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75 Year Celebration of
Snowsport History
in the
Far West region!

Photos Are Here!


History of Arapahoe, Colorado

This 53 year old legend offers the highest lift-served terrain on the North American continent. Half of the mountain is above timberline with open bowl skiing and snowboarding through spring and into early summer.

In the 1990s, ski resorts are not built with tinker-toy towers, Army surplus generators, and a wing and a prayer.

In the mid-1940s, when skiing had all the popularity of a deep freeze, convincing investors that there was great fun in the snow on the snowy slopes of the Continental Divide, was a hard sell at best. Nonetheless, a hardy group of pioneers sold stock, cut down trees, put up lifts, and voila--a legend was born.

In December 1946, Larry Jump and his directors including, Max & Edna Dercum, opened A-Basin for its inaugural season with a single rope tow and a $1.25 daily lift ticket. At a spirited fifty-three years old the Basin's just hitting its stride.

In 1945 - 1946, the Winter Sports Committee of the Denver Chamber of Commerce hired two men to make a statewide survey of potential ski area sites -- Laurance "Larry" A. Jump, a Dartmouth grad and 10th Mountain Division veteran, and Frederick "Sandy" Schauffler, Amherst grad and member of the 1940 Olympic ski team. At the time, only Berthoud Pass qualified as a winter sports area.

Jump and Schauffler’s site recommendation was the west side of Loveland Pass. When they learned that the U.S. Forest Service considered issuing a prospectus for bids on the Arapahoe Basin site, the two pioneers recruited Olympic medalist Richard "Dick" Durrance for credibility. The three men formed Arapahoe Basin, Inc. on May 14, 1946.

It was trial and error from the start. The timber and grazing resource people in the USFS looked upon skiers with uneducated perplexity. The incorporated group, with more enthusiasm than experience, groped its way to develop a $150,000 plan which included two chairlifts, a rope tow and ski trails. On June 10, 1946, they submitted an application for a special use permit to the USFS. Eleven days later, the plan was approved. Wilfred "Slim" Davis, a ranger with the USFS, designed the trail layout.

Larry met Max Dercum, a local resident who owned several mining patents in the Arapahoe Basin area, and who was a forestry professor from Pennsylvania. Larry immediately hired him to work on the mountain to utilize his forestry background. Max was elected to Arapahoe’s board of directors, serving several years in that capacity.

Shares of stock were sold for $1.00, but not enough shares were sold to develop the group’s initial plan. Arapahoe Basin opened for its inaugural 1946 - 1947 season with just a rope tow, which was located from midway to the top of the mountain. Skiers were transported to the base of the tow in any Army weapons carrier pulled by a four wheel drive vehicle.

Skier-day count during the first season was 1200. Each person who braved the elements paid $3.00 per day for the privilege.

The looming $40,000 debt was alleviated by an increase in stock sales and a Small Business Administration loan; the first ever issued to a ski area. Marjorie "Marnie" Brown, later known as Mrs. Larry Jump, helped finance the completion of the original chairlifts, trails and building in time for the start of the 1947 - 1948 ski season.

According to Larry Jump, Arapahoe’s first single chairlifts incorporated some military surplus ‘tinker toy’ tows, but they also employed structural steel. These were the first post-war lifts ordered in Colorado. A 100 kilowatt Army surplus generator and electric motors powered all the lifts.

Cliff Skinner, USFS ranger posted in Dillon, didn’t ski, but he conscientiously inspected the lifts and tower structures by riding up on the lifts, then showshoeing down the lift lines.

The "village" at the foot of the slopes consisted of a 32 by 40 foot shelter, housing a lunch counter, ski shop and ski school. A first aid patrol room was near the base of the lower lift, as were a row of outhouses.

The 1947 founding director of the Arapahoe Basin ski school was Ross Davis. On his teaching staff were Max and Edna Dercum, who also owned the Ski Tip Ranch, Colorado’s oldest guest ranch. Edna also became president of the Arapahoe Ski Club.

