The history of skiing is a very, very long one, dating back to the last Ice Age during the Paleolithic period. Don’t believe me? Cave drawings have been found suggesting that man used skis. More proof? The oldest ski artifacts, or ski-like objects, date back to 6000 BC and were found in northern Russia.
However, the shift from using skiing as a way to hunt and survive to a recreational pursuit didn’t happen until much later. The 1880s saw the rising popularity of downhill skiing as resorts in Norway and Europe started popping up. La Clusaz, a French resort located about an hour from Geneva, opened around 1907 and is one of the oldest still open in Europe. The first ski area in the United States, Howelsen Hill Ski Area in Steamboat Springs, CO, opened in 1915.
Since then, the sport has spread and there are almost 700 ski areas located across the world. It can be hard to imagine how far we’ve come from those first resorts: lifts are faster, the gear has gotten more efficient and snowmaking is extending the season. The sport that we enjoy today is very different from the one that our predecessors enjoyed more than 100 years ago.
For a glimpse into the past, and to remind ourselves of how good we’ve got it, take a look at the vintage ski maps below.
1. Purgatory, CO
Purgatory Resort, located in Durango, Colorado, celebrated its 50th anniversary this season. Looking back at the original trail map, you’ll see how this mountain has changed (and not changed–the mountain is once again called Purgatory, rather than Durango Mountain). Purgatory opened Dec. 4, 1965 with Lift 1, Spud Chairlift; a lift ticket would cost you $4.50. Now, you’ll pay a bit more ($85) but you’ll have access to 1,360 acres of terrain, serviced by 10 lifts. Get Purgatory lift tickets.
2. Angel Fire, NM
Angel Fire is considered one of New Mexico’s hidden gems. The landowners had grand dreams for this beautiful stretch of land and, in 1966, opened not only a ski resort, but a golf course as well. Now, the resort has more 80 trails and is the only resort in New Mexico to offer night skiing. Get Angel Fire lift tickets.
3. Sugarloaf, ME
Sugarloaf has made its mark in the northeast. Not only does it offer the only lift-serviced, above treeline skiing in the East, but with the addition of Brackett Basin and Burnt Mountain, it’s also the largest ski area east of the Rocky Mountains. These appellations mark a change from the early days of Sugarloaf. It was 1953 when a tow rope gave access to the first lift-serviced terrain; the first t-bar was opened in the 1955-56 season. Get Sugarloaf lift tickets.
4. Wolf Creek, CO
Like so many resorts, Wolf Creek started with a dream and a rope. In 1938, a tow rope was installed on the north side of Wolf Creek Pass; tickets were $1 to get a ride haul from an old Chevy truck. In 1955, the resort moved to its current location and a platter lift was installed. Now, Wolf Creek is lauded as receiving more than 400 inches of snow a year, the most natural snow in Colorado, and skiers and riders can enjoy exploring more than 1600 acres on eight lifts. Get Wolf Creek lift tickets.
5. Snowshoe, WV
Located on Cheat Mountain in the Appalachian Mountains, Snowshoe Resort opened in 1974 with trails and lifts that paid homage to the area’s logging history. Though the resort started off small, it grew in 1992 with the purchase of nearby Silver Creek ski area. Now, visitors to Snowshoe can enjoy 244 skiable acres and 60 runs. Get Snowshoe Mountain lift tickets.
Get Snowshoe Mountain lift tickets.
6. Mohawk Mountain, CT
Founded by Skiing Hall of Fame member Walt Schoenknecht in 1947, Mohawk Mountain has been a favorite of Connecticut skiers for almost 70 years. Considered the “home of snowmaking,”–Schoenknecht helped develop the first snowmaking technology in 1948–Mohawk Mountain now has 25 trails, eight lifts and snowmaking on 99% of its terrain. Get Mohawk Mountain lift tickets.
Get Mohawk Mountain lift tickets.
7. Stratton, VT
Stratton Mountain opened in 1961 with three double-chairlifts to allow skiers access to eight trails and a three-story lodge at the base, proving that good things come in threes. The resort continued to grow in leaps (and lifts) and bounds (and in-bounds skiing). Today, the resort has 11 lifts and skiing on 670 acres, with 97 trails and more than 1100 snow guns to help supplement the average 180 inches of snowfall each year. Get Stratton Mountain lift tickets.
Get Stratton Mountain lift tickets.
8. Sunday River, ME
This 1958 trail map shows what Sunday River looked like during its inaugural season: it consisted of two trails, a few cross cuts and a t-bar on Locke Mountain. Now, Sunday River has more than 135 trails and nearly 2000 acres of inbounds terrain stretching across eight peaks. Get Sunday River lift tickets.
Get Sunday River lift tickets.
9. Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands, CO
Aspen Mountain, formerly called Ajax Mountain, opened in 1946 and was the first of what would become the four mountains of present day Aspen Snowmass. Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands both opened in 1958 and Snowmass opened in 1967. Looking at the first trail maps, it’s hard to believe these mountains now. Buttermilk has been home to the Winter X Games since 1997; Aspen Mountain now has 673 skiable acres and more than 50 percent of the terrain at Aspen Highlands is rated black or double black diamond. Get Aspen Snowmass lift tickets.
Aspen Then (1948-49):
Buttermilk Then (1961):
Aspen Highlands Then:
Aspen Highlands Now:
Get Aspen Snowmass lift tickets.
Want to see even more resorts, then and now? Check out these vintage trail maps from resorts around the country.
The initial Sunday River trail map is hilarious!