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Update — The Quest to Revive an Abandoned Ski Resort
Checking back in with the Panadero Ski Corporation about the final steps in the process to get their lift spinning, and welcome back riders for the first time in more than 2 decades
CUCHARA, CO — July 21, 2022
In the middle of summer, snow sports may be far from your mind. Or maybe you’re like me, and you’ve been eyeing your skis or snowboard(s) longingly, planning which run you’ll hit first on opening day.
When the lifts start spinning again, there will hopefully be another among them: Lift 4 at Cuchara Mountain Park. A few months ago, I spoke with Will Pirkey — board member of the Panadero Ski Corporation — about their efforts to welcome back guests.
If you’re not familiar: the short version of their story is that the original resort was orphaned more than 20 years ago, but the abandoned private property blocked access to the Forest Service land beyond. The Cuchara Foundation helped purchase this land for the county in 2017. They’ve been working to restore it ever since.
The long version is linked below, where I interview Mr. Pirkey about the long-term plans, recreation opportunities, and how the organization hopes to bring positive change to snow sports in Colorado:
The Finishing Touches
Before guests can ride, Lift 4 needs to pass inspection from the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board. This will let the Panadero Ski Corporation purchase insurance, and start sending guests up the hill, hopefully before the end of 2022.
Since our last update, they have been visited by Dendrite Engineering — the company consulting through the certification process. Panadero Ski Corp. has also contracted two experienced chairlift mechanics. These mechanics worked with long-term volunteers Kevin Chapman and Jeremy Golnik to fix the wiring on the operator control panel, and actually run the lift under full electric power.
Earlier this month, the organization made a big fundraising push. They hosted their inaugural First Chair Festival and Fundraiser. The festival included a disc golf tournament, BBQ, activities for kids, and a silent auction. Several big names in the ski industry, as well as local businesses pitched in to donate items for the silent auction.
In a statement to Cole’s Climb, Panadero Ski Corporation described the results as an overwhelming success.
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The Road Map to Opening
Panadero Ski Corp. has a list of final repairs and upgrades to take care of before guests can be welcomed back. If all goes according to plan, these will hopefully be ticked off by summer’s end.
Ongoing — finish painting chairs, and installing donor plaques
Late July — line and tower work, replacing bearings on the sheaves (the wheels on the tower that the lift cable sits on)
Summer — full load test, done with 300 lbs. water weights on each chair
Late summer / early fall — final safety inspection
Looking Ahead to the 22/23 Season
Pricing is likely a huge point of interest for anyone interested in dropping by Cuchara Mountain Park. Final determinations still haven’t been announced. However, Mr. Pirkey has provided a tentative price structure:
Adults — $35-40
Youth — $18-24
Season Pass — pending discussion
The Panadero Ski Corporation is an all-volunteer 501c3 non-profit organization. Right now, they’re looking for donations to cover the cost of the new bearings for the lift towers. The estimated total cost is $7,650, at $45 per bearing. If you’d like to kick in and help the project, you can donate here:
I don’t usually delve too deep into the nitty-gritty of ski resorts over here on Cole’s Climb. Part of the reason is because there’s already another fantastic independent writer who’s got that covered. If you’re not already subscribed to Stuart Winchester’s newsletter, I recommend you remedy that by clicking the button below.
He covers the changing landscape of the ski industry with a thoroughness that’s completely unmatched. The two of us seem to have a pretty big audience overlap. If you haven’t read the Storm Skiing Journal yet, I think you’ll like what you see.