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Echo Mt. Closes to Freeriders

A new youth alpine racing facility is underway at the ski area outside of Denver
posted: 09/06/2012

Colorado’s Echo Mountain sold in auction last week, despite earning record revenue and snow last season. The popular freestyle-driven resort will now cater to youth alpine racers as a membership-based training facility opening this November—sans jibs. 

New owner Pykkonen Capital, led by Denver local Nora Pykkonen, plans to pump $5 million into the 226-acre private property to create what she calls “the best alpine racing center” in the country. Pykkonen claims there is neither the room nor profit necessary to keep the features that drew freestyle enthusiasts to Echo. 

“I’ve heard that Echo’s site is getting a lot of traffic and how upset people are, but when we looked at the numbers—it’s not feasible,” said Pykkonen, who was on the verge of moving to Vail so her 9-year-old could train in hopes of making the U.S. Ski Team. Instead, she bought Echo Mountain.

“When we expand a few hundred vertical feet in four years, we may open a terrain park,” she said. Pykkonen hopes “that we are not creating a real division between the racers and the whole freestyle group of people on the front range.”

Park skiers and snowboarders responded to Echo Mountain’s Facebook announcement with more than 170 comments—many irate, none stoked.

Joseph Casper, for one, loved Echo Mountain’s location—just 35 miles from Denver—and affordable lift tickets. “It may not be the 'monster' resort like Vail, but for someone who lives in Denver, and wanted a quick trip to enjoy a day of skiing, it was just right,” he wrote in an email.

Snowboarder Erica Davidge, a student at Colorado State University, rode and competed at the jib hill for five years. She knows many people will be devastated. “It’s unfortunate because it was cool that it was a terrain park, which appealed to a lot of youth,” she said. “It might affect some parents that don’t want to drive their kids all the way up to Breckenridge,” she said, adding, “For them this was a cheaper, more affordable, easier-to-access place that was fun for a kid to go to.”

According to Davidge, major resorts like Breck and Keystone don’t offer the good learning environment that Echo, which featured camps and lessons, did.

Other boarders, like Thomas Miller, are very disappointed. “It is the closest decent snowboarding terrain park to my house,” he wrote in an email after posting on Echo’s Facebook page, “and I'm upset that it will be converted.”

Echo’s previous owner, Jerry Pettit, never broke even in the decade that he owned the property. “We had a loyal following,” he said. “They were really good customers.”

Geoffrey Bostwick, former head park builder at Echo, has worked hard since opening day—five years ago—to grow that local, loyal base. “It doesn’t make sense for thousands of jibbers to be driving all the way up to Summit County when there could be a nice park right in their backyard,” he said. He’d like to see places like Ruby Hill open up, and to build parks at Eldora and Loveland. But as gas prices rise and lines at big resorts get longer, he digs creative solutions: “Set up a rail in your back yard; take to the streets; build your own jump in the backcountry; set up your own box at a local sledding hill. You don’t have to have a ton of money to enjoy the sport.”

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