History Here and Now Column January 30, 2009

Grand Mesa volunteer ski patrol started in ’54

Courtesy of Bob Beverly
BEGINNING SKIERS line up for the Lion Lift at Mesa Creek in March 1962.

Third in a four-part series on the history of local skiing.

Ski lessons at Mesa Creek were made available when Don Larsh, a member of the 1948 U.S. Olympic team, started a ski school in 1952. Bruce Palmer, Jerry Pessman, Walt Kirkandall and Bob Beverly also ran lessons.

The Grand Junction City Recreation Department and Mesa County Valley School District joined in 1961 with the Learn to Ski program.

Beverly and Pat Paterson formed the first volunteer ski patrol at the area in 1954. Jim Johnson and Ken Johnson and Jim Brown were three of the ski patrolmen. Harold Harvey and Dave Force were not old enough for the regular ski patrol, so a junior patrol was formed so Harold and Dave could participate.

In 1960, a second bond was undertaken to raise the money for a second Poma lift. It was installed the next year. It was called the Lions Lift because the Lions Club donated thousands of dollars to make this possible.

With the increase in the interest in skiing it became apparent that Mesa Creek lacked the terrain for expansion and parking was becoming a problem as well.

In 1964, Dale Gallagher with the U.S. Forest Service recommended a new area in the Beaver Creek bowl.

In 1965, Bill Foster approached Charlie Woodward and John Shoemaker about forming a corporation with sufficient capital to operate a new for-profit ski area. This group, Colorado Grand Mesa Ski Corp., was formed to purchase the land for the area.

The board of directors consisted of John Porter, architect; Andy Williams, attorney; Ken Beck, motel operator and ski instructor; Foster, who was an attorney; Woodward and Alan Simpson, uranium miners; Beverly, who was an engineer; Al Cornelison of Grand Junction Steel Fabrication; and Bob Sayer, mining engineer.

Beverly said there was no compensation for the directors when building the ski area. “We didn’t know any better, so we built a ski area,” he said.

Sayer was employed as the manager during the construction stage. To study the basin where Powderhorn was eventually built, various groups had to ski up the long tow at the Mesa Creek area, and ski along the West Bench Trail and down the bowl to get back to the highway because the new highway had not been completed.

Sayer and Bob and Kent Beverly laid out Sidewinder. It’s now known as Bill’s Run in honor of Bill Foster.

In 1965, Foster and Beverly started selling stock, 225,000 shares at $1 a share. Anyone interested in buying stock had to listen to an hour-long talk on “Why not to buy the stock,”

Beverly said. Foster and Beverly wanted prospective buyers to be aware that this could possibly be a financial investment that didn’t make them money.

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 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.

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