Colorado, North America’s number one skiing destination, unofficially began its 2016-17 ski season in early October when Loveland and Copper Mountain took advantage of cold nighttime temperatures, and began to cover their runs in man-made snow. Eldora, Arapahoe Basin and Winter Park began their own snowmaking operations soon after. Thanks to help from some early-season natural snow, downhill enthusiasts took the country’s first runs at A-Basin, Oct. 21, on an intermediate run with an 18-inch base. Unseasonably warm and dry conditions in late October has stalled the opening of the state’s other resorts, but the usual high expectations for another outstanding season continue to prevail. Last year, both Arapahoe Basin and Loveland ski areas opened, Oct. 29.
“This is going to be a tremendous start to the ski season at Arapahoe Basin and in the state of Colorado,” A-Basin COO Alan Henceroth said. “We’ve been fortunate to have optimal conditions for our snowmaking team to get a base on the High Noon trail, and offer our guests skiing and snowboarding in October.” The ski area celebrates its 70th anniversary throughout the season.
Following a record year with more than 13 million skier visits in Colorado and an off-season of upgrades and improvements at the region’s ski areas, Arapahoe Basin’s opening has skiers and riders enthusiastically anticipating the upcoming season.
Colorado Ski Country USA—which represents 21 of Colorado’s 25 resorts including Arapahoe Basin, Eldora, Loveland, Ski Granby Ranch and Winter Park in this region—says its member ski areas are building on last year’s successful season with capital improvements, program upgrades and increased access. Both Vail Resorts-owned ski areas in nearby Summit County—Keystone and Breckenridge—are also building on last year’s positive growth.
“Colorado’s world-class ski resorts continue to focus on ways to ensure guests have a great experience during their visit,” CSCUSA President and CEO Melanie Mills said. “From on and off-mountain dining upgrades and new ski lifts to the return of the ski train and new flights providing more access across the state, our resorts’ commitment to improving their guests experience keeps visitors coming back to Colorado season after season.”
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, which won this year’s race to host opening day, is celebrating its 70th season from now until closing day with a variety of special events and promotions. Known for its long seasons, laidback vibe and pristine variety of terrain, the Basin made significant investments to improve its base area including renovating buildings, improving walkways and ramps, upgrading skier services and providing better outdoor seating and viewing areas for the main stage. The ski area has recently updated all of its webcams and installed the new Divide Cam at the summit.
This summer, the resort more than doubled Arapahoe Sports, the on-site retail shop, and upgraded its exterior to match the aesthetic of recent base area upgrades. A Montana Crystal One Automated Service Machine, to better accommodate same-day tunes for skiers and snowboarders, was also added.
A-Basin continues to maintain its status in Colorado as “The Legend” with its popular events and affordable prices. Celebrate the 70thAnniversary, Dec. 9-11, with a weekend-long party. During the event, the resort is offering $19 child and $46 adult day lift tickets. Look for birthday cake, live music and a special birthday party in the 6th Alley Bar & Grill.
The resort’s “Kids Free 2 Ski” program allows children 6-12 years old two free days during the season with no blackout dates and no purchase necessary. First-time skiers or riders also receive 50 percent off a half-day morning class lesson, which includes a full-day lift ticket.
Breckenridge Ski Resort
Breckenridge, opening Nov. 11, continues to add major capital improvements to the resort. This season, Breckenridge opens Pioneer Crossing, a brand new, 490-seat restaurant steps from the top of the Independence SuperChair on Peak 7. The restaurant, opening in December, highlights the mining history of Breckenridge’s past, and caters to skiers who like the terrain on the north side of the resort, including Peak 6. “These types of ‘new’ construction are fairly rare anymore, so that’s great news for Breck guests, and it will help us in our ongoing efforts to spread folks out during peak time frames,” Senior Communications Manager Kristen Petitt Stewart said.
