Winter

Eagle Wind – The Trail Names And Their Stories

Indigenous and professional skier Connor Ryan enjoying a pow day in Eagle Wind Territory

Every ski run tells a story. From the tales that are rewritten every day—hoots and hollers on a deep powder day, the deep breaths of a peaceful moment just to take it all in—to the very trail names themselves.  

Eagle Wind is well known for pristine powder, challenging terrain, and incredible views, but there’s more to the story of this place than just great skiing.   

When you venture into Eagle Wind, there is a deep history telling its story in its trail names. Each trail was named to honor and remember history makers from the Arapaho Nation.  These are their stories.  

Eagle Wind Territory

People have lived in and cared for the Fraser Valley long before there was a ski resort here. The Cheyenne, Ute and Arapaho people all have ancestral ties to this area. ‘Eagle Wind’ is the Arapaho name for the land where Winter Park Resort sits today.  

To recognize the heritage of the land, Northern Arapaho Tribe elders visited the resort prior to the opening of the Eagle Wind Lift in 2006, and consulted with resort planners. Each Eagle Wind territory trail name emerged from those discussions and consultations as a way to properly honor, and pay tribute to the area. 

Thunderbird & Thunderbird Traverse

The mythology of the Thunderbird is common in tribes of the Great Plains, including the Arapaho, and is generally a symbol of power and strength. The Thunderbird is responsible for creating lightning, thunder, and bringing storms. A fitting reminder for skiers to be prepared as they head into Eagle Wind’s challenging and sometimes difficult terrain.  

Left Hand

Left Hand, also known as Niwot, was a diplomat, negotiator, linguist and fluent English speaker. During the tumultuous and often violent period following the discovery of gold near Denver in 1858, Niwot spent his last years trying to establish a peaceful agreement between indigenous nations of the Great Plains and the thousands of settlers descending on Colorado. 

Left Hand was also the best interpreter of native tongue to English. He was a close confidant of Chief Hosa, or Little Raven, and on several occasions served as an interpreter and mediator for the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes.  

Niwot was murdered on November 29, 1864, during the Sand Creek Massacre, an unprovoked attack on an Arapaho and Cheyenne camp on Colorado’s Eastern Plains near what is today the town of Eads.  

Black Coal

Portrait of Chief Black Coal, taken in 1877.

Black Coal was an influential Arapaho Chief. He worked to keep peaceful relations between the Arapaho and the US government and enlisted as a scout for the US Army to hopefully gain favor and support from officers to help secure the Arapaho people their own land. 

After being forced to sign the Fort Laramie Treaty in 1868, the Arapaho were left without any land designated as their own. Through subsequent dealings with the US government, Black Coal was able to secure temporary placement on the Shoshone Reservation at Wind River in Wyoming.

In 1878, the Northern Arapaho arrived at the Shoshone Reservation, and Black Coal would spend the rest of his life working to solidify the informal arrangement and codify Arapaho rights to live on Wind River. 

In early 2020, one of Chief Black Coal’s headdresses was finally returned to Wind River Reservation.  

Medicine Man

Medicine Man was Chief of the Northern Arapaho before Black Coal. After the Sand Creek Massacre, Medicine Man made an alliance with the Sioux and Cheyenne to live along the North Platte River so they could avoid the fighting in Colorado. Medicine Man was a signatory on the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. He also helped negotiate the Northern Arapaho’s first attempt at settling on the Wind River reservation with the Shoshone.  

Medicine Man also led his Arapaho people to Fort Fetterman, Wyoming to try and get a reservation solely for the Arapaho Tribe. The US refused, leading to the Battle of Fort Fetterman with Lakota and Cheyenne camps. 

Little Raven

Portrait of Little Raven, taken in 1871

Chief Little Raven, or Hosa, was known for his oratorical skills and peaceful, progressive leadership. He signed the Fort Wise Treaty of 1861 that establishes a reservation along the Arkansas river in Eastern Colorado for the Cheyenne and Arapaho peoples. However, he became frustrated when settlers failed to comply with the agreement. His frustration gave way to anger after the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864.  

After the Battle of Washita in 1868, Little Raven led the Southern Arapaho to Fort Still for protection. There, the Southern Arapaho and Southern Cheyenne were granted another reservation in western Indian Territory.  

Little Raven traveled to Washington D.C. in 1871, and spoke in front of an audience at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.   

Sharp Nose

Portrait of Sharp Nose, taken in 1877

Sharp Nose was a respected warrior in the Arapaho Tribe. He was a close adviser to Black Coal, and accompanied him to Washington D.C. to petition for an Arapaho Reservation.  

After Black Coal’s death, Sharp Nose took over the tribe as chief at the Wind River Reservation and was focused on ensuring the survival of his people as the Arapaho needed to quickly adapt to a farming and ranching lifestyle. There were attempts to force the Arapaho and Shoshone into land cessations under the General Allotment Act of 1887. With the disappearance of the buffalo, the rise of measles and diphtheria, the Nothern Arapaho and Shoshone people were under increasing pressure to sell off land. In 1896, Sharp Nose and Chief Washakie sold off 10 square miles of the reservation, which is now Thermopolis. They were never fully paid. 

Sharp Nose’s eldest son, Little Chief was sent to a boarding school run by the US government in Carlisle, PA. Little Chief died of Pneumonia in 1883, and Sharp Nose’s decedents are working on bringing Little Chief Home.  

The Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute people stewarded and built a connection with this land long before it was Winter Park. They are a part of this place, and the connection you feel to the mountain when dropping into your favorite run is a shared one.  

There is no denying that the history above is complex, and oftentimes difficult, but Eagle Wind’s trail names were carefully chosen to remember, honor, and carry these stories into the future.  

The next time you find yourself hooting and hollering on an incredible pow day, we hope that knowing the stories of Left Hand, Black Coal, Little Raven, Medicine Man and Sharp Nose a little better will make the memories you create on the hill a little more meaningful…and your connection with this land a little deeper.   

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