Snow sports in Colorado have quite the storied past—skiing has been around the Rockies for longer than you might think, and it’s served several surprising purposes that have absolutely nothing to do with outdoor recreation. The list below features a few of our favorite Colorado ski facts. Tell us which one is your favorite!

1. Skiing Didn’t Start As A Weekend Getaway.

Originally, skiing in Colorado was used to help early settlers get around in deep powder during the snowiest times of the year. These settlers weren’t bombing down the slopes like people in Summit County do today though. Instead, they were using equipment similar to the cross-country skis made popular by Scandinavian immigrants.

Keystone Resort Photo Credit SnowSnow - OutThere Colorado
Keystone Resort. Photo Credit: SnowSnow.

2. Ghost Hills are Everywhere.

Throughout the history of Colorado skiing, more than 145 different ski areas have popped up around the state. Today, less than 30 lift-accessible mountains stay open to the public, though many of the abandoned areas are still utilized by backcountry skiers.

3. Skiing was Militarized During World War II.

Throughout World War II, thousands of troops were trained by the U.S. Army at Camp Hale near Leadville for mountain and alpine combat. This group was called the 10th Mountain Division, and they were taught to use weapons and conduct operations in deep powder on skis and in snowshoes at an elevation of over 9,000 feet in preparation for missions in the Italian Alps.

4. Skiing is Quite Possible Year Round.

Through the process of blowing snow, storing snow, and utilizing indoor facilities, Woodward at Copper is one Colorado ski training facility that stays open year round. They also have tons of ramps, mats, and huge foam pits to save freestylers from getting too rusty in the off-season.

5. The Eisenhower Tunnel is A Massive Time Saver.

Thanks to this crazy feat of engineering, the 1.7 mile long Eisenhower tunnel saves drivers headed West from Denver quite a few headaches. While it’s now known for the crazy weekend bottleneck traffic, it actually saves skiers 9.1 miles of high altitude driving on mountain roads. Imagine if the 11 million plus headed to the hills throughout the year on I-70 had to use the two lane Loveland Pass instead.

Breckenridge, Colorado - OutThere Colorado
Breckenridge, Colorado.

6. Breckenridge’s Imperial Ski Lift is Quite Tall.

Travelling from an altitude of 11,901 feet to 12,840 feet, the Imperial Ski Lift on Breckenridge’s Peak 8 goes to the highest altitude of any ski lift on the continent. Loveland Ski Area is a close second, as its Chair 9 reaches a height of 12,700 feet. However, these machines are greatly overshadowed by a lift that’s now been closed due to lack of snow at Bolivia’s Chacaltaya, which reached a height of 17,785 feet. Riders often reported experiencing altitude sickness simply from the ride alone.

7. You Can Dine Higher Here Than Anywhere Else In North America.

While there are some doubters, Alpino Vino at Telluride bills itself as the highest restaurant on the continent. It’s situated at 11,966 feet, and it’s only accessible by chairlift and skis during daylight and gondola and snowcat in the evenings. Expect a hefty price tag if you plan on dining there.

8. Winter Olympians Thrive In Colorado.

This shouldn’t come as too much of a shock, but Colorado is perfect for those looking to hone their winter sports skills to compete on an international level. In fact, more than 75 winter Olympic athletes have called Steamboat Springs home at one point during their career. This is more than any other American city. In fact, in preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics, 1 in every 152 residents of Steamboat Springs was an Olympian.

9. Skiers Can’t Keep Themselves From Colorado.

Each year, it’s estimated that over 20 percent of all American skiers make the trip to a Colorado ski hill. Before you try to do the math, that’s well over 16 million skiers a year.

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