Ask anyone to describe what they know about the state of Colorado and there's a really good chance skiing will be the first thing they mention.

The ski industry in Colorado is an enormous part of the state's economy and has been developing since before it was even officially a state.

Keep scrolling to learn about the development of Colorado's massive ski industry.

History of Colorado's Ski Industry: The Early Days

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The origin of Colorado as part of the United States is highly centered around mining, and it was during this mining boom that skiing was introduced to the area as well.

Back in the 1860s, the only way to reach mining communities during the winter months was by skiing, and this was largely how mail carriers like "Father" John Dyer got around.

It was not long after this that mining declined, and skiing steadily became more popular.

History of Colorado's Ski Industry: The Early 1900s

After the mining boom of the 1800s passed, skiing became popular in mountain towns such as Crested Butte and Steamboat Springs. The sport's growing popularity inspired such events as the winter carnival in Hot Sulphur Springs in 1911 and The National Ski Tournament of America Championship in Genessee in 1921.

Ski hills and areas were also established during this time period including Howelsen Hill in 1914, Bourhtoud Pass in 1931, and Roche Run in Aspen in 1938.

This period also saw the establishment of the first ski lodge on Berthoud Pass in the 1930s, the first ski lift at Gunnison's Cement Creek, and the original Colorado ski areas of Monarch Mountain and Winter Park in 1939 and 1940, respectively.

History of Colorado's Ski Industry: The 10th Mountain Division

World War II saw the establishment of the 10th Mountain Division, a military branch formed at Camp Hale near Leadville in the early 1940s. Following the war, veterans of the division founded Vail and Snowmass and opened ski schools and businesses to cater to skiers.

History of Colorado's Ski Industry: The Mid-1900s to Today

1962 saw a huge event for Colorado's ski industry as Vail opened its slopes for the first time. This resulted in massive development along I-70 as well as massive growth in the popularity of the sport. In fact, there was a push for Beaver Creek to host the 1976 Olympics, but the residents of the area vetoed the idea in a vote.

The 1980s saw snowboarding become a big player in the industry with the first snowboarding competition ever being held at Ski Cooper in Leadville, as well as the World Snowboarding Championships which were held at Breckenridge Ski Resort in 1990.

Finally, Vail Resorts was founded in 1987 and marked a huge turning point for Colorado ski resorts that has seen consistent growth to this day.

Now that you know the history of Colorado's ski industry, check out a timeline of some of the most remarkable events that have taken place:

The Development of Colorado's Ski Industry

A lot of events had to take place for Colorado to become the world-class skiing destination that it is today.

Smoke Shacks are Secret Manmade Huts on Colorado Ski Mountains

WARNING: Under no circumstances should you enter this property. By doing so you risk bodily harm and/or prosecution for trespassing on private property.

If you’re not a ski bum or a ‘local’ in a ski town, you may not know about the secret, manmade huts on Colorado ski mountains known as ‘smoke shacks.’

See Eerily Abandoned Colorado Ski Resort that May Reopen Soon

WARNING: Under no circumstances should you enter this property. By doing so you risk bodily harm and/or prosecution for trespassing on private property.

Take a virtual tour of Colorado’s forgotten ski resort, Cuchara Mountain Park, which despite being abandoned for over 20 years may be reopening soon.


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