We are the perfect half-day resort.”
How to Celebrate
Sure, Eldora sits in your backyard. But how much do you know about this humble, hometown ski area? For instance, were you aware that the resort once had an under-21 discotheque on-site? Or that a photographer snapped the cover pic for rock band Supertramp’s “Even in the Quietest Moments” album at the top of the Muleshoe run back in the mid-70s? Find more details about these and other historical tidbits in the coffee table-worthy book, Eldora: Six Decades of Adventure. Plenty of other 60th-themed merch is available too, from logoed Yeti bottles and koozies to stickers, t-shirts, and hats. Arguably the most fitting tribute: A limited-edition Eldora topsheet graphic for your Meier skis or snowboard.
One Run to Try
Most local downhillers arrive at Eldora, jump out of their Subarus, and hightail it over to the runs off of the Corona lift as fast as the lines will allow. The excellent tree skiing in the Salto and Moose Glades certainly makes this a worthy option. Another great choice: Park laps on the Sundance Lift.
Where to Stay
For most of us, the most convenient and cost-effective place to sleep for a visit to Eldora is our own beds. Out-of-towners looking for easy access to the ski resort should consider the Boulder Creek Lodge, which features a welcoming, cabin-esque interior and is located just 10 minutes from Eldora. For a more luxurious option, book a night at either Hotel Boulderado or St Julien Hotel & Spa, two of Boulder’s finest lodging options, located about 40 minutes from Eldora.
Eldora, in the Eyes of a Local Legend
Holly Widdowfield knows Eldora Mountain pretty well. After all, the Nederland resident has been skiing there for 50 years. Back in 1973, she remembers it as “just a tiny little area, just your classic old, Colorado-type ski area.” Snowmaking capabilities hadn’t yet been installed, so the skiing was “sometimes iffy at best,” she laughs. “It was all natural snow. We used to call it El Rocko because it was so rocky!”
Since then, the resort has installed snowmaking infrastructure to cover all of its groomed terrain, more than any other ski area in Colorado, which allows it to cater to any type of skier–not just those who like, er, bumps. “Eldora has a great beginner area with some really fun little runs over there for the kids, and then as the kids get older, they can move to the bigger mountain,” Widdowfield says. “The runs may be shorter than a lot of areas, but boy, you get on some of that harder stuff in the back and it’s very challenging. That mountain will give you any kind of challenge that you [could] ever want.”