Staff Writer
Andrew Martin Kolstee

“Cockaigne was a big part of the community when I was growing up,” said Rex Butcher, Owner and CEO of the new Cockaigne Resort in Cherry Creek. “We’re trying to bring that back.”

The old ski lodge at Cockaigne Ski Area was destroyed by fire 2011. Now under new ownership, the new resort opens at the beginning of the 2018–19 winter season. Unlike in the past, the Cockaigne Resort will be open year round and feature both winter sports, summer concerts, and many other events.

Brewgrass Festival

To kick it off, the Cockaigne Brewgrass Festival, the resort’s first event, will take center stage September 14–15, 2018. “We have some great headliners,” said Julia Anderson, Head of Marketing.

Multi-Grammy Award winner and country and bluegrass music Hall of Famer Ricky Skaggs will headline, joined by John McEuen, another Grammy Award winner and American Banjo Museum Hall of Famer. The Festival’s bluegrass playbill rounds out with more big names, including mandolinist David Grisman, Love Canon, and the Gibson Brothers.

The two-day festival begins Friday, September 14 at 5 p.m. and runs all day Saturday, September 15. Parking is available for tent campers and RVers along with vendors for food, beer, and wine.

World’s Fair, Fire, and Restoration

The old ski lodge was the Austrian Pavilion at the 1964–1965 New York World’s Fair in Queens. Among the very few pavilions and exhibits to survive, the pavilion moved to Cherry Creek in 1966 and was converted into a ski lodge, opening the same winter. “Cockaigne was the best place for family fun and winter events for over four decades up until the lodge was destroyed in a fire in January 2011,” according to Cockaigne publicity.

After the fire, Isaac Gratto and Adam Pirtz approached Jack Van Scoter, owner of Cockaigne, about purchasing the 425-acre property, which includes 375 acres of ski slopes and 50 adjacent acres. Rex Butcher joined the project at an April, 2017 investor meeting.

Butcher is a retired chemical engineer who worked for more than 25 years in the petroleum and refining industry. He is now an entrepreneur. “I grew up in South Dayton,” Butcher said. “I used to ski at Cockaigne. My wife and I started dating at Cockaigne, so there is a sentimental piece to that.” The purchase was finalized in December 2017. 

A New Cockaigne

Butcher’s vision for Cockaigne is to expand its usage for year-round activities, which he says is a more sustainable business plan. “Our name is now Cockaigne Resort,” Anderson added. “It used to be called Cockaigne Ski Area, so we are looking to become a year-round destination.”

Besides skiing and other winter events, Cockaigne Resort is adding summer concerts along with many events in between. They plan to hold more family-friendly events that everyone can enjoy. “This will be a great gathering place for the community,” Anderson said.

In April 2018, they cleared a spot for the new ski lodge, a larger and more modern 10,000 square foot facility. “The style of the lodge is still an A-frame,” said Butcher, adding that the style is a nod to the previous lodge. “It’s iconic,” Anderson added. “A lot of people in the area enjoy the style, so the new lodge will reflect and pay tribute to the old lodge.”

A 3,000 square foot stage for concerts offers hill seating for 15,000 to 20,000 people on the slopes. A camping area will accommodate people attending the events with their RVs. The lodge will include a cafeteria and a bar area that extends to the outside.

In addition to the new lodge and outdoor stage, Cockaigne will welcome snowmobilers, with a trailhead and parking area at the resort. Additionally, a tubing hill, a freestyle training hill, three smaller trails, new lift houses, and more snowmaking pipe are being installed. Butcher is also hoping to provide a place for mountain biking.

The Community

“Part of what we as a team are trying to do is bring that pride back to the community,” Butcher said. “There’s a lot of support and a lot of people are very excited for Cockaigne to come back.”

“A lot of people are excited for new job opportunities,” Anderson said. “I’m just excited to see the community come back to Cockaigne. There has been a gap in the community since Cockaigne burned down.”

Butcher also noted that in working with contractors, he learned that development in the area has never been this busy in the past 30 years, which demonstrates a resurgence of the community in both business and recreation. Cockaigne Resort will stage an official grand opening at the beginning of the winter season.

Learn More

Follow the progress of work at Cockaigne Resort and learn more about coming events and all the new recreational facilities at cockaigne.com.