Aspen’s unique topography and excellent winter conditions led Billy Fiske (Olympic Bobsled champion) and capitalist Ted Ryan, to suggest the development of a ski area. The original “Boat Tow” on Aspen Mountain was constructed in 1937 by members of the Aspen Ski Club. It consisted of two wooden toboggans or “boats”, each one twelve feet long by three feet wide, containing four seats across the width. These were constructed of pine, including the runners, to which steel banding was attached and is still in place.
The Boat Tow utilized old mining equipment. The “boats” were connected by ½” steel cable (purchased for $600 by the Aspen Lions Club and donated to the lift) to rotating terminals converted from hoist rigs from the dormant Little Annie Mine on Aspen Mountain. The steel cable was guided up the mountain by wood towers to prevent tangling. The motor was a converted Model A Ford engine (donated by Laurence Elisha then owner of the Hotel Jerome). The total length of the Boat Tow was 600’ up the face of Aspen Mountain.
Up to four people could sit inside a boat and by pulled to “the top” in less than three minutes while the other, empty boat slid down the other side. The fee was 10 cents a ride, 50 cents for a half day. The official opening day was January 27, 1938. One hundred people rode Colorado’s biggest ski lift that day.