"In rare instances throughout history, a few dedicated people band together in an effort to create something that ultimately stands the test of time. Such is the case for Lunch Rock and, to a greater extent, Winter Park Resort."
N early a decade before Winter Park became a ski area, Lunch Rock was an important landmark to an exclusive group of hearty adventurers and lovers of the new "sport of ski" who all belonged to the Colorado Arlberg Ski Club. Formed in 1929 by three Denver businessmen and named after the famous Ski Club Arlberg which was born in Austria in 1901, the Colorado Arlberg Club became early stewards for the fledgling ski area, creating the foundation for what millions of visitors enjoy today.
Bound by their love of skiing, Colorado Arlberg Club members would hike off into the Rocky Mountains in their leather boots and heavy wooden skis looking for new areas to ply their skills. After the Moffat Tunnel opened in 1928, a small outpost called West Portal quickly became a favorite spot.
A ny proper club needs a clubhouse and in 1933, as membership swelled, Arlberg Club members leased a tract of land from the U.S. Forest Service on the northeast corner of what was then known as the Mary Jane Placer and built a stunning two story wooden lodge, complete with giant stone fireplace, by hand. While the clubhouse was being built, it was also determined that the ski club needed a dedicated run and set out clearing, with help from the Forest Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps, portions of an old trail used to graze sheep. When it was completed, club members referred to it as "Mary Jane Trail." By the winter of 1933-1934, still six years before Winter Park was established, the Arlberg Club had its clubhouse and its own run on which it would host its own races with other ski clubs in the state. A particularly popular excursion, however, was the trek up to a large outcropping of rocks at the top of Mary Jane Mountain.
In an era before rope tows and T-bars, club members would depart at 9:00 am, hike two and half hours to the top, eat lunch on the rocks, and enjoy the 15 minute glide back down to the clubhouse. "Lunch Rock" was born.
In the years that followed, Colorado Arlberg Club members became instrumental in clearing runs for what would soon become Winter Park ski area. In addition to Mary Jane Trail, those who ski Hughes and Balch can enjoy their handiwork to this day. While Winter Park officially opened on January 28, 1940 with a then state-of-the-art rope tow, nothing much changed for Arlberg Club members, who would still endure the long hike up to Lunch Rock with the promise of pristine powder on the Mary Jane Trail.
M ary Jane opened in 1975, but lift access to Lunch Rock was not established until 10 years later, when the Summit Express was built, taking visitors directly from the base of Mary Jane to Lunch Rock for the first time. After 52 years, the Colorado Arlberg Club's secret was out and everyone could enjoy the majestic views from 11,200 feet without the arduous hike. To accommodate this new throng of visitors, the original Lunch Rock Cafe, a small warming hut and restaurant with an expansive deck was constructed.
The pioneer spirit of the Colorado Arlberg Club runs deep throughout Winter Park Resort but perhaps nowhere is that essence better captured than at Lunch Rock Restaurant, where the rich legacy of Winter Park's forebears lives on.