“We’re not driven by the bottom line. We’re more driven by the end-user experience and being able to provide something special to residents and those visiting the community.”– Cale Dancho, Pandero Ski Corporation’s Vice Chair, and the President of the Cuchara Mountain Park Advisory Committee
Could this finally be the winter that Chair 4 at Cuchara Mountain Park in Southern Colorado finally reopens? All signs point toward a reopening for the chairlift to spin again. It has been hyped up for multiple years that the lost Colorado ski resort was close to a reopening after the Cuchara Foundation bought the ski resort from Huerfano County in 2017. Since then, they have added a disc golf course, biking trails, and hiking routes to the ski area. Private groups can rent out the space for events, an outdoor classroom will be opening soon, and they are working with the International Mountain Bicycling Association to add multi-use trails.
In the past month, 5280 Magazine and Colorado Public Radio have reported on how progress is going on getting Cuchara Mountain Park open for lift-serviced skiing for this upcoming winter. Their goal for the reopening of the ski resort is simple: a return to old-school Colorado skiing with affordable lift tickets. They are aiming for a limited opening this season with volunteer workers. For the following years, Cuchara is aiming to run the lift during weekends and holidays, with the season beginning in December and ending in March. Their target markets will be locals and beginner skiers/riders, as Lift 4 services beginner and intermediate terrain. It allows novice shredders to learn at a fraction of the cost you would pay at Vail, Breckenridge, or other big-name Colorado mountains.
I got to talk with Will Pirkey of the Pandero Ski Corporation, which is a nonprofit that is restoring Lift 4. Pirkey said that they are intending to get the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board out to perform a load and acceptance test in late October/Early Nov. Additionally, they are about to sign a Memorandum of Understanding Agreement (MOU) with Huerfano County to allow for lift-serviced skiing and riding on the mountain for this winter. Pandero is projecting the lift ticket prices to be $40 for adults and $20 for kids, with discounts being available for Huerfano County residents. The rest of the mountain will be available to backcountry skiers.
The history of Cuchara/Pandero mountain as a ski resort was pretty short. It opened in 1981 with two chairlifts and a rope tow, and operated under a U.S. National Forest Special Use Permit. The weather was inconsistent, leading to some short winters, and others where they didn’t operate at all. Due to continued changing ownership and a lack of snowfall, the ski resort closed for good in 2000. The Cuchara Foundation and the Pandero Ski Corporation have responded to these previous mistakes by making the mountain a year-round destination, along with making sure Lift 4 will have the proper snowmaking resources.
After Lift 4 reopens, the Pandero Ski Corporation is trying to figure out how to expand its offerings beyond the beginner and intermediate runs that will be offered. A magic carpet is being considered for first-time shredders. They could also look at reopening some of their existing lift infrastructure, with Lift 5 being mentioned by 5280 Magazine specifically. This lift would add 7-8 intermediate and advanced runs and 60-75 acres of terrain. Getting this lift operational again though would require studies needed due to the National Environmental Policy Act, along with U.S. Forest Service approval. Ultimately, let’s all aim on helping them get Lift 4 open so they can make those next steps.
Currently, they have a campaign that’s ongoing to get the mountain open for this winter. You can donate to help them out here.