Also new this year, the Peak 9 Village base area received a facelift with a new snowmelt system and brick pavers replacing the cement surface. The new space will also accommodate signature Breck events throughout the year.
One of the ski area’s largest on-mountain events, “The Dew Tour,” returns for the 10th time, Dec. 8-11, with a newly revamped winter ski and snowboard competition as well as a new team challenge. Renowned events held in town include the “Lighting of Breckenridge” and “Race of the Santas,” Dec. 3; the Big Beers Festival features world-class beer and renowned brewmasters and brewery owners, Jan. 5-7; “Ullr Fest,” Jan. 11-14, 2017, which includes a town-wide snow dance, iconic Main Street parade, Ullr Ice Plunge, “world’s longest” shot ski and more; and “Spring Fever,” the biggest spring skiing party in the Rocky Mountains, April 2017.
Copper Mountain, best known for its naturally-divided terrain, also begins its season, Nov. 11. It celebrates through Nov. 13 with its “Welcome Home Weekend,” including gear giveaways, doughnuts, coffee, beer and music by DJ Landry.
Improvements at the resort this season are aimed to temp the taste buds of its patrons. On the Rockies is the resort’s new bar and entertainment “hotspot” in the Center Village. Just steps from the American Eagle chairlift, the bar specializes in craft whiskeys and beer. It also features a full menu of sandwiches, salads and other American fare. A second new eatery, Eagle BBQ, offers a variety of options including brisket chili, pork ribs, smoked chicken and pulled pork in a Colorado-themed atmosphere inside Center Village’s Copper Junction building. Expected to open in November, the restaurant’s patio is as close to the snow as possible, making it a perfect après location.
Additional upgrades include four Level 2 electric car charging spaces, allowing vehicles to charge in 4-8 hours and White River Luxury Rentals, a new option for luxury accommodations.
A wide range of events take place at Copper all season including the U.S. Grand Prix, Dec. 11-17, featuring the world’s best snowboarders and freeskiers on its 22-foot Main Vein Superpipe in pursuit of World Cup points and $400K in prize money. This year’s event also includes a Big Air competition, the new Olympic discipline. Athletes expected to compete include Louie Vito, Kelly Clark, Scotty Lago, Hannah Teter and more. The resort is also the official winter training site for all Colorado-based winter Special Olympics athletes, as well as the official host resort for the Colorado Special Olympics Winter Games, March 5.
Echo Mountain Resort near Idaho Springs and Evergreen plans to open in mid-December—provided maintenance and improvement projects are concluded—under the new ownership of SkiEcho, LLC. It intends to operate six days a week and offer night skiing. The 226-acre ski area, formerly known as Squaw Mountain, was purchased out of bankruptcy by SkiEcho’s parent company, Burwell Enterprises, for a reported $3.78 million. Denverite Nora Pykkonen bought the mountain in 2012 to turn it into a private ski racing training camp, but put it back on market in April 2015 after she briefly reopened the runs to the public last winter in an effort to return it to financial solvency.
Burwell Enterprises, has been active in the Colorado resort and ski industry for many years and is “excited to help Echo Mountain achieve its true potential,” according to a recent statement. SkiEcho is “putting together an experienced and knowledgeable team and working on a number of projects to offer an unprecedented personal experience.” These new projects include a new look in the lodge, higher quality food and beverage options, contracted world-class snowmaking, and a “re-thinking” of the use of the ski area’s existing infrastructure. SkiEcho will honor existing pass sales for the 2016-2017 winter season.
“We’ve received an outpouring of support and enthusiasm from local communities, Clear Creek County and a number of people across the ski and snowboard industry,” General Manager Fred Klaas said in a statement. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, but our primary focus is the customer and we’re working diligently to offer a great experience.”
Eldora Mountain Resort
Eldora Mountain Resort, which opens Nov. 18 and hosts its “Opening Weekend Celebration” through Nov. 20, was purchased this summer by adventure lifestyle company Powdr. The private company owns nine mountain resorts around the country—including nearby Copper Mountain—events company Human Movement Management and media company Outside Television.
