Rope tow lift

Colorado Mountain College grooms early season snow at Dutch Henry Hill. A rope tow lift will be added to the skiing hill next year.

Cloud City Mountain Sports, which was born out of the Cloud City Ski Club in 2020, is breathing new life into Dutch Henry Hill after securing $30,000 last month to construct a rope tow ski lift. In addition to operating as a training facility, Cloud City Mountain Sports (CCMS) President Ben Cairns said the decades-old ski hill could also serve as a site for community recreation.

“I knew after the first hour of living in Leadville that Dutch Henry Hill needed a lift,” said Cairns, who also serves as vice president and campus dean for Colorado Mountain College’s (CMC) Leadville and Salida campuses, and as a coach for the Lake County High School Alpine Ski team. “North-facing slopes at 10,000 feet with snowmaking and grooming through CMC right next door: I mean, this place is special and deserves more use.”

Cairns added that alpine skiers with CCMS and the high school, who both train at Dutch Henry Hill, will endure their final season of hiking the slope this winter. The rope tow, which is manufactured by Towpro in New Hampshire, is slated for purchase in the spring and installation by next winter. But the equipment is meant for novice skiers as well.

The rope tow project started gaining momentum earlier this year in February after a coed dual-panel slalom race between Lake County High School and Summit High School at Dutch Henry Hill. According to Cairns, the event, which was the first of its kind at the location, highlighted the potential of Dutch Henry Hill as an asset for serious skiers and the community alike.

But without a lift to the top, Cairns said that Dutch Henry Hill cannot fully serve skiers of any experience level. In the months following February’s competition, Cairns said support from individuals involved in the ski industry, some of whom were affiliated with the U.S. Ski Team, began flooding in. Last month, unnamed donors gifted $30,000 to CCMS for the installation of the rope tow.

Presently, ownership of Dutch Henry Hill is divided among CCMS, Lake County Government and CMC. Although the rope tow is nearly purchased, installation of the lift and future development of Dutch Henry Hill will require working relationships between the three entities, particularly the county, which operates the tubing hill adjacent to the skiing facility.

Cairns said one option for the rope tow’s location is on the county’s land along a thin clearing of trees between the tubing and skiing hill, where midcentury remnants of a former lift still stand. In addition to the rope tow, Cairns envisions an area with gentle terrain for beginning skiers, an asset that he hopes will bolster diversity in local winter recreation.

Several of the donors Cairns is working with, many of whom have expressed concern with the costly barriers to skiing, have also committed to funding programs that offer equipment at Dutch Henry Hill. Faced with the high cost of equipment, groups like Get Outdoors Leadville! (GOL!) have struggled to offer alpine skiing recreation outings. But with equipment funding around the corner, Cairns anticipates a fruitful relationship with organizations like GOL! in developing programming at Dutch Henry Hill.

“We are really excited,” said Cairns. “Skiing is such a big part of the culture here. Having a space that speaks to that while also breaking down barriers to winter recreation would offer a lot to our community.”

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