In Southern Colorado, Giving The Old Cuchara Mountain Ski Area A New Life

Nathaniel Minor/CPR News
A lift at the old Cuchara Mountain ski area in Southern Colorado in August 2018.

An old ski lift at Southern Colorado’s Parker-Fitzgerald Cuchara Mountain Park could start running again by summer, making lift-served mountain biking, downhill skiing and more possible.

The original Cuchara ski area, about 30 miles southwest of Walsenburg, first opened in the early 1980s. During the following decades, six different operators tried and failed to make a go of it. Due to unreliable snowfall and other factors, it closed for good in 2001.

Huerfano County bought the defunct base facilities, acreage and one chairlift in 2017 using donated funds. The county and its partners got to work on a master plan with the goal of turning it into a public park. 

The plan is to create a year-round recreation and educational facility, according to Huerfano County Administrator Carl Young.

“The vision is the same, to have this thriving hub for the community and something that attracts people to our community and to the county,” he said. “We do want it to be a real community park, something that has benefit to the community beyond just the economic sense.”

Local innkeeper Michael Moore is part of some non-profit groups behind the project. He said he and others have been hard at work to resurrect the lift, noting that it’s much cheaper to do that than spend millions on a brand new lift. He said they are also looking at how to use the existing snowmaking infrastructure and water rights.

But he also agreed with Young, that the goal isn’t just about offering downhill skiing.

“We don’t want to be Vail or an Aspen or a Telluride or a Breckenridge. We want to keep Cuchara small and nice and neat,” Moore said.

He said people are already sledding, hiking and mountain biking there - going uphill under their own power.

An outdoor classroom is also in the works. They’ve already built an 18-hole disc golf course and a special house to attract the many species of bats of the region.

The master plan also calls for the park to be a venue for concerts, stargazing and other cultural events.