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History of YMCA of the Rockies

April 13, 2021

The YMCA of the Rockies has a rich and colorful history spanning more than a century.

A Rich History 

The YMCA of the Rockies has a rich and colorful history spanning more than a century.  The Rocky Mountain Region had been the site of YMCA summer encampments since the 1890s, but the resort locations were deemed unsuitable by many participants.  At the 20th State Convention held at Canon City in 1906, it was decided to establish a permanent summer training center for YMCA professionals somewhere in the Rockies.

In July of 1907, 23 YMCA men met in Grand Lake, Colorado to discuss incorporations of the Western Conference of the YMCA.  While there, they scouted for possible sites for a summer school to be held the next year, 1908.

Finding nothing appropriate, they decide to travel over the continental divide to Estes Park.  A group of six men, led by William E. Sweet, hiked from Grand Lake, stopping overnight at the Wind River Lodge.  The beautiful setting and views of Mt Ypsilon were just what the men were looking for.

Ninety-three men attended the 1908 summer school and it was considered to be a rousing success.  That success prompted the purchase of the Wind River Lodge property to ensure a permanent home for YMCA summer school.

In response to increasing popularity over the next 20 years, family lodgings were built and family programs were started.  The Depression nearly brought an end to the association, but the Directors persevered.

The increased tourism of the post-war years spurred massive building and renovation projects.  There was also a shift in organizational focus, as our association was no longer a summer training school of YMCA workers but had become a year-round conference and family center.

The 1960s saw unparalleled growth with expanded accommodations and increased programming.  In 1966 The Summit property was added, even as the Board of Directors searched for a suitable location for a second site.

In 1969, Snow Mountain Ranch opened in Grand County, with quiet solitude and excellent winter sports opportunities.  In 1980 resident summer camp, Camp Chief Ouray was relocated to Snow Mountain Ranch.

The last three decades have seen expansion and renovation as we strive to maintain our experience for future generations.  More than a century ago, the YMCA of the Rockies began as a place where a few YMCA men could spend a summer and receive professional training in a tranquil and inspirational setting.  While the setting remains, the Y has evolved.  Evolved into a year-round center where anyone of any age is welcome.  Families come for reunion and recreation.  Youth come for excitement and adventure.  Professionals come for conference and rejuvenation.

But no matter the reason for their visit or the changes that we’ve made, our guests can still enjoy the foundation of the YMCA of the Rockies, the beauty and recreation of our Rocky Mountain sanctuary.

To learn more about the history of YMCA of the Rockies, please visit the Lula W. Dorsey Museum located at the Estes Park Center during your stay. Admission is free.

Assigned Categories: History, Activities & Programming, Museums