Eskimo Club History

In the early 30s, Frank Bulkley, who later became a Colorado ski industry pioneer, took up the infant sport of skiing when one arose at 2 am to drive to the mountain, hike to the top and skied down. As he said “If you had enough nerve, you pointed your skis straight downhill. If you had enough sense, you figured out how to turn”.

Frank was sold on the sport of skiing and proceeded to sign up most of Kent School to learn to ski with him and his brothers (he was the eldest of seven children), teaching them at  Berthoud Pass. He chartered a bus for the trips up to Berthoud Pass, which was soon referred to as the “Ski Bus.”  Students from other schools soon joined the group.

In the middle 30’s, George Cranmer, the farsighted Manager of Denver Parks and Improvements, asked Bob Balch and Frank Bulkley to evaluate the terrain of what is now Winter Park and they reported that it was ideal for a ski area. So began Cranmer's incredible & successful effort to fulfill his dream of creating a winter park for Denver. With his influence, funds were raised to clear slopes and install a T-Bar tow on the lower slopes. 

Frank Bulkley was one of the numerous Arlberg Club members volunteering on weekends to clear ski trails for the soon-to-be Winter Park Ski area, though he said they could scarcely compete with the crew of 30 burly Swedes "with arms 18 inches around”  that George Cranmer rounded up to expedite the work.

By the winter of 1939-40, Winter Park was fully operational. George Cranmer contracted Frank (on a handshake) to run the WP Ski School and the WP Ski Shop. Soon after the area opened, Frank was bringing his group of Denver children up via the Denver & Salt Lake Railroad to Winter Park to learn to ski. Though passengers stepped off the train covered with soot, the coal-powered steam engine was a very reliable form of transportation. The D&SL made Frank their Winter Sports Promotion Agent and by the time WWII began, there were around 350-400 members of Bulkley’s children's ski group riding the train on Saturdays and purchasing lift tickets to Winter Park.  

When WWII came along, Frank was assigned to what was to become the Tenth Mountain Division and taught skiing and rock climbing until sent to Officer’s Candidate School where he went on to Europe to become a company commander with the 42nd Infantry Division. He was seriously injured and taken out of action in March of 1945.

The war had put a stop to the Club until Bulkley returned to Winter Park in 1946 to run the now named Eskimo Ski Club on weekend leave from Fitzsimmons Hospital.  That was the year the D &SL trains were sold to the Denver & Rio Grand. Desperately needing the train to operate on Saturday for his many young skiers, Frank wrote an 8-page letter to Harold Eno of the Denver & Rio Grand full of suggestions on how to run a ski train and offered to underwrite it on Saturdays. After some deliberation, the Mr. Eno agreed to run the ski train again and incorporated all of Frank's suggestions.

Bulkley & Gordy Wren teamed up to form Colorado Outings to operate both the WP Ski School and the WP Ski Shop. Frank spent his weekdays in Denver organizing the Eskimo Ski Club, drumming up business and operating his Eskimo Ski Shop, an outgrowth of the Club and the first ski shop in the nation to introduce season rentals.

Gordy Wren left to train for the U.S. Olympic team and Bulkley eventually sold the Winter Park Shop & Ski School in the late '60s while continuing to run the Eskimo Ski Club & his four Eskimo Ski Shops in Denver.  As well as making Winter Park the “home away from home” for many Denverites who grew up and returned with their families, the Eskimo Ski Club brought a reliable source of income to Winter Park during its struggling early years. “We would have had a hard time making payroll without that train full of Eskimos on Saturdays“ reports a long-time WP accountant of that era.

For his success in introducing thousands of children to the sport of skiing, Bulkley was inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame in 1978, “the first living inductee” he would say with a chuckle. Colorado Ski Country also honored him with the President’s Award in 1996 for a lifetime of service and dedication to the ski industry. The Eskimo Express lift at Winter Park was named in honor of his Eskimo Ski Club.

Tom Branch, an Eskimo Club ski instructor and United pilot and trainer as well as long time friend of Bulkley's, worked with Frank as the next Eskimo Club area director and was also inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame. Don Sawyer (also a United pilot and trainer) took over the position of training Eskimo Club instructors and made the Eskimo Club a certified PSIA/AASI in its own right, no longer under the auspices of the ski area.

As Denver grew and the cross-country buses became more reliable, Bulkley began using the buses to transport the Eskimo Club members directly to the ski area so the Ski Train was used only by a few members and eventually by none.

Through the years, thousands of Denver children skiedi with the Eskimo Ski Club at Winter Park making it the place where Denver learned to ski.