LS: History Here and Now Column February 06, 2009
Powderhorn had 5 owners in 35 years
Final in a four-part series on the history of local skiing.
Colorado Grand Mesa Ski Corporation sought a $380,000 Small Business Association loan backed by Industrial Development Inc. and several local banks. The SBA loan was taking longer to approve than usual.
Bob Beverly, board member of the corporation, was traveling to Washington, D.C., frequently on business. He offered to talk to Congressman Wayne Aspinall.
He met with Aspinall and aide Bill Cleary, and five days later the loan was approved. Aspinall and Cleary never failed to ask Beverly how the ski area was coming along when they talked.
The group had a difficult time agreeing on a name. Beverly wanted to call it Beaver Creek, because that is where the area was. That was before the present Beaver Creek was a ski area. However, the majority of the group wanted to call it Powderhorn. Beverly was concerned that the Powderhorn ski area would be confused with a small town in Colorado already named Powderhorn.
Colorado Gov. John Love attended opening ceremonies on Dec. 5, 1966, but the lack of adequate snow prevented skiing. Skiing, however, was possible the next weekend because of adequate snowfall during the week.
The first season at the new area had an increase of 15,780 skiers over the previous year at Mesa Creek.
William “Butch” DePaeneiaere, who had been an assistant manager at Winter Park, managed Powderhorn the first year and.
Larry Klumb, from Loveland Basin Ski School, supervised the 30-instructor ski school.
The following year Klumb became general manager and Harold Harvey became mountain manager.
The La Chalet lodge was the first overnight housing at Powderhorn. It had 27 rooms, a hot tub, restaurant and bar and was 200 feet from lift No. 1. In 1983, Golden Woods condominiums were built. In 1987, an additional lodge, Valley View, was built.
Powderhorn was sold to a Texas group headed by Jim Scott in 1986. Scott replaced the original double chair with a Poma quad. The surface lift that served the beginner slope was replaced with a double chair. The size of the day lodge was more than doubled.
Parking lots were enlarged and paved. A new water system was installed, and the new Valley View condos were built. In all, Scott put around $20 million into Powderhorn after he purchased it. Scott’s group filed bankruptcy in 1990.
Ted Connolly, the trustee appointed to oversee bankruptcy proceedings, continued to operate Powderhorn, rather than liquidate the assets. To encourage sale of the area without a large initial investment, Connolly formed a metropolitan district that included ownership of the resort. In 1994, Ted Martin from Telluride purchased an option on the resort and operated the area for the next four years.
In November 1998, High West Group LLC, a group of Western Slope investors who already owned a minority interest in the resort led by Steve Bailey from Ridgway, bought Powderhorn.
Bailey invested more millions into the area, enlarging the day lodge again, expanding and repaving the parking lots, installing additional snow-making equipment, and refurbishing and reopening Westwood Lodge, formerly the la Chalet.
Powderhorn has survived five different ownerships, trying economic times, one bankruptcy, and good and not-so-good snow years. But the resort continues to expand and has provided Colorado skiers 35 years of excellent skiing.
Two sources of research information for this article were used for these columns. One source was a paper written by Steve Lambert in 1983. The other source was Bob Beverly’s collection of Western Slope skiing information he has collected over the years and an interview with him.
Kathy Jordan is retired from The Daily Sentinel and involved in many preservation efforts, including the Avalon Theatre, the railroad depot and the North Seventh Street Historic Residential District.