The Abandoned – Cuchara Mountain Resort, CO

Ryan Flynn | | BrainsBrains
Abandoned ski resort in Colorado gets a second chance.
Cuchara Resort In Its Prime. — Credit: Paul ‘Snappy’ Smith, The Gazette

In this week’s edition of The Abandoned, we will take a look at one of the more famous abandoned Colorado ski resorts, Cuchara Mountain Resort. If you missed last weeks edition, check it out here:

Cuchara Mountain Resort was located in south-central Colorado, roughly a 78-mile drive south from Pueblo. The mountain began operation during the 1981-1982 ski season with the name Pandero. The resort initially had two double chairs and a rope tow.

Cuchara’s location in southern Colorado

Cuchara was established by a group from Texas and funded by Summit Savings and Loan. The resort quickly expanded in 1984 by building two new chairlifts and new runs. The investment in these expansions led to financial troubles for the resort, and during the 1985-1986 season, Summit Savings rejected any further financial assistance. Due to a lack of additional funds, the resort was forced to close that February, leaving many who bought season passes angry.

Cuchara trail map from 1983

A new lender stepped in for the next season in Sunbelt Lending, which had purchased Summit Lending. A lack of prior experience in operating a ski resort and lack of snow led to low skier turnout during the 1987-1988 season. After a poor first season, the resort lay unused from 1989-1992.

Dick Davis, a Texas businessman, bought the resort for $1.1 million and reopened the 1992-1993 season. Davis operated the resort for two more years before running out of funds for operation. Dick Davis sold the resort to fellow Texans Phillip and Donald Huffines for $1.8 million. The two operated the resort in the 1995-1996 season, but bad conditions lead to low skier turnout. The Colorado Tramway Board caught the brothers running lifts without a permit the next season. Due to this, the board shut down Cuchara.

Moving down the line of Texan owners, John Lau bought the resort for $2.8 million and reopened it in the 1997 season. John Lau had previous experience operating ski resorts as he also owned Ski Rio in New Mexico. A massive blizzard in the front range that year created great conditions at Cuchara, and resort attendance hit an all-time high. During Lau’s ownership, the resort operated from 1997-2000 on a 4-day operation schedule. After 2000 Lau closed down both Cuchara and Ski Rio.

Cuchara Trail map from 1999

In 2001,  the United States Forest Service decided that Cuchara violated their special uses permit and shut down the hill permanently. Since then, Cuchara has been left mainly idle. A group of locals in 2004 hoped to reopen the resort as a non-profit in 2004, but it eventually did not go anywhere. In 2017, the mountain got some life put back into it. Huerfano County bought the property from funds produced by the Cuchara Foundation. The original ski rental shop has since been refurbished into a day lodge. The now named Cuchara Mountain Park is open to visitors and offers human-powered skiing in National Forest Land. You can check out the park on their website.

Touring at Cuchara Mountain Park. Photo: Cuchara Mountain Park

While I have never been to Cuchara, I have seen it from far away. Driving down to Taos, New Mexico, the resort is visible driving west on US-160 between Walsenburg and La Veta, Colorado. I have always wanted to go check out the resort but unfortunately have never had the chance. If you have photos and or experiences with Cuchara, please share them in the comments! Thanks for reading! Cheers!

Abandoned ski resorts can be found all across the US.
View from the nearby valley and US-160 of Cuchara Mountain Park. — Credit: Spanish Peaks Country

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