As you travel through Colorado ski country, you might find yourself wondering, “How in the world did someone come up with Whistlepig or Pussy Foot as a trail name?” You might also find yourself debating whether taking Dante’s Inferno or Hook ’em Horns will be exciting…or insane.
The stories of how ski mountain trails were named can take as many twists and turns as the runs themselves. Here are some of our favorites, listed by resort:
Davis Trail: Wilfred “Slim” Davis is credited as the first person to spot the ski-area potential of A-Basin’s location when he was training forest rangers how to ski there. Using a black-and-white, 8×10-inch photograph of the mountain, in 1941 Davis hand-drew the original layout and design of the ski area, including the existing Snow Plume Refuge and proposed rope tows. Five years later, A-Basin’s founders used that map to help secure the required special-use permit from the U.S. Forest Service.
Janitors Only: A steep, treed, expert terrain formerly out of bounds but now incorporated into the Steep Gullies area, this was the preferred terrain of a group known as the “Atomic Janitors, who lived at A-Basin in the 1980s. These night watchmen skied all day, cleaned the resort after it closed, and bunked in cramped quarters in the attic of the A-frame building.
Oregon Trail: Named for Don Jenson, who moved to Oregon in 1979 after serving for twenty years as director of the Aspen Ski Patrol. This trail was cut in the summer of 1979.
No Problem: Named for Joe Candreia, a mechanic who worked for the company from 1968 to 1978. “No Problem Joe” was a go-go Mr. Fixit in the town of Aspen, who was frequently called on to fix ski lifts during the peak season. His standard response to any request: “No problem.”
T-Lazy 7: Named after the T-Lazy 7 Ranch. Owner Hadd Deane sold the “lower ranch,” which has since become Aspen Highlands, to Whip Jones. Ironically, Whip had no intention of making it into a ski area. He wanted polo horses.
Scarlett’s: The naming rights to this run were bought by the heir of Kentucky Fried Chicken, who named it after his wife, Scarlett. Before that, it was called Flora Dora, after a legendary local brothel.
Kreuzeck: Originally named Monte Cristo, this trail was renamed when Aspen became a sister city of Garmisch, Germany.
Bingo Slot: This trail was named for Bingo, the St. Bernard dog of Fred Iselin, a pioneer of skiing innovations who quickly became Colorado’s most notable ski instructor when he moved to Aspen in 1947.
Fanny and Assay Hill: Named for the beginners who plop a lot of fannies on that slope as they learn to ski.
Naked Lady: Back in the day, Hal Hartman Sr. was in charge of trail creation and maintenance; the sheriff’s son worked for him for a time, and one day taped a centerfold from an early Playboy to a tree. Hartman was shocked and the centerfold didn’t stay up long, but the “Naked Lady” name stuck.
Tom’s Baby: In 1887, a 13.5-pound gold nugget was discovered near Breckenridge by miners Tom Graves and Harry Lytton, who named it “Tom’s Baby.” It’s now on display at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and commemorated by a double-black-diamond run on Peak 9.
CJ’s: C.J. “Crazy John” Mueller is renowned as one of the fastest men on earth for his speed-skiing abilities, having collected three world-record speed-skiing titles in the 1980s. This speedy Breckenridge local was an original member of the first (and only) U.S. Olympic Speed Skiing Team, and lived up to his title by regularly skiing in excess of 100 mph. His feats were rewarded with an expert trail off the top of Peak 7.
10th Mountain: Cooper served as the training site for the 10th Mountain Division during WWII. Troops slept at nearby Camp Hale, but trained at Cooper.
Kamikazee/Ambush/Homestake/Swan Song: Cooper honored many who fought in WWII by giving trails names that recall their actions in the war.
Frank’s Fave: This trail is named after Frank Walter, a local who skied almost every day at Copper Mountain into his mid-nineties and became known as “First Chair Frank.” He logged 8.7 million vertical feet in one season on the mountain.
Valentine: This trail didn’t exist until Valentine’s Day 2014, when a large avalanche opened up an entirely new run on the mountain by taking out three acres of old-growth trees.
The trails Painter Boy, Prospector, Gold Link, Floresta, Forest Queen, Kubler, Buckley, Jokerville, Peanut and Sylvanite are all named for mining terms and former mines in the area.
Cougar Crossing/Gold Digger: Echo has had three owners since 2000, and the names of the trails reflect some of those who’ve skied at this small area close to Denver.
The Ski Jumps: Howelsen Hill, which opened in 1915, is the longest continuously operating ski area in the country. It’s known for its long, natural ski jumps where Olympians train, which are visible from Steamboat.
Schoolmarm: “Dimp” Myer, the son of Colonel J.H. Myer, a Civil War veteran, grew up near Keystone and fell in love with a Frisco schoolteacher who’d come over Argentine Pass in a stagecoach. He named the Schoolmarm mine after her in 1906, then married her.
