, 2022-09-12 17:04:39,
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Nestled into Huerfano County’s Spanish Peaks, almost 80 miles southwest of Pueblo, sits Cuchara Mountain Park, a 47-acre plot at the base of the former Panadero Ski Area. Established in 2017, the Huerfano County–owned park is a mix of open slopes and forested areas with hiking trails flanked by Douglas firs, fiddlehead ferns, and some of Colorado’s tallest aspens. Humble Baker Creek winds through the park’s lower section, past a small day lodge, a kids’ climbing structure, and a mini golf course.
In the past five years, Cuchara Mountain Park (CMP) has become a hub for summer recreation, but when temperatures drop and the snow starts to fly, the park quiets down and welcomes only those inclined to hike or skin past long-dormant ski lifts up to postcard-worthy views of West Spanish Peak. That may change in a few months: Many in the community hope CMP will be able to get at least one of those lifts spinning for the public—an initiative that will bring not just skiing back to Huerfano County, but other lift-served activities as well.
“[This is] a chance to complete a project in a way that gives the community what I think they’ve been wanting, and it’s also a chance to see a county facility—a public asset—be energized,” says Huerfano county administrator Carl Young. “At the end of the day, this is all about the folks who live in Huerfano County and giving them one more thing to do, giving them one more thing that helps them work another day.”
Revitalizing a Ski Resort
Today, Monarch Mountain, Wolf Creek Ski Area, and New Mexico’s Red River Ski & Summer Area are the closest ski resorts to the roughly 7,000 people living in Huerfano County, and all are more than 100 miles away. It wasn’t that long ago, however, that these southern Colorado residents had lift-accessed skiing nearby.
The Panadero Ski Area opened in 1981, operating its two double chairlifts and a rope tow largely on National Forest Service land under a Special Use Permit. Over the next 19 years, the resort added lifts, grew to 230 acres, supported snowmaking over the entire mountain, and averaged 22,000 annual visitors.
During that time, however, the resort was plagued by inconsistent ownership, mismanagement, and limited snowfall. Some years it closed to skiers early; other years it didn’t open at all. The resort shuttered for good in…
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