DENVER (CBS4) – When Rick and Lisa Bellmar were both 9 years old they joined the Eskimo Ski Club. Little did they know at the time it would a lifelong affair.
Frank Bulkley started the iconic club in Winter Park nearly 80 years ago with a goal of getting Colorado kids to the mountains and teaching them to ski. The organization continued that mission through the decades, but last weekend they announced they are disbanding.
The Bellmars told CBS4 they recall fondly how they had to take the Ski Train from Denver’s Union Station to the ski resort to participate in the program.
“You had to show up at 3:30 a.m. to be on the train because it left at 4:15. And if you weren’t on the train you got left,” Rick said.
Rick and Lisa moved through the club’s color coded levels. It was a system that over several decades would remain the same.
“Being independent. Learning independence. Learning confidence and all the good things that you should learn in life came from the Eskimos,” Lisa said.
Like many other Eskimos, Rick and Lisa returned to the club as instructors.
“I went off to grad school and we came back and started teaching for the Eskimos and all of a sudden we had an Eskimo baby,” Rick said.
Now, years later, their three children and five grandchildren are all Eskimos.
“It makes me sad because it also turned into such an family affair,” Lisa said.
Over the years, finding space for the for the ski club had gotten to be more of a challenge. On Sunday the group announced they will no longer serve Colorado families. It was a decision the Bellmars say is less about the club and more a sign of the times.
A spokesperson for Winter Park said as the resort continues to grow, they need more space for their full time employees.
Annie Bulkley, who took over the club, said Winter Park was helpful in trying to make the club work, but in the end she decided not being able to give the members “safe, quality, affordable experience” that they had for so many years led to the decision to end the program’s run.