Skiers and boarders in the Denver metro area are discovering that they don’t have to travel too far from home for a treasure of snow, runs and features.
Echo Mountain ski area is gaining in popularity.
“You know, there are big mountains, powder and all that, but this place, for being as close as it is to Denver, it’s really nice,” said skier Owen McKee. “It has a great terrain park, so it’s really fun to come here.”
Echo Mountain can be as short as a half-hour drive from Denver. You’ll quickly exit from Interstate 70 in the mountains above Idaho Springs, while the rest of the weekend’s ski traffic inches west.
The small ski area will be remembered by long-time Colorado residents as the Squaw Pass Ski Area. That resort opened to the public in 1961 and was run by the Creighton family.
Before it shut down in 1974 Squaw Pass used a lot of manual labor to make sure there was enough snow on the runs.
“The snowmaking was taking snow off of Squaw Pass Road, shoveling it in the back of his truck and using an augur to throw it out on the hillside,” said Mark Petitt, co-owner.
In 2005, the Petitt family reopened the area as Echo Mountain.
Modern snowmaking guarantees Echo Mountain a season even during low snow years. Mark Moline said what began primarily as a terrain park has now expanded.
“Now it’s this great place where we’ve got the pros out riding the big jumps and features and the kids and the families learning at our learning centers,” said Moline.
The ski area’s small size, lower prices, and proximity to Denver have resulted in a growing ski and ride school.
Scott Saltzman told CBS4 he took his boy to Echo for a taste of what skiing is all about.
“I thought it would be a good idea to get him a short lesson to see if he enjoyed it, and it wasn’t going to be an all-day lesson,” he said.
A new “magic carpet” at the ski school helps bring the rookies back uphill.
“It’s possible to get out on the hill with your rentals, lift ticket, and your lesson for $70, which is way better than going to some of the other resorts,” said Tom Serra, manager of the ski & ride School.
Advanced skiers will also enjoy Echo’s terrain.
“We basically just wanted to make it so you’d have those powder stashes that everyone craves,” said marketing director Leigh Ann Peterson.
On five out of six days skiing and riding at Echo Mountain lasts until 9 p.m.
Find Echo Mountain by taking the Evergreen Parkway exit from I-70, go south on Highway 74 to Highway 103 and follow the Squaw Pass Road about 18 miles up to Echo Mountain. You can also get there from Idaho Springs.
Visit echomtnpark.com for information on activities, events and lessons.