Wild Irishman: The Wild Irishman was a productive mine in the St. John’s Basin area. In 1906, Terrence Connors, manager of the Wild Irishman, was elected president of the Mine Owners’ Association of Montezuma, an association formed to protect investors from promoters who were peddling worthless mine stock. One of Connors’s famous sayings: “You never heard an ass bray when he had grass.”
Paymaster: Paymaster was the first mining claim in the Peru District on the south slope of Grays Peak, which was incorporated under the laws of Maine with offices in Boston. A three-story boardinghouse was built beside the mine.
Cat’s Meow: After his first run on this slope at Loveland, skier Tommy McHugh proclaimed, “That was the cat’s meow!” The name stuck.
Over the Rainbow: This was originally just “Rainbow,” but the name was changed after a 1996 avalanche covered the run and widened the trail.
Gunbarrel: The first run created at Monarch was Gunbarrel, an expert trail with a 30 percent slope. A 500-foot rope tow, powered by a gear box from an old oil derrick and a Chevy engine, ran from what is now the parking lot to the top of Gunbarrel, at the time only half its current length.
Bill’s Run: Bill Foster was a founder of Powderhorn.
Whistle Pig: Marmots are known for their screeching whistles, which inspired this name.
A ski mountain named Purgatory, in a reference to Dante’s The Divine Comedy, has no shortage of inspired names, including Catharsis, Demon, El Diablo, Hades Limbo Pandemonium, Paradise, Pitchfork and Styx.
Boudreaux’s: Named after Don “Boudreaux” Miller, a grooming and trail maintenance supervisor from 1973 to 2003. Boudreaux, along with Herman Muhlbacher, made the first artificial snow at Purgatory by hooking a diesel Headco engine to a fire hydrant at the base area.
Dolores: Named after famous skier, ecologist and writer Dolores LaChapelle, who lived in Silverton until her death in 2007. She wrote the ski-bum cult classic Deep Powder Snow, among other titles.
Rope Dee Dope: A Kansas mining-claim owner who knew nothing about skiing would often leave a message on the answering machine of Silverton’s founder about the “rope dee dope” tow that was eventually going to be installed on his former claim.
Many of the trails at Steamboat are arranged by common theme, making it easier to remember where you have been. Storm Peak, for example, contains runs named after weather occurrences such as Twister, Hurricane, Rainbow, Cyclone and Tornado. Those on Sunshine Peak have time references: High Noon, Sun Dial, One O’Clock, Two O’Clock and Three O’Clock are all named for the hour when they are hit by the sun.
Spike: Spike got its name after Loris Werner, who served Steamboat first as ski school director, then mountain manager and finally vice president of operations, ran into a spike elk while searching for a trail location in 1982.
Tom J’s Glades: The Glades are named after Garfield County commissioner and Colorado Ski Hall of Famer Tom Jankovsky, the CFO at Sunlight.
The Heathen: This trail name was a clue on Jeopardy in 2018. The Heathen is one of the steepest lift-served runs in the state, dropping out from under your boot heels at a stunning 52-degree pitch.
Forget trail names: The story of how the town of Telluride got its name is far more fascinating. It was founded in 1878 as Columbia, but people kept confusing it with other towns called Columbia. So residents renamed it Telluride — some say after the metal Tellurium, others because the town’s remote location is “To-hell-
Riva Ridge: The longest ski run at Vail, a whopping four miles long, is named for the Battle of Riva Ridge, in honor of the 10th Mountain Division soldiers, who trained in Colorado before fighting in the mountains of Europe during WWII, then returned to the U.S. to found much of the American ski industry.
Hughes: At its dedication ceremonies in 1940, Winter Park Ski Area, which started as a Denver mountain park, consisted of only three formal ski trails. Berrien Hughes, a Denver attorney, dedicated sportsman and noted skiing pioneer, had introduced many of the sport’s early enthusiasts to the rugged beauty and challenging terrain of the mountain. On May 27, 1939, Hughes died of injuries incurred in a skiing accident on Loveland Pass just days before. The first named ski trail at Winter Park commemorated the man and his contribution to the sport.
Pitch’s Gate: The Pitcher Family has been operating the U.S. Forest special-use permit at Wolf Creek Ski Area since 1976. Kingsbury Pitcher, founder and former operator of Wolf Creek, always loved entering the Waterfall Area through Pitch’s Gate.
Other trails are named for other family members. Blueberry Hill is named for Blueberry Pitcher. In the Horseshoe Bowl area, two glades running along both sides of the bowl are named Erika’s Glades, after Erika Pitcher. Others hidden on the west side are named Keith’s Glades. All three are grandchildren of Kingsbury Pitcher.
A series of chutes along the Knife Ridge are named after hardworking avalanche dogs: Zia’s, Chi’s, Elliott’s, Jiri’s and Max’s.