The City of Denver officially opened Winter Park Ski Area at the West Portal of the Moffat Tunnel on January 28, 1940, with a single rope tow to service enthusiastic skiers, including members of the Eskimo Ski Club, a kids’ group founded by Frank Bulkley II.
A ski pioneer, Bulkley had come up with a unique way to transport the Denver-based members of his club to the new ski area. In 1939, he’d contacted the Denver and Salt Lake Railway about starting a weekend ski train to Winter Park, and that got under way the next year.
Over the next two decades, Winter Park added more lifts — J-bars and T-bars — as well as more fans. Between 1961 and 1963, three double chairlifts were installed, opening hundreds of acres to more skiing. One was the Eskimo, named in honor of the ski club. But it was quickly nicknamed “Eski-slow” because of the grueling twelve-minute ride. In the 1990-’91 season, the lift was finally replaced by a high-speed quad, the Eskimo Express, that reduced the ride to a quick 4.2 minutes.
Through it all, the Eskimo Ski Club continued, even as the Winter Park Ski Train ended its run at the end of the 2009 season (Amtrak revived the line three years ago as the Winter Park Express, but it’s on hold this winter) and Bulkley passed away in 2012. But in 2018, the club’s managers learned that management of what’s now known as Winter Park Resort, and operated by Intrawest under a contract with Denver, had decided that there was no room for the club in the cramped structure at the base. After almost seventy years of introducing an estimated half-million kids to skiing, the Eskimo Ski Club melted into nothing more than memories.
Now the lift named after it has a new moniker, too.
In 2019, Winter Park Resort managers examined the names of the trails and the lifts, many of them named after historic figures at the area, and determined that “Eskimo” was a “derogatory and offensive term that connoted barbarism and violence,” says Jen Miller, communication manager at Winter Park. They considered replacement options that fit with the resort’s brand of “venturing out” — including Trailblazer, Wanderer and Endurance — and when Winter Park opened last week, it did so with the renamed Explorer lift.
“The name ‘Explorer’ more accurately represents our resort, our brand, our team and our guests,” explains Miller.
Winter Park isn’t alone in getting rid of “Eskimo.” This year, the Eskimo Pie became the Edy’s Pie, and the former Edmonton Eskimos Canadian football team is currently going by Edmonton Football Team.
But the Eskimo name does live on: at Eskimo Ski & Board Shop. When Frank Bulkley II opened the original shop at 416 East Seventh Avenue in Denver, it was reportedly the first specialty ski store in the state, renting equipment to members of the Eskimo Ski Club as well as other sports enthusiasts. Today, the Bulkley family runs the business from its third location, 8265 South Holly in Centennial.
And the name remains the same as that of its namesake club. “My father, his sister and brother were discussing a name,” Frank Bulkley III recalls, “and they figured that since skiing was a cold, outdoor activity, Eskimo was a good fit.”
Just not at Winter Park.