Heavy Lifting: Aspen Under Construction

Meet the folks who built Aspen’s first chairlifts, 75 years ago.


Aspen Mountain celebrates its 75th anniversary of lift-served slopes this winter, but the area’s skiing history started well before that. In 1899, cut off from supplies by a fierce snowstorm, miners fashioned crude skis from the board walls of their homes and schussed down to Aspen. According to the Aspen Historical Society, the refugees dubbed their escape the first race of the “Hunter’s Pass Ski Club.”

Most of the mines closed, but skiing survived. In 1936, several skiers, including Swiss mountaineer André Roch, planned a ski area at Mount Hayden, a few miles southwest of Aspen (see Skiing History, March-April 2021). Roch also plotted the first ski run on Aspen Mountain that year, and it was cut the following summer. Skiers could skin up or catch a ride up the backside on mining trucks. Starting in January 1938, the eight-seat “boat tow” ran 600 feet up the front. The boat was a pair of sleds, hauled by a cable along old mine hoists, powered by a Studebaker engine. Skiers built a warming hut and even a 55-meter ski jump...


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