Eskimo Ski + Board Shop History
Celebrating 84 Years
Eskimo Ski Shop is the oldest specialty ski shop in Colorado. Its founder, Frank Bulkley II, saw the need for families to be able to afford the relatively expensive sport of skiing. He offered to rent ski equipment to the members of his children's ski club, The Eskimo Club, for the season and the Eskimo Ski + Board Shop was born.
Today Eskimo Ski + Board Shop still maintains the same goals as in the beginning: To offer affordable equipment to skiing and boarding families. Eskimo offers seasonal and daily rental packages. For those that would rather purchase than rent, we've got some of the best performance skis and snowboards the industry has to offer and of course, we carry an extensive line of accessories. We have something for everybody who loves the snow. We look forward to seeing you soon.
The Eskimo Club
A Colorful History of a Beloved Ski Club, a Train, Instructors Unlike Any Other, and a Founder with a Passion for the Slopes
It was a snowstorm that frustrated Frank Bulkley in his job of selling flying lessons one day in 1939 and inspired a visit to a private school run by an aunt. There he talked the students into trying skiing, and thus was born Denver's famous Eskimo Ski Club.
“If you had enough nerve, you pointed your skis straight downhill. If you had enough sense, you figured out how to turn.”
-Frank Bulkley II
The process of getting city youngsters to Winter Park led to Frank's founding of the ski school there and his selling the Denver and Salt Lake Railroad on the idea of a ski train. Bulkley started using the Denver + Rio Grand Western Railroad to bring kids to Winter Park on Saturdays. He soon opened the Eskimo Ski Shop, which was the first in the nation to offer season rental equipment.
Ski Train, Club, + Shop
"The ski club’s mission was to provide a safe, quality and affordable program for children from Grand County, and the Denver and Front Range areas to learn how to ski. The program would run for at least 12 weekends during ski season and taught downhill skiing and snowboarding to children of any experience level."
It is estimated that over 250,000 youngsters have been introduced to skiing and boarding through the Eskimo Club. At the Ski Train's peak it packed almost 20 coaches with as many as 1,600 kids each sporting either green, blue, black or the coveted race-ready rainbow patches on their jackets reflecting their skiing prowess. It is said Bulkley blazed the trail for countless kids and the Winter Park Ski Train had become a Denver institution.
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 chuckle!
Unfortunately, after 79 years in operation, in 2018, with new operators of Winter Park, the Eskimo Ski & Board Club was told that, even though the area covers over 3000 acres, there was no longer enough room for the club. The club headquarters, which has always been the heart and sole of the Club, occupied about 900 sq. ft. The Club has had to disband.
I envision something similar to the Polar Express when I think about the ski train, whisking sleepy eyed kiddos up in the early morning on a magical ride through the mountains, the excitement growing as they wind through the hills being fed hot cocoa and anticipating a day out of the city and on the slopes. Although there are no reindeer or elves when they arrive, there is still a sense of awe and amazement stepping off the train as I imagine hundreds of kids bustling in the winter wonderland in search of their instructor in a crowd of them dotted in orange and blue coats and the feeling of wonder and wide eyes for the first timers.
“Frank Bulkley III joined his father on the Ski Train in 1959 at age 7, rising at 3:30 a.m. every Saturday to prepare the train’s coaches for the Eskimo Club skiers, who were separated into train cars by age. While Bulkley certainly harbored an affection for the mountains and skiing, he was driven to stir a sense of independence in the club’s 8- to 17-year-olds.
The thing he said he really was trying to do is to get kids to do things on their own and handle problems on their own and feel comfortable doing things independently,” said Bulkley’s son, who still runs the Eskimo Ski Shop, now in Centennial."
Ski Train History
In 2009 the train shut down and in 2015, Amtrak revived the ski train from Union Station in Downtown Denver, CO to continue its trek to Winter Park Resort.
Annie Bulkley continued running and managing the Eskimo Club through 2019 with great affection for its instructors and club members. She was dedicated to providing the same quality experience her father had envisioned and did so with the same passion for many years.