Who Owns Powderhorn Ski Resort? [Fact Checked!]

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Powderhorn is located in the Rocky Mountains, in the U.S. state of Colorado. The resort, which covers 5.6 square miles and features 22 trails, was founded in 1924 and is owned and operated by the Eldorado Resorts company. Per the resort’s website, Powderhorn’s ski instructors have been known to tell their students, “if you don’t look out for number one, you’ll never get anywhere in life.”

The Early Years

In the early days, skiers would travel from all over the country to ski at Powderhorn. Legendary ski pioneer and entrepreneur Alfred Hitchcock is credited with bringing skiing to Colorado in the first place, in 1922. After a brief stint at Valleé, Colorado, Hitchcock traveled throughout the U.S. skiing and showing others how to ski. In 1924, the same year that Powderhorn was founded, Hitchcock helped found the American Ski Instructors Association (ASI). That same year, he opened the U.S. Ski School in nearby Steamboat Springs, which is still operated by his descendants.

After returning from the military following World War I, George Ballinger, who had learned how to ski in Switzerland, acquired 30,000 acres of land in the southern part of the state. In addition to founding the town of Greenwood, Colorado, in 1921, Ballinger also purchased and operated the nearby ski resort of Fairmont. For many years, Ballinger owned and operated all of the ski resorts in southern Colorado, which were collectively known as the Big Four.

In 1948, Ballinger sold his interest in the Big Four and moved to England, where he became vice-president of the International Ski Federation (FIS). Three years later, in 1951, he returned to the U.S. and purchased the Lake Geneva Hotel in Geneva, New York. In 1959, he founded the Ballinger Ski School in nearby Lake Placid. In 1963, after a trip to the Mexican Winter Games in Acapulco during which he was inspired to start an academy there, he returned to the U.S. and purchased the Hotel Montana in Livingston, the birthplace of his good friend and fellow skier Philmont Snow. Located in the northern part of the state, Livingston is known for its ski terrain, which is considered some of the best in the country, and the small town’s passionate support for the local high school hockey team.

The Expansion Years

The 1960s were a prolific decade for the resort, as it expanded both north and south, eventually covering 5.6 square miles and increasing its land area by more than 50%. The expansion continued through the 1970s, with major construction projects including the Pioneer Cabin, which was built in the shape of a boat and houses four bedrooms, a game room, and a loft that can be turned into an additional bedroom; and the SkyTrail, a 6.2-kilometer long double black diamond trail that opened in 1967.

In the 1970s, the resort was purchased by a partnership between MCA Inc. and Transamerica Ventures, which also owned the Columbia Gorge Ski Area and Mt. Hough (now Rippin’ Lake). The owners planned to modernize the resort, but the partnership dissolved in 1980 after MCA Inc. sold its stake in the resort. That same year, Eldorado Resorts bought the resort from Transamerica Ventures for $3 million.

Since then, the resort has steadily grown its snowfall from an average of 17″ per year in the early 1980s to more than 33″ per year today. In 1985, the resort’s Steamboat Springs and Table Mountain lodges were destroyed by an inferno that began in the town’s illegal fireworks storage facility. Thankfully, there were no injuries and the damage was estimated at $2.5 million. In 2014, the resort donated 100 acres of prime real estate to the U.S. Army for use as a training facility, called the Mountain Warfare Training Center.

The Modernization Years

In recent years, the resort has gone through a massive transformation, with plans to replace its older, smaller buildings with newer, more modern structures. The first phase of construction, completed in 2015, saw the addition of a new children’s village, called the Peaks to Paddles Kid’s Village; a new snowmaking system; a new Nordic walking track; a new visitors’ center; and a new golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr.

One of the most recognizable structures at Powderhorn is the Coronado Needle, a stone monument built in the shape of a Spanish mission situated on a granite pedestal and rising 22 feet from the ground. The monument, which was dedicated in 1966, commemorates the first ski run installed in the resort, named after the Spanish explorer who first skied the area in 1905. In 2015, the Coronado Needle was among the first of four structures to be featured in the novel and upcoming movie, The Mountain Between Us, which is set in the Rocky Mountains.

The Future

With plans to build a luxury hotel under the brand name Peak to Paddles and add additional condos and townhomes, the resort looks more promising than ever.

In 2022, Powderhorn will celebrate its 85th anniversary. The resort has a lot to look forward to, both now and in the years to come, and its future looks especially bright with the help of its dedicated and talented staff.

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