Snow sports — and most notably skiing — have a rich history in the Gunnison Country. In total, a dozen areas supporting lift-accessed skiing have been built at one time or another, underscoring the importance of the sport in the area.
Organized skiing in the Gunnison Country dates back to the 1890s, when the Crested Butte Snowshoe and Toboggan Club was formed (“snowshoe” was the term, at the time, assigned to the equipment we now know as skis), and races were frequently held in the area for miners to exhibit their athletic prowess. Every year, six to seven races were held in locations such as Crested Butte, Gothic, Irwin, Gunnison, Crystal and Schofield. These competitions took place on the sides of mountains or steep hills and were 500 to 700 meters long without gates. Racers achieved great speeds, and big crowds gathered to watch. Al Johnson, the man who carried the mail between Crested Butte and Crystal, was known as “the champion showshoer (skier) of the mountains,” having won many races.
Over the decades that followed, the Gunnison Valley Ski Club became involved in building small ski areas around the county — including the Sagebrush Ski Area outside Gunnison utilizing Works Project Administration funding, and later Pioneer Ski Area three miles up Cement Creek. The Rozman Hill Ski Area, south of Crested Butte, began during the winter of 1949-50, replacing Pioneer. Rozman Hill initially existed for the Western State College ski team (formed in 1946) and included a ski jump, judging tower, two rope tows and a cross country course. Rozman Hill closed — except for cross country — when the Crested Butte Ski Area opened during the winter of 1961-62.
In the early 1950s, the Crested Butte Club re-emerged with the intent of constructing a ski lift for use of townspeople and their children. When the Crested Butte Ski Area was established in the early 1960s, ski racing became the main focus of the Club’s activities, with race team membership growing to a peak in 1976 of nearly 80 racers.
The organization was incorporated as the Crested Butte Ski Club on June 16, 1978 (and subsequently received its official 501c3 status in March 1983), with the stated purpose “for the educational, instructional and athletic benefit of its members and to provide assistance for under-privileged children in obtaining the benefits of ski competition.” The Crested Butte Ski Club pursued this mission for more than 25 years by managing a full-scale alpine race program, offering scholarships to young athletes to participate and compete, hosting events and competitive ski races, and building community through youth snow sports.
In 1978, the Club limited the program to athletes of high school age and under in order to encourage parental participation in the race program and to increase the benefit to the younger children growing up in the community.
While the Crested Butte Academy was formed in the 1990s as a boarding school and competition training program, eventually expanding to include the new disciplines of snowboarding and big mountain competition, the Ski Club continued to focus mainly on alpine ski racing. At the same time, however, other snow sports were gaining prominence in the area. In 1987, the Crested Butte Nordic Center was founded. In 1995, the Ski Club and the Academy created the first freeride and snowboarding programs.
During this time, the Ski Club and the Academy maintained an informal agreement that the Academy would primarily train athletes ages 13 and up, while the Ski Club would focus on ages 12 and under. Due to financial pressures, the Academy was forced to close its operations in 2008.
In the wake of this closure, Crested Butte Mountain Resort established the Mountain Sports Team (MST), an alpine sport competition program encompassing all ages and disciplines of winter sports. In an effort to provide the best possible program, with quality coaches and more training options, MST raised its fees well above those previously charged by the Ski Club.
These changes in local programming, the advent of new snow sport disciplines and relations with various partners resulted in the organization’s need to change its name in 2012 to the Crested Butte Snowsports Foundation to better represent a new approach to the same, long-standing mission — support by way of education and charitable grants to qualified youth with financial need who wish to participate in the high-quality competitive MST winter sports program.
As a result of the change, CBSF no longer offers direct youth snow sport programming, but rather works with various partner programs. This allows the Foundation to work with all snow sport disciplines — offering support to the entire snow sports community, grant funding to local snow sports programs, and scholarships to local student-athletes based on need and merit.