Grand Mesa History


A Brief History of the Grand Mesa Lodge

From NASA to Hawaii, the Grand Mesa Lodge has been recognized as a cultural icon, winter haven, and sportsman’s delight. For generations Grand Mesa Lodge and the surrounding land has brought families happiness through primordial experiences, relaxation and just good old fun! The Grand Mesa Lodge was originally built in 1899, but the details of this structure are difficult to find; it is known to have collapsed under the weight of heavy snowfall in 1958 and was actually featured in the Hawaiian newspaper, The Honolulu Star on May 9th, 1958. A new lodge was constructed with a full service restaurant and bar serving customers until about 1989. Later, the restaurant and bar became living space adjacent to the lodge’s retail store.

The current owners, Mike and Rose Wenner, purchased the Grand Mesa Lodge as part of a working retirement plan. Prior to the Wenners, Ken and Conne Simpson owned the lodge for 14 years, while Ken has been supporting snowmobile activities for 20 years. The Grand Mesa Lodge sits atop land that is leased from the United States Forestry Service and they have Special Use Permits for their activities. The 14 cabin structures built around the lodge date from the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s. And while the cabins maintain their rustic charm, many updates have been made by the owners including windows, septic and propane systems. Apparently, one of the original activities during the long winter months was to cut ice out of Island Lake, and that ice saw proudly swaggers itself above the current owners’ woodstove hearth. Remember the old avocado green rotary phones? Well, there is still one in service at the Grand Mesa Lodge and it’s the line that still functions during inclement weather and provides a necessary back-up plan for safety on the mountain.

Speaking of safety, in 2016 there were three snowmobilers out on the mountain for a ride and became stranded. The Grand Mesa Lodge happens to be a partner with the Delta SnoKrusers Snowmobile Club and as part of their agreement, Mike Wenner and his affiliates groom the 128 miles of trails atop the Grand Mesa Mountain. Well, one evening as Mike was expertly guiding the snowcat along the trails he noticed a flicker of light. His keen eye took note and he stopped the Snowcat machine. With a deft hand he grabbed the nearby handle of the spotlight to illuminate the area where he saw the strange light. After scanning the tree line he realized that a person was trying to get his attention with a butane lighter! Mike’s experience took discerning command of the situation; it was a favorable find for the stranded snowmobilers as a cold evening was quickly approaching.

But the Grand Mesa Lodge is not only known for valiant stories, they have also been part of important scientific research. In 2017, NASA came to conduct a snow study atop Grand Mesa Mountain. The “SnowEx Campaign” scientists came and for 28 days they called the Grand Mesa Lodge their home and worked with Mike Wenner as a personal tour guide through the deep forest, snowy meadows, and ice-capped lakes. The scientists placed special survey points with GPS coordinates around the mountain to collect data. The snow study measures water stored in the snowpack also known as the snow-water equivalent and specifically measures the amount of light or radiation reflected by the snow; formally termed “albedo” [1]. This research is to help understand snowmelt and the impact of runoff into the United States’ river basins.

While no old-fashioned ice cutting happens today, there are plenty of activities at Grand Mesa Lodge such as snowmobiling, hunting, fishing, hiking, boating, kayaking, and canoeing just to name a few. Anyone can fill their day with fun things to do or simply enjoy the peaceful solitude of nature’s beauty while sitting atop the largest flat-top mountain in the World!

References [1] National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (2017).

Retrieved from https://neptune.gsfc.nasa.gov/hsb/index.php?section=322