Cockaigne Resort rebuilt, reborn

Photo by Jordan W. Patterson Cockaigne Resort, formerly known as Cockaigne Ski Resort, is almost ready to open its doors to customers once again. The resort is planning to be open during the winter after its official opening in September. The biggest difference between the current iteration of the resort is that the grounds will be open, in limited fashion, all year round.

CHERRY CREEK — From ashes, the Cockaigne Resort is set to soon reopen after being rebuilt and reborn.

In 2011, a fire that could reportedly be seen from five miles away burned the original lodge at what was then known as the Cockaigne Ski Resort.

Now, almost seven years later, a 10,000 square-foot lodge, about two thirds larger than the original one, is being constructed and will open in September.

Chief Executive Officer and Owner Rex Butcher, originally from South Dayton, was a frequent skier at the old resort growing up. In fact, it was the place Butcher began dating his high school sweetheart he would later marry. So for Butcher, the revival of the resort — and the revival of the community he frequently mentioned — isn’t just a business venture, it’s also personal.

“I really want to try to bring that pride back to the area and bring something positive back to the area,” Butcher said. “If you talk to locals … everybody is excited about (Cockaigne) coming back.”

Owners Adam Pirtz, Isaac Gratto and Butcher officially purchased the property in December 2017. After initial construction was delayed due to inclement weather in the spring, the project officially began in April.

In July, Butcher walked around the resort two months prior to its opening pointing out renovations and new additions. The renewed resort features a new tubing hill, a new terrain park and slope style hill, several new cut over trails in between hills, renovations to the old hills and the aforementioned lodge.

The lodge will include an indoor/outdoor bar and a cafeteria style kitchen and dining area with an occupancy of 300 people. The original a-frame lodges are being renovated as well.

Additionally, new ownership is having 5,600 feet of new “snow making” systems as well as refreshing the old systems.

The $6.2 million project will not simply become a ski resort, but something grander in scale — a primary reason the word “ski” was axed from the title. Butcher discussed plans of making the grounds into a multi-faceted resort to be utilized during all four seasons.

The lodge is fit with a 3,000-square-foot stage — referred to as Your All-American Recreation Destination, or simply the YAARD — that will be accessible to bands for concerts and festivals. On Sept. 14 and 15, the resort will host a Brewgrass Festival featuring beer and bluegrass bands. In October, Cockaigne Resort will hold a soft opening and then an official grand opening will be held in the winter when the resort is fully operational.

Before the fire that brought down Cockaigne, the resort was only open in the winter months. For Butcher, mimicking that business model would not be sustainable.

“It doesn’t work otherwise,” Butcher said of opening the resort for all four seasons. “(It’s) too small of a venue if you’re just competing only on skiing. It’s just too small.”

In the winter, Cockaigne Resort will be open everyday except for Tuesday. During all non-winter months, the resort will be open on a case-by-case basis depending on scheduled events.

Julia Anderson, marketing officer, said the resort would be a family-friendly, year round destination. For various events hosted at Cockaigne, she emphasized that the resort is trying to offer activities for all ages.

“That’s going to be a focus for us,” Anderson said. “We’re going to really accommodate all different members of the family.”

As for construction, Butcher highlighted the effort to keep work local. Contractors for construction, excavating, plumbing and electric installation have all been local companies.

Butcher said Cockaigne Resort intends to hire local employees as much as possible when it opens. According to Debbie Makowski, director of human resources and community relations, Cockaigne will employ around 50 full time employees in the winter. For the other months, the amount of employees varies depending on the type of event being held.

Cockaigne currently offers primitive camping along with RV camping. Butcher said construction and opening was part of phase one while phase two will focus more on branching out with more housing options and more activities.

A main goal for Butcher is bringing back a feeling that he said was lost when Cockaigne’s lodge burned down. He said when he talks to local residents around the area, a lot of them are nostalgic and anticipating the reopening of the resort.

“It’s about that community revival, that community renewal, that community pride that we’re going to create and bring back,” Butcher said. “That’s what it’s about.”