A look back at Loveland Ski Area
October 27, 2012
In the mid-1950s, a lift ticket at Loveland Ski Area was only $3.75. The first prices in the late 1930 offered a day pass to use the ski area for $1 while paying 50 cents would give access to the rope tow.
Though the lift ticket prices have been no strangers to inflation, one thing at Loveland Ski Area has always remained the same: The employee passion endures.
“Loveland is a wonderful little corner of the world,” said Wendel Pugh, longtime employee of the ski area. “There is a whole world waiting for you, between all of the little nook and crannies, it’s different than other mountains.”
Skiing at Loveland Ski Area can be traced back to the mid-1930s, though casual skiing started even before then. The first U.S. Forest Service permit is dated 1937. Back in those days, the mountain was largely recreated by the Zipfelberger Ski Club, organized in the 1930s by three avid skiers: Jay Clark Blickensderfer, Dick Tompkins and Thor Grosswald.
Technically, Loveland Ski Area first opened its slopes to skiers in 1936 when Blickensderfer installed a rope tow at what is now called Loveland Basin.
“From the little that we do know about this group, it sounds like there were 30 or so members that just did their own thing in the Loveland Basin, both hiking and using older portable rope tows,” said Rob Goodell, director of business operations.
Loveland installed its first ski lift in 1955. It was aptly named Chair 1, and had the same line as the current lift. The following season, Chair 2 was built. The lift began near the slope maintenance building west of the current Basin Lodge.
By the late 1950s and 1960s, construction began on the Dwight D. Eisenhower Tunnel, which runs directly below the base of Chair 4.
During the 1980s, Loveland upgraded the old Chair 2 with a high-capacity Yan triple chair. This provided better, more reliable access to beginner and intermediate terrain. In 1989, a new Valley Lodge was constructed, allowing for better guest services at the beginner and racing hills. It was at about this time that snowboarding was emerging on the slopes.
Now, with Loveland celebrating its 75th year, longtime employees reminisce on the changes in technology and how the mountain has remained so special over the years. The strong retention among Loveland’s staff exceeds that of most with some employees having 50 years or more under their belt, and they all have many memories to share.
“We’re very proud of our heritage,” Goodell said.
Freddie and Rosie Tronnier, residents of Silverthorne, have both worked for Loveland as ski instructors for the majority of the last half century.
Freddie Tronnier is a full-time employee and is in his 51st season working with the ski area and now serves as the ski school supervisor, while his wife, Rosie, is in her 48th season with the ski school.
“I remember when my kids were out there in rubber boots,” Rosie Tronnier said. “There wasn’t any snow wear for young kids being made back then, so everything was handed down.”
In the absence of boots, bindings and thermal jacket materials, most skiers wore sweaters and pants that were only partially waterproof, Rosie Tronnier recalls.
“Can you imagine how cold they would have been out there?,” she said. “I think it made the kids really tough.”
Loveland remains one of the only family owned and operated ski areas in the country, currently operated by Virginia Upham.
Keeping the ski area family owned has contributed to the family feel that the staff generates.
“We’ve stayed here so long because everyone at Loveland makes you feel like you’re part of the family,” Freddie Tronnier said.
For Rosie Tronnier, it’s the rewards from her work that has retained her employment throughout the years.
Seven years ago, she taught a 86-year-old bus driver from Baltimore how to ski.
“He said that before he died he wanted to learn how to ski,” Rosie Tronnier said. “His entire family pitched in for his private lesson and he stayed on the beginners hill. Tears were rolling down his face, he was so happy to learn. It’s really a special thing to be able to help fulfill someone else’s dream.”
Ski area officials say that marking the 75th anniversary, the ski area intends on keeping its character intact.
“It is very important to us to preserve the culture and atmosphere of the area,” Goodell said. “We pride ourselves on our facilities and learning terrain for beginners. We have taught numerous generations how to ski and snowboard and we want to continue on with that legacy.”
Employed by the ski area for 40 years, Pugh, a cleaning contractor, recalls the difference in the ski technology when he first began working at the mountain.
The first skis used at what was then called the Loveland Ski Tow, were wooden planks with leather straps as bindings. The length of the skis differed too from modern skis.
“They had to be long because they were used as transportation and you were less likely to fall through snow if the skis were long in length,” Pugh said.
The cumbersome weight presented challenges for those learning to ski during the sport’s infancy.
“I remember the first time I put on skis,” Pugh said. “They were sort of like swim fins, they were more attached to you than you were attached to them.”
“Modern skis feel like they’re part of you,” he added.
The advancements in skiing and snowboarding technology has made it possible for more people to learn.
“You had to really pay attention if you went into the trees,” Pugh said. “This new equipment just makes it so easy to ski.”