Before There Was Skiing: The History of Copper

Copper Mountain and the Ten Mile Canyon here in Summit County, CO have a rich history beginning with the Native Americans almost 2,000 years ago!

Copper Mountain Resort was established in 1972 but what happened before then? Ten Mile Canyon, the area in which Copper lies, was first inhabited by Ute Indians from about 1100-1300 AD. They were known to travel and follow heards of bison, elk, deer and mountain sheep. They continued to roam the area until about the 1870's, the height of the mining in the area.

Gold was first discovered in Breckenridge in 1859 and the influx of miners continued to arrive to the area after that. By 1880, over 10,000 miners lived within a four-mile radius of Ten Mile Canyon in hopes of striking it rich. During this time, the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad was built on the West bank of the Ten Mile Creek providing the first railroad transportation through the canyon.

In 1859, John S. Wheeler left Ohio due to poor health and headed West in hopes of making a fortune based on the stories he had heard about gold strikes. By 1878, he owned a farm in Platteville and with Leadville crowded with miners in the midst of the area's silver strike, he decided to move down the Ten Mile Canyon. He established a sawmill, a general store and a post office which soon became the town of Wheeler, the first settlement located at Copper Mountain. 

By the 1920s, mining had nearly come to an end and once the Great Depression hit, much of Summit County including the town of Wheeler had been abandoned. In the late 1940's, skiers began coming up to the area via the Loveland Pass highway and skiing at Summit County's first established ski area, Arapahoe Basin. In the early 1960's, the Breckenridge Ski Corporation developed Peak 8 of the Ten Mile Range and the town of Breckenridge began to rise again. Keystone came next in 1970 and then Copper Mountain in 1972. Interstate 70 was completed into what we know it as today in 1978 and the rest was history! 

Copper Mountain and the resorts in and around Summit County continue to change and update but one thing stays the same: great skiing. All thanks to those who were here before us!

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