In today's skiing climate where mega resort conglomerates buying up every last ski area has become the norm, it's easy to forget that not that long ago, most ski areas across the nation were small businesses; mom-and-pop shops run by families who were dedicated to providing easy and affordable access for local skiers. But as the years passed, times changed. New non-skiing owners ran hills into the ground, forest services became stingier on granting access to land, snowfall became more infrequent and less dependable, and many of these small town ski areas were forced to close up shop.
In the state of Colorado alone, there have been over 200 ski areas at one point or another, and today only 30 remain in operation. A film project over two years in the making, “Abandoned” follows a trio of friends on their exploration of Colorado's forgotten ski areas.
Focusing mainly on three areas, Geneva Basin, Berthoud Pass, and Cuchara Mountain, the film dives into the rich history of each ski area, talking with past owners, ski patrollers, and locals, letting their fond memories tell the colorful story of each hill. Following the history lesson, the Road West Traveled trio slapped on their skins and headed up the ski areas the old fashioned way, dropping lines between the remains of patrol shacks, lift towers, and carved out trails of a place now left to nature.
Still new to the game, “Abandoned” is The Road West Traveled's first ski film. All having their own "real life" day jobs during normal business hours, the trio says the project took over two years to make, with a budget of only $3,000 and plenty of late nights researching and editing to make it just right. The crew admits that when they finished the movie, they thought the premiere would only bring out a handful of family and friends to watch the film, but the sold out crowd at the Oriental Theater in Denver last week proved differently.
Instead of attracting your average ski movie audience of youngsters coming to watch their heroes send it on the big screen, “Abandoned” brought out a bit of an older crowd, including many skiers who spent their formative years learning to ski on these now forgotten hills. But while they might have a few years on the groms flocking to TGR and MSP's latest films, the packed crowd in Denver brought just as much stoke, with hushed conversations throughout the film exclaiming, "Remember when dad took us there?" and "I think I first skied there in '67!"
What started as a passion project between three friends, “Abandoned” found life in places that have long been left for dead. They explored ski areas that acted as stepping stones for so many skiers across Colorado, back when hills were dedicated to the people, not profit. Along the way they gave a voice to those that have long gone unheard, and showed that although the lifts might be torn down, the spirit of these ski areas will live on forever.