Summit Old Timers
Standing on the Ski Tip Ranch property they bought in 1941, Max and Edna Dercum still marvel at the beauty of the land and the surrounding mountains. Sixty-three years ago, the 80-acre parcel cost them $3,000 and was at the heart of Colorado mining and ranching country. Today, in large part because of their vision, it is at the base of one of North America’s top ski destinations – Keystone Resort. But that is putting the cart before the horse.
Born in 1912 in Cleveland, Max first got on skis when he was 6 years old, hoofing it up short hills and gliding down on long, wooden skis. After that, he was hooked. Edna was born August 2, 1914 in Clarissa, Minn. – a state with plenty of snow and cold weather. But she didn’t learn to ski until she attended college at Penn State. “Max was teaching forestry there,” said Edna, outside the Ski Tip Ranch Wednesday morning. “He started a ski club and I had always wanted to learn how to ski.” The two began spending time together outdoors and were married in 1937.
“Everywhere I went, I was trying to introduce people to skiing,” said Max, who was inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame in 1980. In the winter of 1937-1938 near Pine Crest, Calif., Max taught many of California’s novice skiers. At Penn State he was a professor of forestry and started the university’s first ski team. In 1941 he came to Colorado and bought the Ski Tip Ranch property, and in 1945 came to Colorado for good. It was that year that he bought a 5-acre mill site at present day Arapahoe Basin and four or five patent claims on an additional 30 acres. The following year a lift was installed, and Arapahoe Basin was an upstart ski area on the west side of Loveland Pass.
Fifty-eight years have passed since A-Basin’s opening, and the Dercums have not only raised two ski areas out of the Colorado forests, but also two children – Rolf and Sunni. “Of all the accomplishments, all the things we have done,” said Max, looking back a half-dozen or more decades in his memory, “the one thing we’re most proud of is our children.” Rolf and Sunni still live close to their parents on Montezuma Road – a family devoted to Summit County and, in Max and Edna, grandparents of the Colorado ski industry.
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