Berthoud Pass General History

The following is copied from the back of the 1978 trail map.

It was written by Lyle Mitchell - State Historical Society of Colorado.


"Thrills indeed await the follower of the ski trails when he reaches two-mile-high Berthoud Pass, where it straddles Colorado's Continental Divide. If he stands there with skis under him, he is likely to find himself in a quandary as to whether he shall strike out toward San Francisco or St. Louis, for the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean. These passes of the Continental Divide, deep in snow eight months in the year, now accessible by automobile through the winter, are setting up the Rockies as offering the most satisfactory and spectacular skiing in all the world."

Thus William Atherton DuPuy described skiing Berthoud Pass in a 1938 forest service booklet - skiing that in the 1946 season gave Berthoud 30,000 of Colorado's 100,000 skiers.

The spectacle of Berthoud Pass was first experienced by Captain Edward S. Berthoud, Jim Bridger, and five other men on May 12, 1861. After John Graves and Judge H.C. Cowles reported seeing a depression in the mountains North of Empire on the first of September, 1860, the federal government commissioned an expedition led by Berthoud to explore the pass as a possible overland mail route.

Berthoud's report resulted in the route from Empire to Hot Sulfur Springs which led Denver author, Chauncey Thomas, lying in a Washington D.C. park on a sultry afternoon, to write the famous "Snow Story" about delivering the mail in a Berthoud Pass blizzard.

Skiing on Berthoud Pass was greatly enhanced by the development of an all-season road across the pass. When the road was paved in 1938, the event was marked by two months of celebrations, including parades and a re-enactment on a pony express ride from Topeka to Denver. On July 3, a crowd of 3,500 (20,000 were turned away) munched on buffalo burgers while Miss Berthoud Pass and the governors of Colorado and Utah cut the ribbon.

But the skiing facilities at Berthoud had already drawn attention. When the rope tow, at the time one of the longest in the country, opened in February of 1937, the Rocky mountain News reported, "while the crowd looked on, the giant ropes began their upward and downward sweep and moved along without a hitch. The strong motors were barely audible and the ropes provided a pull sufficient to carry as many as are able to ride the tow at one time."

Those facilities now include the world's first double chair-lift, installed in 1947, and lodges on Berthoud Pass and West portal. When the lodges were authorized by the federal government in 1938, - at a cost of $115,000 each - the Leadville Herald Democrat said that in addition to providing the finest facilities in the area, they "would strive to make possible for any $20 a week clerk a few days each winter in a snowy sports playground.

It is hoped that all $20 a week clerks enjoy the Berthoud Pass ski area as much now as they did in 1938.

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