As you travel along Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway, you may notice signs referring to various named "springs" including Cottage Springs, Black Springs, Mud Springs, Big Springs, and Poison Springs. These denote the location of historic ranches located along the route of the Emigrant Trail in early years, which were established at the site of natural springs that provided water for people and livestock. These ranches became stopping places on the road for emigrants traveling west, and cattle and sheep men taking their livestock east to the high country for the summer months.
Cottage Springs was owned by A. Henry Stevens as early as 1865. The ranch was conveyed by Sheriff Ben Thorn to John Gardner in 1870 when Stevens failed to pay back taxes. It was patented by his wife, Rebekah Dorrington Gardner, in 1888. A tollgate was located here when the Big Tree and Carson Valley Turnpike was completed in the early 1860s.
The area on the north side of the highway was developed as a small, single lift ski area and snow tube park by the Miller family, the first commercial ski area on Highway 4, and was the stopping point for snow removal until the road was realigned in the 1960s for the Bear Valley Ski Resort. Gene Miller and his family purchased the 97-acre ranch in 1954, and opened Cottage Springs Ski Area in 1964 that had three rope tows. A tower lift was added in the 1970s.The property was sold in 2006 and all of the lifts have been removed. Today, Cottage Springs includes a small subdivision of approximately nine homes on Beatrice Drive. While driving Highway 4 make a pit-stop at this quaint town and be transported to a simpler time.