For a lot of Denverites who love snow sports, a typical weekend goes like this: Friday: decompress after a hard work week. Saturday: relax, see friends, enjoy a delicious meal, go to sleep by 8:00 p.m. Sunday: Wake up at 4:00 a.m., gulp down some coffee and food, gather ski gear, rush to load the car, make sure you’re on I-70 by 5:00 a.m to avoid the inevitable heavy traffic heading up to the hills. Well, not everyone is willing to wake up at a crazy hour to catch a great ski day.
Last weekend, we discovered a great alternative! Sunday morning, I headed out with a friend who works long hours during the week and does not have flexibility to ski on a weekday (which is my preference). Since we both had busy Saturday nights, we didn’t hit the road until about 7:15 a.m., which, by normal standards, still seems rather early, right? WRONG! We got to the Evergreen exit on I-70 West around 7:30 and were dismayed to find bumper to bumper traffic at that early hour! Neither of us was psyched about spending 2.5 hours in traffic to arrive at a crowded resort and most likely deal with the same type of traffic on the way back. I remembered a colleague telling me about teaching her daughter to ski at a small resort near Evergreen, so I quickly googled it and we took the Evergreen exit towards Echo Mountain. After a little detour compliments of Waze, we soon ended up on Squaw Pass and saw that our estimated arrival time at the resort was a mere 25 minutes later.
Sure enough, we arrived at Echo Mountain less than half an hour later. The drive was not long, but Squaw Pass was icy, narrow, and steep, so I was very glad we were in my friend’s Range Rover SUV (and that he was driving). We were delighted to find only about sprinkling of cars in the parking lot, no line at the ticket counter, and a very friendly staff who told us a bit of the mountain’s history. Better yet, a lift ticket was only $49!!
The manager, Fred, filled us in on Echo Mountain’s history. The resort was originally open from 1960-1975 as Squaw Pass Ski Area, closed in 1975, changed ownership a few times, and laid dormant until 2005 when it was resurrected as Echo Mountain Park, dedicated exclusively to being a terrain park. In 2012, ownership changed hands again and the resort became a private ski race training facility until 2015, when the owners decided to open it to the public. Unfortunately, the high costs of operating a ski resort caused it to fall into bankruptcy in February of 2016. In October 2016, Echo Mountain changed ownership once again, and now offers a close, affordable option for snow sports and outdoors enthusiasts!
The day we went, we had the mountain to ourselves until about 11:00 a.m. At the height of the day, about two dozen people enjoyed the one lift and three runs plus beginner ski area. There were about half a dozen parents with their kids on the mini bunny slope, and a food truck from Bistro Colorado providing tasty lunchtime eats. The resort plans to open its own kitchen and bar by March, which will provide additional options for nutrition.
We loved our ski day off the beaten track and would definitely return with beginners or anyone who wants a relatively quick and easy trek to a sweet, small mountain.