Cuchara Mountain Park
In today’s ski industry, mega resorts are buying up the little guys so quickly, it’s easy to forget that not long ago, most ski areas were small, individual businesses dedicated to the skier. But over the years, these mom-and-pop hills were bought by non-skiers who often ran the mountains out of business. At the same time, the forests services were less likely to grant access to land and snowfall became less dependable.
The result was many abandoned ski resorts across Colorado, one of which was Cuchara Mountain Resort in Spanish Peaks Country.
The ski area, then known as Panadero Resort, first opened for the 1981/1982 season. It operated on and off for the next two decades under many different owners. The resort had five lifts, snowmaking on the entire mountain, and averaged 22,000 visitors annually. A ski area Special Use Permit (SUP) allowed the resort to operate on surrounding National Forest System (NFS) land. The ski area last operated until the 1999/2000 season.
In 2002, the Forest Service terminated the ski area’s SUP, based on the limited snowfall and the ski area’s inability to draw enough visitors to be financially viable. The NFS land remained open to public use but the lower area, the base of the ski area, became private property closed to the public
In 2017, the Cuchara Foundation raised and donated $150,000 for Huerfano County to purchase 47 privately held acres at the base for use by all Huerfano residents as a county-owned park, now called, Cuchara Mountain Park, an environmentally sensitive facility that offers year around opportunities for recreation, education, entertainment, special events and socializing, thus enhancing the welfare and enjoyment of its visitors and boosting the local economy.
Want to learn more? Check out the film, Abandoned, a documentary about Colorado’s abandoned ski resorts.