In times gone by, the Rocky Mountains lured both rugged prospectors and snow crazed entrepreneurs with the promise of riches. Today, it is the inexorable pull of a certain White Gold that draws a group of backcountry skiers and snowboarders to embark on an exploration of Colorado’s ghost towns and lost ski resorts. Over the next two winters, we will invoke the spirit of these magical places as we search for what brings us to these areas today.
Episode I: Vintage Snow
By: Michelle Smith
Redstone, Colorado is a town made from dreams. Framed by snow-draped evergreens & jagged red canyon walls, it is difficult to imagine a more idyllic mountain town. Charming Victorian-era houses with backyards rolling into the bubbling Crystal River neatly line Redstone’s Main Street. Strolling down Main on a frosty late December afternoon, I hear children laughing as church bells ring the hour. Near the end of Main, I am beckoned by the impossibly quaint General Store, the exterior of which is festooned by signs from a by-gone era.
Redstone’s dreamlike quality is no accident. It is a universe created by an entrepreneur named John Cleveland Osgood in the late 1800’s. Osgood founded the Colorado Fuel Company and built the town of Redstone after learning that the region was rich in coal.
Unlike many mining magnates looking for a quick buck, Osgood had grander ambitions. As a social and industrial experiment, he constructed 84 homes to house miners with families, plus an elegant 20-room hotel for his single employees. Each building had indoor plumbing and electricity, rare luxuries for the period. Osgood also built a clubhouse with a library and theatre for employees. Even better, Osgood’s second wife, a mysterious foreigner nicknamed Lady Bountiful, was known to walk Redstone on Christmas to deliver gifts to children of the workers.
When Osgood passed away in 1926, so passed his little feudal empire in the Colorado Rockies. The mines closed and the town of Redstone was nearly abandoned. In the 1950s, Frank Kistler felt the Redstone dream when he proposed plans to build a ski resort on the slopes above Cleveholm, Osgood’s old mansion, now commonly referred to as Redstone Castle. This ambition took root somewhere other than reality, because it yielded just one T-bar lift that spun from 1960/61.
Today, Redstone, population 130, relies on tourism to survive, yet its personality and sense of history thrives. I walked its streets and explored the surrounding canyons and mountainsides in hopes that I too could feel the Redstone dream for at least a moment. This video shows what I found.
Shot: Redstone, CO + additional snow dreams captured at Aspen Highlands, CO and Jackson Hole, WY.
Camera: Panasonic GH2