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Echo Mountain Park: Small but satisfying

By Hollen Wheeler; courtesy photos

The closest ski area to the Denver metro area, Echo Mountain Park in Idaho Springs, encompasses only 60 acres and its one chairlift feeds to beginner and intermediate ski runs.

Thirty-six miles from downtown Denver is a lesser-known recreational resort in Idaho Springs, Echo Mountain Park.

At an elevation of just above 10,000 feet, Echo is the closest ski area to the greater metro area. Its small size and price point are exceptional, especially for the beginner-to-intermediate skier and snowboarder. The mountain encompasses only 60 acres and its one chairlift feeds to green and blue ski runs. For the more advanced, there is one black diamond trail that runs through the trees. Other pluses are that many of the Echo Mountain staff are available to give free pointers and a “magic carpet” is in place for those who want to forgo the chairlift and practice more downhill turns.

“If you are looking for a beginner mountain, Echo Mountain Park is perfect,” said Jenny Heckendorf who recently took her son Rylan Dodd (13), who was transitioning from skiing to snowboarding. “The cost is reasonable, but the best part about Echo is zero ski traffic.”

The price for an adult lift ticket on a weekend is $65 and children younger than 6 years old get a free ticket with the purchase of an adult ticket. Nighttime skiing is also offered depending on weather conditions.

For those who would rather tube down the mountain, Echo offers day and nighttime tubing. Reservations are recommended.

When the weather warms, there are an abundance of hiking trails at Echo Mountain for all skill levels. One of the most beautiful is Echo to Summit Lake at Mt. Evans, a 12-mile journey with more than a 3,000-foot elevation gain with spectacular views, including the Chicago Lakes. It is difficult and not for the beginner.

Echo Mountain Park has a storied past. The resort began in 1960 as the Squaw Pass Ski Area and was popular for those who did not want to brave Loveland Pass, the only way in those days to get to the Summit County resorts. Two years after the Eisenhower Tunnel opened in 1973, Squaw Pass went out of business and remained dormant until 2005 when it reopened as Echo Mountain Park.

Rylan Dodd enjoyed transitioning from skiing to snowboarding on a less-crowded hill at Echo Mountain Park.

In 2012, new ownership changed the focus of the mountain to a private, race-training facility for skiers. Unsuccessful, it went bankrupt in 2016. By the following year, Echo was under new ownership again and reopened to the public. In 2018, Echo renovated the restaurant and lodge and opened the tubing hill.

In any season, Echo Mountain Park has a lot to offer. “It is a fabulous, hidden gem,” added Heckendorf.
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