Barbara Lawlor, Nederland. The lift operators let empty chairs go by until number 164 approached. Two young girls related to an Eldora Mountain Resort patrolman sat down on the chair and turned around to wave. If the Challenge lift could have waved it would have.
On Sunday, April 9, 2017, at 4 p.m., the last skiers/snowboarders to take the ride up the mountain will always be the last riders. Both lifts have reached the end of their lives and the deconstruction began Monday morning. By next season there will be one new faster, six-person lift from the base of the mountain.
Eldora began in 1962 on a 400-acre piece of land with a lodge, a parking lot and two t-bars. The first chair lift installed at the area was Little Hawk, which was began running in 1967 and is the oldest operating lift in Colorado.
In 1973, Cannonball was installed, paralleling the T-bar on the main mountain. After going through a down time and closing in 1986 for one season, the resort opened again and in 1992 Challenge, a triple chairlift from Sun Valley, was built parallel to Cannonball.
As the regular last chair riders began to queue up on Sunday afternoon, locals Melody Loar and Dirk Larsen were among them, vying for a ride in history. Melody said she was at Eldora in 1967, riding the T-bar, and has skied, taught and worked at the resort ever since.
Can a person shed a tear over a chairlift? It almost seemed like it, although it could have been snowflakes on eyelashes as the April showers storm pelted the area with horizontal snow.
Sunday was the last day of the season and as the lifties gathered round organizing their end-of-the-year dodgeball game at Chipeta Park.
Usually, the big April snowstorm arrives the week after Eldora closes; this year it came the week before. The parking lots were full and vehicles overflowed down the road. Everyone wanted a piece of new snow.
Tailgate parties usually snuggle up to vehicles, slotted up in mud puddles, as charcoal cookers sizzled up burgers and brats and coolers kept beers cold. It started well on Sunday but shortly after lunch, as snow covered the buns, chips and mustard and sputtered on the grill, the tailgaters sat in their cars and ate. No worries. Just different.
Throughout the afternoon, the Alcapones huddled under a tent and blazed away on their brass instruments. They deserve a thumb’s up for sticking it out as snow slashed over and around them all afternoon.
Employees prepared for their end of the season parties but agreed that it had been one of the best seasons in a long time and said they appreciated the new philosophy of the administration and new owner.
So long, Cannonball and Challenge.