Three seasons after purchasing Echo Mountain Resort, which is a 40-minute drive from downtown Denver, owner Nora Pykkonen has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, reporting an unpaid $1.45 million in debt to her creditors.
This brand of bankruptcy offers Pykkonen the opportunity to take a breather from these looming debts and devise a plan to sort out her financial affairs. Meanwhile, per standard Chapter 11 practices, the lifts will keep turning on the 226-acre Clear Creek County ski area. “We will continue to operate just as we have been operating," Pykkonen told the Denver Post.
“This is a good thing. It’s a step toward making things better,” one skier commented on Echo’s Facebook page. “I’m still headed up Friday, because it’s business as usual and the snow is great. Chapter 11 filings help companies move ahead.”
Pykkonen emphasized, "We are definitely in the black with a very healthy bottom line.” She estimates that over 90 percent of Echo's customers this season are out-of-state and have never skied before, and suspects that many end up at Echo after Googling “closest ski area to Denver."
But the resort hasn't always catered to tourists. Echo just opened to the public in December 2015 after a brief run as a private hill. When Pykkonen, a former business consultant, purchased the resort on auction in September 2012, she roped it off as an exclusive training facility for school-aged ski racers. Dreaming of a Super G hill, a video analysis tent, lights for after-school training, and more, she planned to sink over $5 million into Echo and its home team, the Front Range Ski Club.
“It’s really special for a lot of different reasons,” Lydia Woodard, the mother of a Front Range athlete, told the Post in 2014. “A lot of ski resorts, there’s just so much commercial hype. This is wholesome, authentic skiing. There’s something really grounding about that, and it’s very peaceful.”
Echo's biggest strength was an all-star coaching staff that included former U.S. Ski Team member Sarah Schleper and Patrik Järbyn, a retired Swiss World Cup racer.
But with a $5,000 price tag, membership didn't pull in enough business to keep Echo afloat, so in 2015, Pykkonen decided to open the resort's gates to the masses. A season pass now runs skiers just $259.
Front Range skiers still train under the lights at Echo, as do teams from Vail and Winter Park. And Pykkonen hopes to expand Echo's terrain, which currently has five park features, some gladed skiing, and beginner to intermediate runs, in addition to the race hill.
“There are so many opportunities,” she said. “There definitely is demand from the first-time skiers. We are figuring out what works and what doesn’t work. This is definitely a work in progress.”
A post on the Echo Mountain Resort Facebook page announced today that the resort is scheduled to stay open until April 15.