What do you call a ski area only 35 miles from Denver, Colorado, with only one chairlift, not much of a trail map, and night skiing? A very cool idea! What took so long?
Echo Mountain opened for the 2006-2007 and is going strong. The area markets itself as the newest, the closest, and the cheapest ski area in the Front Range area.
This ski area was the brain child of a hotel developer from Bethesda, Maryland. Gerald Petitt is an avid skier and normally skis at Aspen. However he is a forward looking guy. He thought Denver skiers needed a closer and cheaper hill than what the market was offering. And in the era of $4 gas he was probably right.
In a former life Echo was the Squaw Pass ski area and in the former life Petitt was the head of Choice Hotels. In 2005 Petitt, who now lives in Aspen, found that the ski area was coming up for auction. The area had not been open since 1974 and is found in many of the “lost ski area” databases. He bought the 240-acre area for just under a million dollars. It took another 2 million to get it up and running.
But running it is. The slope had 30,000 skier-days last year. Located just atop the first real rise out of Denver on I-70, it is a short trip for most local folks and those like me with a few extra hours at the airport. The lodges are fashioned out of contemporary steel and glass. Also it is plastered with stickers. The owners allow stickers almost everywhere. They also place ads almost every where. No revenue stream is untouched.
With just 660 feet of vertical drop the slopes are more terrain park than open runs. Echo also does something almost unheard of in the West: It blasts tunes over the slopes on a huge music system. It is clear the present marketing effort is towards the younger crowd. However there is talk of opening more beginner terrain in the future to attract more families.
Echo also has lights, making it one of two resorts with night skiing in Colorado. Westerners are just beginning to understand the joys of turning under the lights. Echo boasts some of the most active junior programs and night leagues this side of the Midwest.
Just zip straight up I-70, zag up a short pitch up a side route to the 10,650-foot level, and you’re there. It is faster than a trip to Liberty from DC. Echo has clearly the cheapest lift ticket on the I-70 corridor. Vail’s tickets sets you back up to $90 a day. A full 12-hour day at Echo will only set you back $39 mid season. Echo also boasts a season pass for just $109!
So if you find yourself “stuck” in Denver, or just want to get in one more run before that late flight back East after a week in the high country, your time is well spent at Echo.
Robbie Allen is an avid small hill skier. He has written several articles on the many small hills he has sought out.
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