LS: History Here and Now January 23, 2009
Mesa Creek Ski Area run by high school, college students
Second in a four-part series on the history of local skiing.
In 1940 Dr. Waldapfel and Dr. R.A. Paige started promoting the Mesa Creek Ski Area, which was also called the Grand Mesa Ski Area or Ford Run.
The site was below the Mesa Lakes Resort where the Wagon Road crossed Mesa Creek and is used today as a tubing and sledding area.
Some people refer to Mesa Creek as “Old Powderhorn.” This is not correct. From the beginning, the area was known as the Mesa Creek Ski Area.
The first tow was a short one run by a Ford Model A motor. The second year a longer tow was installed, running parallel to Mesa Creek. A Buick hearse engine ran it. Both motors were at the top of the tows and gasoline had to be hauled up the hill to them.
During this time, Sam Sedalnick started carrying ski clothes and equipment at his store, L. Cook.
In the early 1940s, the Mesa Creek Ski Area was run by college and high school students.
During World War II, the area remained open, except for in 1942.
During the war years, club members invested club money in war bonds with the intent that the money was to be used for improvements for the ski area.
In the 1940s, the area became a nonprofit community partnership. The lodge for the area was a Civilian Conservation Corps building that was moved from an abandoned camp near Shady Nook, which was located between Mesa and Powderhorn, the present ski area.
By 1948, the Grand Mesa Ski Club was having financial difficulties. By a chance meeting, Frank Kreps, a former Grand Junction Fire Department chief, started talking with club members and stepped in to help them.
Kreps, along with Cecil Haynie, a local attorney, and Otto Jaros, owner of Jaros Hardware, borrowed $1,000 to get things started. With the financial support from the Lions Club and various other groups, the sale of memberships and tow fees, the group was able to pay its debt. More than $65,000 worth of equipment was installed during the life of the ski area.
In 1954, The Grand Mesa Winter Sports Inc., board was formed and the board of directors sold bonds to anyone so they could raise the money needed to install the first Poma lift at the ski area. The bonds were $100 a piece with a yield of 4 percent. The lift was delivered to Grand Junction on Thanksgiving day, 1955. Bob Pruess was the driving force behind this lift.
He died in a plane crash soon after the lift was completed.
The runs were named Hill Run, Pruess Run and Force Family Run. Jack Force operated the lifts.
The Mesa Creek Ski Area depended on volunteers to help clear the runs of the brush, weeds, etc., that had grown up during the summer.
The lodge was rustic with wide gaps in the floor to let the mud and snow run through. There was a snack bar that served hamburgers, chili and homemade pies. The lodge was also where tickets were purchased.
Betty Jaques sold the tickets at Mesa Creek and then Powderhorn for 32 years. The toilet facilities were outhouses, but there were “His and Hers.”
A good day would have anywhere from 300 to 350 skiers. At first, the area was only open on weekends, but as interest grew, the area opened for more days of the week. Thursdays were Mesa College Day and Women’s Day.
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.