Laramie native Paul Rechard got his first pair of skis for Christmas in 1939. Andy Blackstone got his about 10 years later. In those days there was no such thing as ski rentals. You owned or borrowed wooden skis and used them even if they didn’t match, they both recall.
Rechard remembers skiing at five different ski areas near Laramie. Two were east, at the Summit Tavern and Happy Jack, and three were off Highway 130, first at Inspiration Point, then Libby Creek and finally, the current Snowy Range Ski area.
Happy Jack is where they both tried out their new Christmas skis. Off Highway 210, it had a lodge, T-bar and rope tow. It continued until the 1970s and remains a cross-county ski area. Summit Tavern ski area was along “old” US 30, also east of Laramie. There, skiers parked at the tavern, skied downhill, and used a rope tow to get back up. The tavern and all vestiges of that ski area have disappeared.
To the west, Inspiration Point was at the end of the plowed Highway 130, at a scenic spot with an east overlook. Drivers parked on the highway, skied down a steep slope and used the rope tow to get back up. There was no lodge; skiers had to go back to their cars if they needed warmth or a lunch.
Rechard has a program from a state-wide high school ski competition at Inspiration Point dated March 17, 1941. In the boy’s downhill, he won the Junior Division. The Boomerang also reported “Miss Rene Howard of Jackson dethroned Miss Phoebe Corthell of Laramie, last year’s winner”.
Inspiration Point was replaced by the Libby Creek ski area around 1942. It was below the former, on a section of the original Highway 130 that old-timers call the “Dugway.”
Here skiers also parked their cars at the edge of the road, and if they were astute, turned their cars to park facing toward Laramie, since it was difficult to turn around at the end of the day with all the vehicles. There was a steep staircase down from the road to the warming hut, concession stand, rope tow and chair lift. UW students even made a ski jump at Libby Creek, though Rechard recalls the Forest Service declared it was too dangerous after skiers were injured because of the short run-out at the bottom.
Libby Creek was much improved over Inspiration Point, since there were at least three groomed and longer runs called “A”, “B” and “C”, though the steep staircase was a challenge at the end of the day for tired skiers. Rechard and Blackstone recall that the chair lift at Libby Creek was made from steel and cable salvaged from mining operations in the Encampment area.
A chair lift accident caused the Forest Service to shut it down, leaving an inadequate rope tow which “served only the bottom of the A and B runs”, says Blackstone. Other drainages in the Snowy Range were surveyed, and it was determined that Nash Creek was a better location for a ski area than Libby Creek.
In 1959, investors from Kansas City signed a 30-year permit with the Forest Service to operate a ski area at Nash Creek, called Medicine Bow Ski Area. It opened for the 1960-1961 season with two T-bars, a restaurant and warming lodge. Renamed Snowy Range Ski Area, it has changed ownership, expanded, and now has five lifts and 28 runs
Rechard’s memories of early skiing in the Laramie area are part of the oral history collection at the Laramie Plains Museum.