New owners hope affordable lift tickets, small-hill feel will revive Echo Mountain ski area
March 7, 2017
SQUAW PASS — The first owner bet on terrain park kids. The second bet on ski racers.
And the third owner of Clear Creek County's 226-acre Echo Mountain ski area is betting on … everyone.
"Our approach is we want to offer a little something for everybody," said Echo Mountain manager Fred Klaas. "We want to give those terrain park kids a reason to get back up here and get excited about some of the features we have. And give racers some space where they can get some turns in without driving through the tunnel. And give families a place where they can get their kids on skis and get going for the first few times."
Klaas studied at the University of Denver with Peter Burwell, whose Minnesota-based Burwell Enterprises bought Echo Mountain out of bankruptcy last fall for $3.8 million. The eclectic Burwell Enterprises is almost 50 years old, with a history of diverse ventures including underground storage tanks, laboratories, a Canadian fishing lodge, a water park, chocolates, John Deere dealerships, bottled water and satellite television. Family patriarch Rod Burwell, who died in 2015, once owned the Silvertree Hotel and Wildwood Lodge in Snowmass, which he sold in 2011 for $38.75 million to Starwood Capital Group.
“Look around Europe. They have their large ski areas but in countries like Norway, they have so many community ski operations. I think Echo is really going to fill a niche in Colorado that really isn’t out there.”Peggy StokstadHead of Clear Creek County Economic Development Corp.
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This is the Burwell family's first ski area and they bought a hill with a storied past. The Squaw Pass ski hill was popular in the 1960s and early 1970s, joining Arapahoe East as the metro Denver area's most trafficked ski areas before the Eisenhower Tunnel connected the Front Range with the larger resorts in Summit and Eagle counties. It closed in 1975 and fell into disrepair.
Maryland hotelier Gerald Petitt bought it at auction for $700,000 in 2002. He spent $5 million developing a parking lot, installing a snowmaking system and a hand-me-down triple chairlift from California's Heavenly ski area, and building an 8,000-square-foot base lodge and another base building. He sprinkled the two main runs with rails, jumps, jibs and hits. He pumped tunes from speakers mounted on towers fixed with lights for night skiing. The urban lodge had couches, video games and microwaves to heat up cheap meals to fuel visitors' next trick session.
To read the full story at The Denver Post.