Boulder’s Deep Ties to Skiing

Chautauqua Mesa ski area, 1949-1977

If you think of skiing in Colorado, chances are you will think of Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge or Keystone. But Boulder County and even Boulder itself have a rich history of skiing all their own. From Eldora in Nederland to the University of Colorado ski team that helped the USA medal in the 1964 Olympics, Boulder has roots in skiing. Perhaps most surprising of all is a popular hiking trail that once served as a place to ski right in Boulder.

Eldora: A Continuing Tradition


Lake Eldora Ski School, 1970s
Photo courtesy of the Carnegie Library for Local History / Museum of Boulder Collection

At under an hour’s drive (21 miles), Eldora Mountain Resort is the closest ski resort to Boulder. Eldora first opened to skiers in 1962 (incidentally, the same year Vail Ski Resort opened to skiers). Skiing first came to Colorado in the 1860s as a form of transportation for prospectors, but recreational skiing took another century to really take-off. After WWII, recreational skiing’s popularity began to rise, marked by resorts, such as Eldora opening. These resorts made it possible for more people to ski than ever before and helped establish Colorado as a tourist destination.

CU on the Slopes


Skiing: U.S. Olympic Ski Team, 1964. Members of the U.S. Olympic team stand below a “Welcome Home” sign at the University Memorial Center. Left to right: Billy Kidd,
Bob Beattie, Bill Marolt, Gordon Eaton, and Buddy Werner. 
Photo courtesy of the Carnegie Library for Local History / Museum of Boulder Collection

The University of Colorado Boulder has a long history of excellence in skiing. CU alumni, Billy Kidd and Jimmie Heuga, were the first men to win medals in skiing for the U.S. Billy Kidd won a silver medal in slalom in the 1964 Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. Kidd’s teammate Jimmie Heuga won bronze in the same event. Both men were inducted into the skiing Hall of Fame in 1976. Bob Beattie was the American Olympic Ski Team coach from 1961-1969, he was also the coach of the CU ski team from 1957-1965. The team also featured CU alumni Bill Marlot and Buddy Werner. The CU ski team continues to be competitive on the national level. The team has won 20 NCAA Skiing Championships, making them the second most winning team in the NCAA.

When Chautauqua Was For Skis

Chautauqua Mesa ski area, 1949-1977.
Photo courtesy of the Carnegie Library for Local History /
Museum of Boulder Collection

The Chautauqua trailhead sits just off of Baseline Road in Boulder and offers a variety of actvities such as hiking, picnicking, rock climbing and photography that are popular year around. One thing it does not provide is skiing, but that has not always been the case. From 1949-1963, though not continuously, it was the Chautauqua Mesa Ski Area. That area is now part of the aptly named Mesa Ski Jump trail. During its time as a ski area, there was one tow that was operated by a WWII era Dodge truck engine and a small number of ski jumps. The final year of operation for Chautauqua Mesa Ski Area was in 1963 due to a lack of quality snow and some unfortunate vandalism. Now people can hike Chautauqua and imagine what it was like to ski there 60 years ago.

Chautauqua Mesa ski area, 1949-1977.
Photo courtesy of the Carnegie Library for Local History /
Museum of Boulder Collection

This blog post was written in partnership with Museum of Boulder. All images are courtesy of the Carnegie Library for Local History / Museum of Boulder Collection. You can find out more about Boulder’s ties to skiing by visiting the Museum of Boulder’s Boulder Experience Gallery.

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