The go-to for skiers and snowboarders in Laramie, Wyoming, is clearly the Snowy Range Ski Area. But there’s another ski area in the region you can ski or ride—it’s just that it hasn’t been operational for decades.
What now constitutes the Happy Jack Recreation Area, a favorite location for local campers just 15 minutes west of Laramie on Highway 210, was once a fully operational ski area.
According to Colorado Ski History.com, the ski area at Happy Jack ran from the early ’60s to late ’70s. It had two T-bar lifts and even featured night skiing.
Yet, even though the small ski area has not been in business for decades, that does not mean local skiers and boarders don’t make use of Happy Jack. They just have to put in the work of hiking to get their runs. Still, riding Happy Jack has its advantages.
Advantage One: It’s free.
Whereas boarding at a ski area takes the most physical aspect of the activity, it comes at a price—that of a lift ticket.
But for those lacking the dough to ride, Happy Jack provides a decidedly cheaper option. It’s just that you’ll have to earn runs by carrying yourself and your gear up the hill.
Advantage Two: Location, location, location.
One of the greatest benefits of riding at Snowy Range is its proximity to Laramie—just 28 miles west of town.
Yet, for local boarders and skiers willing to hike, riding at Happy Jack involves driving just 15 miles east of town. Drive up the 12 minutes it takes to reach the top of the summit of
Interstate 25, take a left heading east on Highway 210, drive a few more miles and you’re there.
The only drawback is that, while it may take you half the amount of time to get to the nonoperational ski area, it takes two or three times (if not more) the amount of work to get your runs in as it does at an actual ski area.
Advantage Three: Fun, unrestricted place to build kickers.
A great aspect of Happy Jack is that it’s a cool place to build your own jumps without the restrictions of ski patrol and ski area management.
Paying for access means when I find a good jump or obstacle outside of a terrain park, it’s never long before said jump or obstacle is dismantled by either ski patrol or area employees.
The typical rationale I’ve been given for why ski patrollers demolish jumps and tear down slides is that they pose a threat to inexperienced skiers and boarders.
This is hard to argue against. Many of the jumps I have built in the past were dangerous for myself—an experienced snowboarder—to ride. Yet, this risk has never kept me from wanting to build jumps in order to push my progression as a snowboarder.
That’s not to say that the jumps built at Happy Jack are necessarily safe, but then again, there is no such thing as a safe kicker.
Advantage Four: Early season skiing and boarding.
When we receive early season snowstorms in southeast Wyoming, Happy Jack is an ideal location to ride when few other options exist.
While Colorado skiers and snowboarders can often ride at Arapahoe Basin or Loveland Ski Area in October, we are not as fortunate when it comes to pre-season riding. Typically, Snowy
Range does not open for business until late November or early December.
So while the ski area that was once located at the Happy Jack Recreation Area has not been running for more than 30 years, that does not mean skiing and snowboarding are not taking place there.