COBWEB CORNERS: No year-round tourism in old days

By Mel McFarland

       In January or February where do you take visitors? Well, yes, we do get tourists this time of year. The Cog railway began running year-round because enough people wanted to see the top of Pike's Peak in winter. I like going to some of our touristy places this time of year because many of them are not as crowded as they are in summer. Indoors at Ghost Town, it is more like a ghost town with not so many people. At the Old Colorado City History Center, Michael Garman's, Van Briggle Pottery, Cave of the Winds and other places, you can enjoy being inside and taking in things at a more leisurely pace.
       Some of these places have been open in the winter for years, but there was a time when Manitou and most of Colorado City closed during the winter months. There were even warnings about going into the mountains with the danger of getting snowed in, or even stuck in snow and not being seen for days! The Gold Camp Road was one of those places you were warned not to attempt in the winter. The Rampart Range Road also has claimed its share of unsuspecting visitors.
       I get a kick out of visitors who assume we all ski. When I tell them some of the problems had by the former Pike's Peak Ski Area and Ski Broadmoor, they understand why the ski areas are a hundred miles away!
       It is true most of our attractions are geared to the summer visitors, but more and more are finding that being open in the winter is not the problem it once was.
       As I read the newspapers from over a hundred years ago I see the repeating pattern of the arrival of tourists and the news that this or that attraction has opened and (at the end of the summer) closed for the season. The towns shrank, and almost disappeared in the winter, only to do like the flowers and bloom in the summer. Up in Ute Pass, the summer population was many times bigger than the winter population. We still have motels that close in the winter, but that number is shifting.
       The part I miss about tourism is when the railroads had special offers to come to Colorado Springs and the Pike's Peak Region by train. It is too bad the railroad's passenger service shifted. With the price of gas, it is the bus companies that do the special offers!