Skier days jumped to more than 13,000 during Arapahoe’s second season. The area’s gross income was reported at $30,000.

In 1952, Larry and Marnie brought Austrian ski instructor Willy Schaeffler to Arapahoe Basin to head the ski school. Assisting him were John Bailey, Max Dercum, Alex Meza and Eric Windisch. Willy went on to coach the University of Denver ski team and the Olympic ski team.

When Sandy Schauffler left the area in 1949, it was Larry’s perseverance and commitment that sustained the development of Arapahoe Basin for the following 20 years.

From the mid 1960s to late 1972, patrolman Joe Jankowsky managed Arapahoe Basin for Larry. Joe then formed A-Basin, Inc. to purchase the area for $850,000. He operated it until 1978 when Keystone’s parent company, Ralston Purina, acquired Arapahoe Basin for $3,200,000.

By 1979, the chairlift tally was five. The pomalifts were removed. Runs were dozed for better fall-line descents. Some boulders in the upper bowl, which restricted skiers to an hour-glass route, were blasted to reveal the boulevard now called Dercum’s Gulch. Today’s skier count reaches nearly 250,000 a season.

Larry Jump and his pioneering directors originated a number of programs at Arapahoe Basin:

The Rocky Mountain News Ski School is led by Willy Schaeffler.

Larry and Pete Seibert (Vail) started the Rocky Mountain Ski Operators Association which later became Colorado Ski Country USA.

With Harry Baum’s assistance, Larry negotiated for the purchase and construction of the first Pomalift in the U.S. (1953 - 1954). Larry then formed Pomalift, Inc. in June 1954, and sold Pomas, Pomagalski chairlifts and three passenger gondolas to 400 areas.

Larry initiated the first amputee skiing program in Colorado, backed by both Fitzsimmons and Children’s Hospitals. Larry and Marnie were given a National Citizens Award by the Department of Defense for this service.

Marnie Jump started the first Colorado Ladies Day at Arapahoe Basin.

Larry Jump, a 1936 Dartmouth graduate, worked for the ambulance duty in the French Army at the start of World War II and was captured by the Germans during the invasion of France. After his release to the American consulate in Stuttgart in 1940, he returned to America, joined the 10th Mountain Division, and became a battalion intelligence officer with the troops in Italy. Larry became one of the first certified ski instructors in 1947 in Colorado. Larry recently died; Marnie now lives in Vail.

Max Dercum, a 1934 Cornell Gradate and forestry professor at Penn State, organized ski teams, built ski facilities and coached the sport there. In 1945, he and wife, Edna, moved to Colorado, bought an 1860s stagecoach way station on land down valley from Arapahoe Basin, and developed it into Ski Tip Ranch. Max became one of the early directors of Arapahoe, helped supervise run clearing, and was head ski instructor there until 1969. He was one of the originals to form Professional Ski Instructors of America in 1961.

He authored the book, The Official American Ski Technique. Max eyed the mountain in his backyard, and received a ski area permit as president of Ski Valley USA, which later became Keystone International, Inc. From 1969 to 1975, Max directed the development of the ski area, locating lifts and ski trails on Keystone. He directed the Keystone Ski School from 1970 - 1975. Max is a multi-medalist on the Masters ski race circuit. He and Edna have a retirement home near Montezuma.

Arapahoe Basin was owned and operated by Ralston Resorts (consisting of Breckenridge Ski Resort, Keystone Resort and the Arapahoe Basin ski area) until early 1997.

In July of 1996, Vail Resorts was formed when Vail Resorts, Inc., owners and operators of the Vail ski area and Beaver Creek Resort, announced it had reached an agreement to merge with Ralcorp Holdings Inc.'s (Ralston Resorts) ski and resort operation. In January 1997, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a consent decree approving the merger contingent on the divestiture of Arapahoe Basin.

On August 5, 1997 Vail Resorts officials announced their planned divestiture of Arapahoe Basin to Dundee Realty USA, a subsidiary of Dundee Realty Corp. of Toronto, Canada. The planned divestiture received Department of Justice approval on August 26, 1997.

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