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Local Colorado ski hills may not be big or fancy, but they're ideal for some families

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

This time of year, people from all over the world flock to Colorado to ski. It's not cheap, and increasingly, the big resorts can feel crowded. But a handful of mountain towns still maintain local ski hills that emphasize family and budget friendliness. Laura Palmisano, with member station KVNF, visited one in Lake City, Colo.

LAURA PALMISANO, BYLINE: At just 14 acres with one ski lift, the town-owned ski hill here isn't trying to compete with famous Colorado resorts like Vail, Aspen or Breckenridge.

HENRY WOODS: Well, our slogan is skiing the way it used to be.

PALMISANO: Henry Woods coaches the local youth ski team. He's volunteered in the position for more than 40 years.

WOODS: Skiing has helped me so much in my life. And when I was a kid, it helped me to have more self-esteem and be active and be in shape. I like the idea of imparting that to other kids.

PALMISANO: Kids like fourth-grader Wyatt Loper.

WYATT LOPER: Yeah, I'm kind of nervous because it's my first time skiing and I don't know what's ahead.

PALMISANO: For a lot of Colorado parents, teaching kids to ski is pretty important.

JEB BRAKO: We're trying our little one out on some skis, trying to get her a little bit better at this.

PALMISANO: Jeb Brako is visiting from metro Denver.

BRAKO: So she's 2 1/2, so I'm trying to get her in some turns and work on everything.

PALMISANO: There are a lot of ski resorts closer to where Brako lives, but...

BRAKO: We're trying to hit all the cheaper ones while she's not very good.

PALMISANO: Lake City is one of six city-run ski hills in Colorado. Daily lift tickets run from $16 to $43. That's compared to around $200 at some of Colorado's most popular resorts, which, again, are way, way bigger.

REBECCA KAMINSKI: We don't have as many runs as they do, but it's got that small-town feel. So it's very convenient to come here and to bring your family here. It's a great place for beginners to learn.

PALMISANO: Rebecca Kaminski has five kids, who are using the oldest operating ski lift in Colorado.

KAMINSKI: Oh, the lift (laughter) the disc lift - well, it's better than a rope tow, so...

PALMISANO: Skiers sit on a disc seat attached to a pole between their legs and are pulled up the hill.

KAMINSKI: It is something that you will not experience probably anywhere else, is getting to go up on a disc lift. It's like riding an antique.

PALMISANO: Lake City's low-price lift tickets don't generate a huge surplus. So no luxury ski lodge here, just a tiny warming hut that could be described as a shed. But nobody comes to Lake City Ski Hill for the amenities. Out on the slopes, coach Henry Woods offers some pointers.

WOODS: Put your skis together in between the turns.

PALMISANO: Woods says his little town ski hill is a treasure, and he hopes it continues to run for generations to come. For NPR News, I'm Laura Palmisano in Lake City, Colo.

(SOUNDBITE OF SWEET CHARLES SHERRELL SONG, "YES IT'S YOU") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Laura Palmisano
Laura is a senior reporter and producer for KVNF Community Radio. You may also on occasion hear her host Morning Edition and Local Motion on KVNF. Laura has worked at public radio and television stations in Phoenix and Tucson. Her work has aired on NPR, the BBC, Harvest Public Media and the Rocky Mountain Community Radio exchange. She was a 2015 fellow for the Institute for Justice & Journalism. Her fellowship project, a three-part series on the Karen refugee community in Delta, Colorado, received a regional Edward R. Murrow Award and an Award of Excellence from the Colorado Broadcasters Association. Laura also has experience as a videographer and video editor. She graduated summa cum laude from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.