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Listle Isaacs, (right), the founder of an after-school ski club called Evergroms that operates at the Echo Mountain ski area in Clear Creek County, chats with Ashley Campbell of Evergreen, who has three children in the program. (John Meyer, The Know)

ECHO MOUNTAIN — A half hour after her mom picked her up at school in Evergreen, 9-year-old Lucy Margolin was putting on her gear in the lodge at a modest ski area perched 3,000 feet above Idaho Springs, raring to go for an evening of skiing with her friends. With most of Echo Mountain’s terrain rated intermediate, Margolin knew she could ski with confidence, and that her mom didn’t have to worry about her.

“Me and my friend get to ride the chairlift by ourselves and ski down by ourselves,” Margolin said Wednesday while gearing up for an experience that is not often found in Colorado skiing: riding on lighted slopes located close to the metro area. “It’s small, so we feel safe.”

At 60 acres with a 600-foot vertical drop, Echo is a manageable size for kids. The mountain hosts two main trails served by one chairlift. It’s the closest ski area to Denver, only a 35-minute drive from C-470, making it a viable option for skiing or riding after work. So it’s for the big kids, too.

During the day, Echo offers a gorgeous view of Indian Peaks and Longs Peak to the north. Sunsets on clear nights are spectacular, and at night, the lights of Idaho Springs twinkle below. Echo is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and is closed on Mondays.

Echo’s 29-year-old general manager, Fred Klaas, hopes to attract millennials who might come to think of night skiing and riding close to Denver as akin to playing in a weeknight kickball league. A lift ticket for night skiing with a burger (one-third pound of Angus beef) and fries goes for $40. The bar is stocked with local craft beers, even a Colorado-made bourbon. Season ski passes for adults go for $249, and an adult day ticket is $54.

Under two previous owners, Echo was essentially a terrain park operation, then a private area for ski-race training. The current owners bought it out of bankruptcy two years ago and reopened it last year with a renovated lodge, plus a new commercial kitchen and bar.

Echo Mountain Resort general manager Fred Klaas mans the ticket counter and answers phones on Feb. 22, 2017. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post)

“A lot of what we’re doing right now is spreading the word and awareness that we’re open, that we exist and that we’re a general ski area,” Klaas said. “A lot of people either don’t know about us, or they think we’re a terrain park, or we’re racing.”

Klaas brings a passion to his work fueled by his memories of skiing as a boy at similar areas in Minnesota’s Twin Cities.

“I would get dropped off in the morning at 9 and I would get picked up at 9 p.m.,” he said. “I would have a PB&J in my jacket. There was no day care or anything. I’d meet my friends there and we would just ski all day.”

Echo has only five year-round employees, which means the general manager also takes out the trash.

“Every single day,” Klaas said with a smile. “There isn’t much of a hierarchy. Everybody is expected to clean toilets and vacuum. That’s what I spend the end of my night doing, and first thing in the morning I will be renting out gear or selling tickets or working in the kitchen. Everybody wears multiple hats. If we have one person call out sick, that can impact the operation pretty significantly.”

Listle Isaacs speaks to more than 30 kids in the Evergroms after-school ski and snowboard club before their first night of skiing together this season. The club meets at the Echo Mountain ski area on Wednesday evenings. (John Meyer, The Know)

Margolin was at Echo that night as part of the Evergroms Ski & Snowboard Club, which meets at the mountain on Wednesday nights and is reminiscent of the after-school programs common at ski resorts in other parts of the country that are located near metropolitan areas.

“We love that, living in Evergreen, it’s so close that we can come up after school for a couple hours,” Margolin’s mother, Leigh Anne, said as a Nickelodeon cartoon played on a nearby television screen. “Being such a small and safe-feeling mountain, I was able to let my daughter go off by herself with her friends.”

Evergroms was created last winter by another Evergreen mom, Listle Isaacs. The mountain’s management offers discounted lift tickets for skiers and riders in the club. Membership in the club is free, and Isaacs isn’t getting paid.

“This is something you don’t find at other resorts in Colorado,” Isaacs said. “It gives kids the best sense of freedom. They can go on the lift by themselves and ski with their friends all night. It gives them a lot of self-esteem.”

Maysa Schingeck of Evergeen was there Wednesday to ski with son Emmett, who turns 4 next month. He started skiing last year.

“The convenience is really what it comes down to for me,” Schingeck said. “It’s beautiful, and it’s just like skiing in our backyard. They redid this lodge, so he could hang out in the lodge, he met kids, everybody was playing and it was really fun. It’s just friendly and family.”

Schingeck is rooting for the current version of Echo to succeed. So is Ashley Campbell, who has three kids in the Evergroms. Some nights she hangs out in the lodge and gets work done while her kids are skiing. On other nights, she skis with them.

“It’s affordable, the lodge is a good place for parents to hang out, and it has good food,” Campbell said. “It’s the only way we can ski on a weeknight, close and local, and support a local business.”


Echo Mountain Resort, 19285 Highway 103, Idaho Springs. 1-970-531-5038; echomountainresort.com. Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Monday.



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