|Old Powderhorn Trail Maps:
|Left: An overview of the ski area from Highway 65.
Right: Powderhorn's Logo
Skiing on the Grand Mesa began back in the 1930’s when a rope tow
was installed at an area called Land’s End. Shortly after World War II,
skiing reappeared outside of Grand Junction at Mesa Creek. Initial
developments consisted of only a rope tow. The Grand Mesa Ski Club
(GMSC) opened a small slope at Rimrock, also on the Grand Mesa. The
area operated only when plows could clear the roads up to the base. By
the late 1950’s, the GMSC added two poma lifts at Mesa Creek, which
added sizable terrain to the area.
Initial survey tours of the Powderhorn site began in 1958. Members of
the GMSC included Jack Force, Jerry Pesman, and Frank Kreps.
Representative from the United States Forest Service (USFS) included
Bob Scholz, Bill Laverty, Dan O’Roupke, Don Bock, Ray Tikka, and
Paul Hauk. Both groups recommended development of a ski area on this
site. Gordy Wren of Steamboat Springs and Whip Jones of Aspen
Highlands conducted separate evaluations and came to similar conclusions.
In March of 1964, the Small Business Administration issued a loan to the
“Colorado Grand Mesa Ski Corporation” for 380,000 dollars. Along
with this, the ski area’s stock was issued at one dollar per share. Resort
officials sold 225,000. With enough capital to begin construction,
engineering studies, permits, and the resort design began to take place.
Building of the area’s Riblet double chair began during the summer of
1966 and was ready for the following winter. Initially, Bill “Butch”
DePaemelaere of Winter Park managed the area.
For the first ski season, Powderhorn hosted 21,000 people. This fell
short of the projected attendance and the ski area lost over 57,000
dollars. The following year, a California investment company called
“Powderhorn Resort Corporation” joined forces with the initial owners to
continue development. During the early 1970’s the West End lift was
installed, doubling the ski area’s terrain. Along with the new chair, various
buildings at the base were constructed. Financial problems quickly
resurfaced. The ski area had trouble obtaining water rights for
snowmaking. Many downstream ranchers claimed senior status, which
greatly limited the amount of snowmaking.
During the early 1980’s, a proposal for the Rifle Ski Area surfaced. This
worried officials at Powderhorn since Rifle’s site had more vertical drop,
snow, and land. The western slope suffered a depression following in
1982 with the oil shale bust. While this ended the proposal for Rifle, it
also strained Powderhorn’s money situation even worse.
Powderhorn was sold in 1986 to Jim Scott of Texas for two million
dollars. Scott was an executive for a large cable company down south.
His initial plans were to pour over twenty five million dollars into
Powderhorn. This included new lifts, lodging, trails, ice-skating, hotels,
and condos. For the 1987-88 season, Poma installed a new Alpha series
quad chair. Along with the quad, the EZ Rider double chair was installed
to serve beginner skiers. By 1989, Powderhorn was over 500,000
dollars in debt, despite record crowds. The following year, Powderhorn
fell into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Dallas, TX.
Powderhorn’s operation was in jeopardy for the 1990-91 ski season.
Due to the fact the ski area was in bankruptcy, the USFS wanted to make
sure the ski area was stable before issuing a permit for the season. To
obtain one, they made the following requests: audited financial statement,
cash flow estimates, credit reports, and one million dollars in liability
insurance. In a strange court decision during 1990, operating rights were
granted back to the Grand Mesa Ski Corporation and their over 400
By 1991, the Internal Revenue Service entered the picture when they had
more than thirty million dollars in claims against the Powderhorn
property. In August of the same year, a federal bankruptcy judge
ordered liquidation of all assets at the resort. Before this happened, a
Japanese company called the Marufuku Group, owners of Breckenridge,
offered to purchase the area for 6.25 million dollars. The judge accepted
the offer. Before the sale was complete, the transaction fell through.
Ralson-Purina, the animal food company and owners of Keystone Resort
purchased Marufuku and decided not to go ahead with the Powderhorn
The ski area operated for the 1992-93 ski season and hosted over
72,000 skiers. Tickets were 26 dollars with no new improvements.
Ted Martin, land developer and resident of Telluride, became interested in
the area and eventually purchased the resort in October 1995. For the
1997-98 season, Powderhorn posted record skier visits, which topped
out at over 88,100. The ski area operated for three years under his
supervision until it sold again in 1998.
The High West Group of Ridgeway, Colorado purchased the ski area
from Martin in November of 1998. The new owners have been building a
slopeside community since the late-1990’s.
|Powderhorn offers scenic views.
|West End offers excellent glade skiing.
|Riding down on the trail Snowcloud.
|Looking over at the Wildewood Inn
|Riding up the Take Four quad lift.
|Pros and Cons to Skiing Here:
|+ Great area suitable for families.
||- Slow chairlifts
|+ Aspen glades are fun to ride
|- Limited terrain
|+ Slopes are uncrowded
||- Far from Denver and Front Range
|+ Views from the Grand Mesa are
|- Area typically does not receive
|+ Ski in/out lodging is available
|A Mogul Field on Snow Cloud
|Insider Tips to Skiing Here:
|Take Four from the Parking Lot
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All Rights Reserved.
*Resort Stats Current for 2009-10
The Colorado Ski Museum
Powderhorn Ski Area