Long-shuttered Colorado ski area may be reopened
Nearly 200 miles south of Denver, near the New Mexico border in a picturesque valley on the eastern slope of the Sangre de Cristo range, a long-shuttered ski area is showing hopeful signs of life.
Sure, a lot of things would have to fall into place before Cuchara Valley can be reborn as a ski area after two decades of dormancy, but a local group is working hard to make it happen. Through the non-profit Cuchara Foundation, Huerfano County acquired land at the base area in 2017, which became a county park. The foundation fixed up one of the old buildings, reversing years of vandalism and adding a fireplace and an electric heater. Now, dozens of locals ski, snowboard and sled under their own power there on weekends.
The group behind the effort is hoping to get one of the area’s smaller lifts up and running for next ski season, serving four trails at the bottom of the mountain. Mike Moore, who owns a bed and breakfast in Cuchara village 3 miles from the ski area site, believes it can happen.
“I’ve got five volunteers who have previous ski experience, some of them 35 to 40 years of ski experience,” Moore said this week. “We’re working on that lift, doing everything we need to do. Two months ago we had the cable inspected, and it was certified as OK to be run again. I just got off the phone with the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board, and we’ve got the outline of what we need to do prior to next summer to get that lift certified — all the maintenance, greasing, things like that. We’ve got an auxiliary motor and an electric motor, and we’re hooking up other electricity up there.”
When the area operated off and on from 1981 to 2000 with four chairlifts and a vertical drop of 1,562 feet, ski trips there were rich in beauty and solitude. The road to Cuchara is designated a Colorado Scenic Byway. A pair of massive mountains called the Spanish Peaks, which rise more than a mile above their surroundings, greet visitors approaching the area. Then the road passes a series of massive rock walls that appear like battlements guarding the entrance to the Cuchara Valley.
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