Known as “your backyard ski area,” Eldora is located near Nederland and one of the few resorts on the east side of the Continental Divide. The ski area features free close-in parking and RTD bus service that drops off patrons 50 feet from a lift. Eldora provides great snow and terrain for all skill levels including steeps, bumps, glades, a terrain park, a world-class Nordic center and groomed corduroy for cruising.
According to Marketing Manager Michel Tapia, the biggest enhancement to the ski area this season are three new advanced runs—adding 15 new skiable acres with snowmaking—in between the Corona and Indian Peaks chair lifts. There will also be improved internet connectivity for “amazing” WiFi throughout the base area and lodges as well as upgrades to locker room facilities and improvements to bars in both Timbers Lodge and Indian Peaks Lodge. Additionally, seasonal enhancements to its “already amazing snowmaking system” were made across the entire resort.
This season, Eldora also introduces Woodward ski school lessons for kids ages 4-14. One-day lessons and programs are offered all season, as well as four-day Mini Rats camps during the holidays. Woodward is also taking over the resort’s terrain park design and maintenance.
In addition to its popular racing series and annual holiday festivities, Eldora features a variety of distinctive events including its Third Annual Ugly Sweater and Best Elf Costume Contest, Dec. 24, and Retro Days, April 1-2.
Keystone, which will open Nov. 11, is the largest mountain in Summit County and offers 3,148 skiable acres on three mountains, 20 lifts and two gondolas nestled at the foot of a pair of unique villages featuring tons of outdoor adventures, lodging and dining options.
This season, the resort hosts the first “Colorado Family Ski Month,” Dec. 1-23. The inaugural event provides an opportunity for families to discover the resort’s offerings and includes free skiing for kids 12 and younger. On Dec. 10, the “World’s Largest Snow Fort” returns bigger and better than ever and the new Kidtopia Mountaintop Spectacular, Dec. 16-18, features a weekend of festive on-mountain fun for the entire family.
The Keystone Chocolate Village, on display in the lobby of the Keystone Lodge & Spa Dec. 20-Jan. 8, utilizes thousands of pounds of imported chocolate to create a hand-crafted holiday tradition featuring a working chocolate gondola, cascading chocolate waterfall, four-foot tall Christmas tree, and many other winter scenes, including new additions each year.
Loveland Ski Area
Loveland, which is planning to open as soon as possible, boasts 1,800 acres of “remarkable” terrain, free snowcat skiing along the Continental Divide, an innovative lesson program and more snow than any Front Range or Summit County resort. According to Loveland Marketing Director John Sellers, there are few visible changes at the resort this season, but the Loveland Unrestricted Season Pass includes three free days at Powder Mountain Resort in Utah. This is in addition to three days each at Crested Butte, Monarch Mountain, Powderhorn and Purgatory.
With over 75 years of history, more than 200 days of skiing and riding each season, uncrowded slopes, free close-in parking, tons of events and unique programs, Loveland has been a long-time local favorite. Its event calendar is full of exciting events including the popular “Mountaintop Matrimony,” Feb. 14, as well as dozens of demo days, the “New Belgium Scavenger Hunt” and the “Corn Harvest” benefit for The Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Spring time features live music every weekend through closing day complete with BBQs and tons of on-hill events.
Ski Granby Ranch
Ski Granby Ranch, scheduled to open Dec. 17, is a family-owned resort designed for skiers and riders of all ages and abilities. It’s a favorite for experienced skiers who want their kids to learn in a safe, friendly environment. The resort offers easy lift access, gladed skiing, and a terrain park with progressive features as well as its wide-open terrain including beginner, intermediate and advanced runs. There are also designated slopes and three terrain parks fully lit for night skiing. Ski Granby has added one new groomer and five new snow guns, which increases snow making capability by more than 100 acres. Additionally, there will be new TVs and a new menu at the Grill.
