For those unaware, Snowmass Resort in Colorado is celebrating its 50th year in business. This is considered the “Golden” anniversary. The precious and enduring nature of gold is a symbolic representation of a prized & lasting long life… the ultimate token of esteem. So, besides a golden necklace, what do you get a resort that’s been around for half a century?
This chapter in Snowmass’ history is a perfect time for all of us to reminisce on our fondest memories. For example, my father visited Snowmass in the late 60’s and remembers how expansive the terrain was even at that time. The snow was so dry and soft making it a joy to ski. It was like floating on clouds with no work required. In his words, “You could let the skis run and take in the scenery.”
As part of this celebration, we decided to feature Snowmass as part of our “Legacy: The Origin of Trail names” series and highlight some of the more interesting stories behind their famous trails.
History of Snowmass
Named after a majestic, gnarled and twisted old tree that existed on the trail. It resembled something like a giant “Bonsai Tree”. This was then quickly misunderstood by skiers who saw the topography as an opportunity to yell “Banzai” as they zoomed down it. The name then became what it is today – Banzai Ridge.
Hal Hartman, trail crew chief in the early days, had a locally well-known crew member on his team… Sheriff Herwick’s son. As a practical joke, the Sheriff’s son brought an early Playboy centerfold poster to work one day and taped it to a tree ahead of where the team was working. This shocked Hal and alas the name of the trail became “Naked Lady”.
This part of Colorado was known for its mining way before skiing even existed. Another one of the early touring trails, this one was named after an old camp in the vicinity with its iconic “coffee pot hanging from a tree”.
Before Snowmass was even a resort, it was a snowcat operation. During the early 60’s, it gave people an opportunity to ski deep powder. Around that time, they were beginning to experiment and see if a ski area could exist here. They accomplished this by packing down a trail in an area called The Burn to see if it was possible. When the Dallas Ski Club came out for a deep powder tour, they discovered this packed trail and it was all they wanted to ski! So, it was named the Dallas Freeway in honor of this group of skiers.
What could be considered a double entendre, this run has two distinct meanings for two distinct reasons. On the one hand, this trail is named for being a beginner hill with lots of “fannies” sitting down on it during a given season. Yet on the other side, it’s also named after what is considered the first erotic novel, written and published in 1749. It’s a trail leading a double life.
When you read a name like “Whispering Jesse”, thoughts of a massive mountain man with big hands, large shoulders and few words comes to mind. This one is named after Jesse Caparella, a Snowmass lift manager. He started working on the lifts while still in high school and helped construct lift #9. He may have the physical characteristics of a mountain man but in fact NEVER whispered.
For those non-fishermen out there, a “Lunker” is a term for a big fish. When Snowmass employees used to bushwhack through this part of the resort, this natural hollow had so much water that they often talked about building stocking ponds and making it their own “Lunkerville” in the future.
In this part of Snowmass, there is a high density of rock coneys living here and so the area was dubbed “Coney Glade”. Depending on where you live in North America, these critters are also named “Pikas”. They’re an adorable little mammal with short limbs, very round bodies, rounded ears and no external tail. How cute!
So, the next time you visit Snowmass resort, take a moment to not just take in the scenery but the depth of history that exists here. We raise our glasses to Snowmass and say, “Happy Anniversary!”