Terrain park broadens its reach | AspenTimes.com

Terrain park broadens its reach

Elizabeth Aguilera
The Denver Post/AP
Aspen, CO Colorado

IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. ” Colorado’s only dedicated terrain park is going family.

After its first season as a 100 percent terrain area, Echo Mountain has dropped the “park” from its name and opened up wider groomed runs for skiers and snowboarders.

Terrain, including features such as halfpipes and grinding rails, makes up about 45 percent of Echo Mountain this season, said Chad Lee, Echo Mountain marketing director.

“We just want to become an area that is a little more appealing to the mass market,” Lee said. “The park worked quite well for a specific segment, but we believe that when you say ‘park,’ there is some intimidation. We are more than just park; we have these other features too.”

Echo Mountain recorded 18,758 visits last season, according to Colorado Ski Country USA, and officials on the mountain hope to double that number this year with the new variety of visitors.

The area is located on the grounds of the former Squaw Pass ski area south of Idaho Springs.

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The changes at Echo Mountain fill a niche for the Denver metro area, said Nick Bohnenkamp, spokesman for Colorado Ski Country.

“That niche being your skiers and riders who are looking to learn the park and just enjoy park riding,” he said. “I think the perception is that they are solely a park mountain, and they also offer things for skiers and riders who want to experience other things than just park terrain.”

Southern California’s Mountain High and Snow Summit Ski areas and several in Canada have raised their profiles by expanding their terrain offerings but still offer more general cruiser skiing.

Echo is following in the footsteps of nearby Eclipse Snow Park ” still in development ” in changing from a terrain to a family focus.

Eclipse owner Michael Coors made the change during the planning stages after skiing the St. Mary’s Glacier ski area, west of Idaho Springs.

“Initially, we went with the terrain focus because we hadn’t seen the potential for good all-mountain skiing,” said Coors, great-grandson of brewery founder Adolph Coors. “But once we got the chance to get up there and ski it, classify us first as a ski area.”

Now, only about 40 percent of the future 350-acre ski area will be dedicated to a terrain park. Coors’ investment group bought Eclipse for $1.65 million in 2005.

Initially, Coors had hoped to open next fall, but slower planning and processes have moved that date out another year or two.

Currently, the project is in the development-review stage with Clear Creek County officials.

At Echo Mountain, the changes are in response to skier and snowboarder needs, Lee said.

Echo is installing a handle tow, creating junior programs for children ages 3 to 10, offering a $139 season pass and trying to let families know about its proximity to the Front Range.

Echo Mountain ” 240 acres, of which 75 are ridable ” opens Nov. 21.

Additional changes at Echo Mountain include isolating terrain areas into pocket parks across the mountain, Lee said.

“We found people are looking for the variety,” he said. “People also want to learn to ski and snowboard. So let’s create an area for these folks, make some cruiser turns on corduroy and listen to the needs of our guests.”