Happy Birthday, Mary Jane: Local skier recalls her first year | SkyHiNews.com

Happy Birthday, Mary Jane: Local skier recalls her first year

Hank Shell

mary jane’s 40th at Winter Park Resort

1 p.m. - Mary Jane’s Mogul Duel - Skiers and snowboarders compete head-to-head down a short moguls course and will be judged on time as well as best 70s garb. Located at the bottom of Rainbow Cut.

3:15 p.m. - Sing Happy Birthday to Mary Jane at the Club Car Restaurant with free cake.

3:45 p.m. - Raffle drawing for two pairs of Mary Jane’s 40th HG powder skis. Raffle tickets available at Club Car from noon to 3:30 p.m.

6 p.m. - Parade followed by fireworks show in downtown Winter Park.

In early 1976, four friends, all students at Indiana University, decided to ditch a week of classes for a ski trip out west.

In April, the four headed toward Colorado and Grand County in particular, seeking out a newly minted mountain at the already well-established Winter Park Ski Area.

Gretchen Robertson was one of those students.

“We had heard that Winter Park had been around for a while, but that Mary Jane was sort of a whole new mountain that you could go to,” Robertson said.

Mary Jane Mountain, Winter Park Resort’s iconic haven for steep bumps and tree skiing, opened for the first time for the 1975-1976 season. Her official birthday is recorded as Jan. 10, 1976.

Robertson got to ski Mary Jane in her first year.

“I just remember there were a lot of people there and everybody thought that this was a wonderful new place,” Robertson said.

Winter Park Resort will celebrate her birthday with a marathon of events on Saturday, Jan. 30.

“Coming on the heels of our 75th Anniversary last year, it seems like we’re in the milestone mode, and Mary Jane holds such a fond place in people’s hearts,” said Steve Hurlbert with Winter Park Resort. “It’s amazing to be able to celebrate her 40th birthday.”

When the mountain first opened in 1975, it added 18 new trails and 350 acres of terrain to the resort, marking Winter Park’s first large expansion.

Following a $9 million overhaul in 1986, the Jane expanded an additional 200 acres with 20 new trails.

Mary Jane gets her name from a courtesan that lived in Arrow, a town once located near the resort, according to Winter Park Resort’s website.

Despite the prurient namesake, “the Jane” holds an affectionate place in the hearts of skiers like Robertson.

So much so that Robertson decided to someday move to the Fraser Valley after skiing the Jane’s slopes.

Six years ago, she followed through.

Since her first rendezvous with the mountain, Robertson said a few things have changed. The new Lunch Rock and a six-chair lift to name a couple.

But the spirit of the place?

Unchanged, she said.

“I really think that the front side of the Jane has retained what it started out as,” Robertson said. “It’s remained more of a local place – the place where the really great skiers come.”

In other words?

“I would just say that I see no reason to ever ski any place else,” Robertson said.

“I just think that the Jane has something for everybody.”

Hank Shell can be reached at 970-557-6010.

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