On a gray winter day, you can hear the eerie wind whistle down the long corridors which stretch out almost as long as a football field. It is the skeleton of the 200-room Marble Ski Area base lodge. (The actual size is debatable, but it is very large!)
The sprawling roof can just barely be seen from the Marble Quarry Road. The massive hulk of a building was never completed and stands as a monument to unrequited greed. Christmas wreaths never decked the halls. Never an anxious skier sipped coffee while waiting for the lift to open; never was an aprés ski, hot mulled wine shared among friends after a day on the slopes.
The abandoned building is called the Marble Village Inn, also known as the Crystal Lodge. The lodge is entirely on private property, only accessible by permission from the owner. It sits almost 1,000 feet above the Marble Valley Floor and the drive can be a challenge in itself during the Colorado winter. The carcass of the hotel shares some dubious similarities with the Titanic. Reputedly, the “hull of the ship” has a cracked and damaged foundation due to the turbulent Mancos Shale it was built on which expands and heaves depending on the ground water.
The Dickens’ “Christmas Carol” imagery that one conjures up of a “Marble Yet to Come” could wake you terrified in a sweat like old Scrooge himself! The misfit ski village of 26,000 people that was proposed was thwarted by a grassroots effort of common local people, like you and me, that have a love and respect for the land. Those forefathers/mothers formed the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association (CVEPA).
I risk boring those who have heard this story so many times, but I urge the curious to read the fabulous history of the Marble Ski Area by Lynn Burton published one year ago in The Sopris Sun. Lynn elucidates the story in brilliant chronological form.
I was astonished when a good friend who was raised in this valley told me how surprised he was to learn that there is a chair lift on the slopes of Mount Daly. The Riblet double chair lift remains on the old ski area slope and might still be serviceable. For ski history nerds, The Riblet Tramway Company of Spokane, Washington built most of the chairlifts in the American West and became the largest chairlift company in the world at the time. Several locals tell stories of riding this lift in 1971/72 to ski the low angle, west-facing slopes.
People have long desired to ski in the Crystal Valley. The Redstone Castle T-bar sits idled in a neighbor’s backyard, giving testimony to Frank Kistler’s faded dream of Tram-serviced skiing in Redstone. Colorado Rocky Mountain School also pioneered lift serviced skiing outside of Carbondale. Several other small cross country ski efforts have come and gone. The pure joy of gliding in the snow will not fade away, and inspired skiers continue to find the solace or exhilaration they seek whether speculators succeed or not.
In this 50th anniversary year of the Battle of the Marble Ski Area and of CVEPA, I am going to allow myself one more poke at the dangerous initiative of that small group of fraudulent developers. John Zakovich was one of the primary developers of the Marble Ski Area. In true Scrooge form, Zakovich told everyone that he would “develop this valley like God would if he had the money!” In the Crystal Valley, we say, “Bah humbug, Ebenezer!” Let’s go skiing!
To learn more and to support the mission of the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association, go to cvepa.org
Original ticket from the Redstone Ski Area, another ghost of Christmas Past. Courtesy photo