Boulder County ski resort celebrates 60 years
Eldora: Boulder County’s backyard ski area.
This frequently used tagline describes Eldora Mountain, the only ski resort in Boulder County. For general manager Brent Tregaskis, that image is why the resort has been able to find success — and reach its 60th season this year.
“It’s the perfect day place,” Tregaskis said. “You come up, ski for the morning … half of our skiers leave by noon, and then we have a whole group that comes in around noon and skis for three hours.”
Tregaskis is in his eighth year as general manager, stepping into the role right before the resort was bought by the Powdr Corporation in June of 2016. With the purchase came lots of rebranding — including the “alpenglow” orange color that has become emblematic of Eldora — and investments in facilities and equipment.
Coincidentally, Vail and Steamboat are also celebrating 60th anniversaries this year, though Tregaskis and marketing director Sam Bass are quick to single out Eldora’s unique status as the backyard, half-day ski stop for Boulder County. In addition to its proximity to the Denver metro area, the major sticking point is the resort’s lack of lodging, positioned by staff as a good thing.
“Because we’re not a destination ski area and we don’t have hotels and beds to fill, weekdays are deserted,” Bass said. “It’s like a private mountain to experience.”
The resort is doing a few things to celebrate the 60-year milestone, including a social media campaign compiling photos and memories submitted by customers. The Eldora team also put out a book on the resort’s history in December to mark the occasion, “Eldora: Six Decades of Adventure,” copies of which are available at the rental shop and online.
In addition to convenience and affordability, a big emphasis for the resort is education. With options from private lessons to the Trek and Eldorables youth programs, Eldora markets itself as offering a “laid-back” approach to ski instruction.
“If you’re going to live here, why would you not learn how to ski?” Tregaskis asked. “We’re an asset to Boulder County, is how I look at it.”
Eldora and Nederland
To get to Eldora from Boulder, passing through Nederland is a must. The mountain town sits near the southwestern edge of Boulder County with an elevation of over 8,000 feet. Just a 10-minute drive away, Eldora is an easily accessible destination for the town’s residents, such as former Nederland Mayor Kristopher Larsen.
Larsen was mayor of the town from 2016 to 2022. Born and raised in Boulder but a longtime Nederland resident, Larsen recalls Eldora being a big part of his childhood, even into his college years at the University of Colorado Boulder, when he was on one of the school’s ski teams.
“(Eldora) was always the playground,” he said. “That’s where I learned to ski. I’ve been skiing there literally for decades.”
Nederland’s population lies just around 1,500 within the town limits. When including the surrounding area outside the limits, however, that number jumps to around 7,500, Larsen said. It’s a lot of people to account for, and a lot of people who have access to the backyard ski resort that is Eldora.
But Eldora itself sits outside the town limits, as well, Larsen explained.
“We don’t get any revenue from them,” he said. “No sales tax, no use tax, no property tax, no impact fees. It’s difficult, but they’re also the largest employer in the area for half the year.”
Larsen said the biggest effect the resort has on the town, most of the time, is traffic. If a “powder day” falls on a weekend, Larsen said it’s not uncommon to see cars stopped all the way from the resort to the Barker Reservoir dam. While Larsen said he recognizes that fewer people would be traveling through the town this time of year without Eldora, that doesn’t always mean more tourism or patronage for local businesses.
“Very few people who go to Eldora end up stopping in town,” he said, “because, it’s like, ‘I can be in Boulder in 20 minutes.’”
Tregaskis, who lives in Boulder, expressed similar sentiments to Larsen. He said the city makes up around half of Eldora’s business.
“We kind of think of Boulder as our little ski town,” he said. “Nederland is somewhat, to a lesser degree. But there isn’t a lot of lodging in Nederland.”
According to Tregaskis, this season is on track to set an attendance record. That’s significant for a resort with a 60-year history and an average of 4,000 skiers per weekend during the height of the season, which runs from November through mid-april.
“Our business has finally kind of stabilized, and it’s really grown the last 10 years, in particular,” Tregaskis said. “We’ve spent more money and made more improvements than any other 10-year period, for sure. We’ve done well, and it’s exciting to see it come together.”
Upcoming projects include the addition of new chairlifts, new trails and a new center for beginner and adaptive skiers with construction set to begin this summer. Eldora also recently added another level to its parking area, which has kept staff from having to turn away drivers before they even arrive.
“We still have a parking challenge on busy holidays,” Tregaskis said. “But with the parking we’ve recently added, we’ve only parked out one day all year. We used to park out about 20 days a year.”
As for Nederland, Bass said community relations were “not really a priority” for the resort’s previous owners. The current management team, however, has been trying hard to rectify that. He said Eldora has connected with the Nederland town government over issues such as parking and has started doing a lot of philanthropic work to support Nederland organizations such as TEENS, Inc. and Wild Bear Nature Center.
Tregaskis agrees that the relationship has improved, pointing to his time serving on the board of the Nederland Downtown Development Authority. “It’s a whole lot better than it ever was,” he said.
Larsen remembers Eldora before Tregaskis, a time during which he said the resort and the town had “zero communication” with each other. He said he’s recently seen the resort become a lot more involved with the town and easier to work with, and said he hasn’t seen the same traffic issues this year.
Larsen said his dream is for Eldora to bring back night skiing, an activity that was once hosted in the 1980s and early 1990s. Regardless, he’s optimistic about the relationship between the resort and the town going forward.
“I think it’s only going to get better,” he said.