Leadville Winters: Stagecoach vs. The SUV
It’s a cold, snowy and blustery day in Leadville Today. One that’s best to stay inside, or at least close to home on a wintery Friday at 10,152 feet. But should you need to venture out, maybe even traveling over one of the high mountain passes for work or fun, here’s a page from Leadville’s past to remind you of how treacherous alpine adventures used to be – and that was just in getting there!
Some of Leadville’s more adventurous stories are derived from the short-lived stagecoach days. Although this mode of transportation is a classic symbol of the old west, its service quickly came to an end with the completion of the transcontinental railroad.
In the Cloud City, it had an even shorter life; but those three years (1877-1880) were packed with enough harrowing experiences to last a lifetime. Here is one of a harrowing winter journey up to America’s highest city.
The first stagecoach route into Leadville was the South Park Stage Line, connecting service from Denver over Mosquito Pass. It was used year round. During one treacherous winter journey, legendary Leadville newsman, C.C. Davis, was a passenger. He’s the wordsmith often attributed to the catchphrase, “There has been but one Leadville. Never will there be another.”
His trek up from the city would take 40 hours, through some of the worst blizzard conditions imaginable. Now, for anyone who’s driven U.S. Highway 285 through South Park in white-out conditions, in the comfort of your SUV with heated seats, you understand. The journey can be scary, it’s the kind of drive you talk about for a few weeks.
Now take those same conditions and picture Davis on the top of a Concord Coach, in freezing conditions. At one point, visibility was reduced to a few feet. Before long it was apparent that the driver was lost as the stagecoach was no longer on the road. The passengers made a critical group decision, one that probably saved their lives, recalled Davis:
“By arranging ourselves in a line and grasping each other’s hand, we formed a human whiplash and thus disposed, we circled around the coach in all directions in the hope that one of us would locate the telephone poles stretched along the road. The device was finally effective, and soon we were once again headed in the right direction.”
And they hadn’t even reached Mosquito Pass yet! I bet the twinkling lights of Leadville never looked so good, as they probably will for hundreds of people coming home tonight. So whether you’re driving Highway 91, or 24, please keep your eyes on the road, and reduce your speed for conditions. After all, stagecoach travel was hazardous enough!
Colorado Cup Races Roll into Leadville Jan. 26
The Colorado Mountain College running club will host this year’s Colorado Cup races, which include snowshoe, fat bike and cross-country ski events, at CMC Leadville on Jan. 26. The Colorado Cup will feature a 6.4K skate ski race, an 8K fat bike race and 5K/10K/sprint/medley snowshoe races at the Leadville campus. Beginners to experts are welcome to compete in one or all three of these thrilling races.
The 5K snowshoe race will determine the Colorado High School Snowshoe State Championship. Racers will compete on the trail system surrounding the campus. The Colorado Cup has taken place since 2009, under various names and in different locations, and has been the state high school snowshoe championship since 2010.
The races will start at 8 a.m. and will continue until noon. Fees range from $20 to $40 and participants can register online. All proceeds benefit the Colorado Mountain College Competition Club, which supports the running club.
After two years of tough competition, the CMC running club will join the National Junior College Athletic Association next year. By joining the NJCAA, the CMC club earns the designation of a team and will compete against two-year colleges in the Wyoming, Colorado and western Nebraska region.
Starting next fall the Leadville campus will host races and travel to other colleges. It will be possible for students to run with CMC for two years, then transfer to a larger program. It will also be possible for athletes to compete on the team from any of CMC’s campuses. A runner attending another CMC campus can follow the workout schedule online, attend meetings virtually and travel for meets. Members must attend school full-time (12 credits) and not have any previous college degrees.
For more information about the race, the club or the team, contact Darren Brungardt, coach of the college’s running club, at 719-486-4296 or firstname.lastname@example.org.