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EXCLUSIVE: Snow Sports Legend Chris Anthony Bringing his Youth Program to Cuchara Mtn. Park
“If we give these kids an opportunity to be in our environment, they’re gonna also wanna — down the road — do it more, but also protect that environment.”
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CUCHARA, CO — August 25, 2022
The saga of Cuchara Mountain Park gets an exciting new entry: a potential partnership with Colorado Ski Hall of Famer Chris Anthony.
I’ve been keeping close tabs on the effort to revive this long-abandoned ski resort. The lightning version of the story goes like this: The original owners bailed on the place 22 years ago. A non-profit community group helped buy the land for Huerfano County and has been working to restore it. They’re close to this goal, and it looks likely they’ll welcome back guests this winter.
The group has an amazing story, and the one paragraph blurb doesn’t do it justice. A few months back, I interviewed Panadero Ski Corp. board member Will Pirkey, who lays out the background:
More recently, I’ve covered their summer progress update, here:
Setting the Stage: An Affordability Crisis
The impact of the ski resort mega-pass is certainly up for debate. Plenty of riders swear by them and enjoy being able to hop out of their cars and into the lift line, no fuss. Others argue resorts are jacking up the price of single day tickets, to corral customers into buying pricey passes they may not need.
What isn’t debatable is the results have further frontloaded the cost of an already expensive sport. Even I’m old enough to remember when you could get a lift ticket for less than 30 bucks. Now, prices flirt with the $200 mark for a day pass, and that’s before you factor in rentals and lessons. All things included: a family of four can easily drop a Grand on a single day on the slopes.
Sticker shock is more than enough to scare off plenty of would-be riders, along with parents trying to get their kids into the sport.
Cuchara Mountain Park aims to be one of the cheapest options in Colorado. Official pricing hasn’t been released, but these tentative ranges were shared with me:
Adults — $35-40
Youth — $18-24
Season Pass — pending discussion
True, that won’t buy you the same experience some of the bigger resorts can offer. But when you’re brand new and don’t know a bowl from a binding, terrain variety is a lot less important than price and practice. When it comes to developing real skill in the sport: going often is much more useful than going big.
Enter: Chris Anthony
Chris Anthony is a huge name in snow sports. He’s a professional skier, featured in more than two dozen Warren Miller Films. He is also an award-winning filmmaker himself and was inducted into the Colorado Snow Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.
This is Chris’s video introduction when he was inducted:
Over the years, Chris has spent untold hours working to inspire tens of thousands of kids to connect with the outdoors.
Now: he helps expand student access through his Youth Initiative Project, covering the cost of field trips where kids can learn to ski.
“The bigger picture is that it provided me a sport and a focus that helped — I guess you could say my youth development. And it kept me out of a lot of trouble, and also gave me a skill I’ve been able to do a lot with.
“But I think the most amazing thing is what the sport provided me through my childhood and my teens. And that is a whole community of competition-based friends, and a healthy lifestyle. And it really did get me out of the city and away from some bad stuff, and up to a healthier place.”
The industry landscape has changed quite a bit since Chris first strapped on skis at 18 months old. As corporate conglomerates absorbed more local resorts, Chris says many of the pass deals that helped get kids started, dried up.
Currently, Loveland Ski Area is one of the places the Youth Initiative Project takes kids. The mountain is still independently owned. And its proximity to the Denver metro makes for a relatively convenient trip.
When Chris heard about the revival at Cuchara, he says it seemed like a great fit for this mission; opening up the opportunity to serve kids in southern Colorado.
“When I saw that this was happening around a small community base, that is very much a traditional community base and everybody was throwing their hearts into it, it reminded me of when I was a kid and how my parents basically got us into the sport. They lived in a small town, and it had a ski area. And they worked at the ski area because they loved skiing. So it made it very easy to bring the kids up and learn the sport. And I very much see that here with this community.”
The Next Steps for Chris, and Cuchara
Panadero Ski Corp. says after a meeting with county commissioners: they have a “memorandum of understanding,” to let them operate the lift, and skiing this winter. That means baring any problems with the upcoming safety inspection: it looks like lift-served skiing is a go for the 22/23 season.
For Chris: the next challenge is bringing the infrastructure to make his program work at the non-profit ski hill. Up at Loveland, there’s a rental shop right at the base. This creates an easy assembly line where kids can come in, get outfitted, and head right out to ski school.
But the closest rental shop to Cuchara is a long way off.
“The other thing is, at the time, just volunteer instructors will be up there, ‘cause they won’t have a ski school staff up there yet. But I already have a few people that reached out to me who said they want to come down there and just be part of this whole thing.
“I think the hearts and the wheels are all there. Just, a little bit of infrastructure has to be in place in order to get the kids on the slopes up there.”
After that: it’s about building up relationships with local schools, letting them know about the opportunities, and encouraging them to sign on for field trips.
“Some of this stuff you just can’t measure. We all know there’s been experiences in our lives that have inspired us to do something productive. It may have been a person that said something at your school, it may have been something in a movie, going to a concert. Just observing something. And that changes a child’s brain in a direction that will inspire them. And you can’t measure that. All you can do is provide those opportunities. If you can change a few lives in that process, then you’ve won.”
Two Ways You Can Get Involved
There are multiple ways to pitch in, if community skiing and outdoor access are important to you. If you’d like to help give more kids the opportunity to find enrichment in the outdoors, you can learn more about the Chris Anthony Youth Initiative Project by clicking the button below.
Cuchara Mountain Park is also going to need a lot of donations until it can get more firmly established. I’ve also added a button where you can learn more about the Panadero Ski Corp., the work they’re doing, and how you can pitch in.
If you enjoy news about the Ski Industry as a whole, I also whole-heartedly recommend you check out the Storm Skiing Journal. While I focus more broadly on the outdoors in the Rockies, this publication is one of the best outlets covering the ski industry, nation-wide. We have a pretty big audience overlap. So, if you haven’t checked it out yet, what are you waiting for?