Granby Ranch also offers its popular “Get on The Snow Program,” where patrons can learn a new sport with professional instructors, and receive a season pass. Granby Ranch’s Snow School incorporates a gentle beginner hill with seven Progression Terrain Parks as the perfect landscape for connecting turns and learning jumps. Complete two ski or snowboarding lesson packages and graduate with a season pass to Granby Ranch, as well as a 20 percent discount coupon valid for a retail merchandise purchase.
Winter Park Resort
Winter Park, which plans to open Nov. 16, is Colorado’s longest continually operated ski resort. It averages over 320 inches of annual snowfall, 300 days of sunshine and 3,081 acres of award-winning terrain including groomers, terrain parks, deeps, steeps, trees and the world-famous bumps at Mary Jane—ranked first in mogul skiing in North America by Skiing Magazine.
The most exciting addition to the offerings at the resort this season, according to Director of Public Relations and Communications Steve Hurlbert, is the return of the Winter Park Ski Train featuring regular weekend service from Denver to Winter Park, Jan. 7-March 26. The round-trips run on Saturdays and Sundays, with an additional round-trip on Martin Luther King Day and Presidents Day. Winter Park Express trains will enable customers to skip the congestion and stop-and-go ski traffic on I-70 and U.S. 40 while enjoying a comfortable and scenic two hour ride on the historic route through Moffat Tunnel. Adult tickets start at $39 each way with options for a day-trip, weekend stay or full week.
Special events, live music and other activities are features all season at Winter Park. Signature events include the “Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade,” Dec. 24, which is one of the most beloved Winter Park traditions and includes Christmas carols around a bonfire, procession of torch-bearing skiers and riders followed by Santa Claus, fireworks display and snowcats adorned with Christmas colors. Mary Jane’s Birthday Bash, Jan. 28, features the 2nd annual “Mary Jane’s Mogul Duel,” live music, swag giveaways and birthday cookies. The Wells Fargo Ski Cup, Feb. 22-27, boasts the longest running professional ski race in the country, and serves as a signature fundraiser for the National Sports Center for the Disabled.
REGIONAL ALPINE SKI AREAS
28194 U.S. Highway 6, Dillon, CO
888-ARAPAHOE • ArapahoeBasin.com
Annual Snowfall: 350 inches
Area: 960 acres • Runs: 109 • Lifts: 8
Base Elevation: 10,780 feet
Summit Elevation: 13,050 feet
Season Dates: Oct. 21, 2016-June 2017
Breckenridge Ski Resort
1599 County Road 3, Breckenridge, CO
970-453-5000 • http://www.breckenridge.com
Annual Snowfall: 353 inches
Area: 2908 acres • Runs: 155 • Lifts: 30
Base Elevation: 9,600 feet
Summit Elevation: 2,998 feet
Season Dates: Nov. 11, 2016-April 23, 2017
209 Ten Mile Circle, Copper Mountain, CO
800-458-8386 • coppercolorado.com
Annual Snowfall: 306 inches
Area: 2465 acres • Runs: 125 • Lifts: 22
Base Elevation: 9,703 feet
Summit Elevation: 12,313 feet
Season Dates: Nov. 11 2016-April 16, 2017
19285 Colorado 103, Idaho Springs, CO
303-378-3447 • http://www.echomountainresort.com
Annual Snowfall: 215 inches
Area: 28 acres • Runs: 13 • Lifts: 3
Base Elevation: 10,050
Summit Elevation: 10,650
Season Dates: Mid-December-April 2017
Eldora Mountain Resort
2861 Eldora Ski Road 140, Nederland, CO
303-440-8700 • Eldora.com
Annual Snowfall: 300 inches
Area: 680 acres • Runs: 53 • Lifts: 11
Base Elevation: 9,200 feet
Summit Elevation: 10,800 feet
Season Dates: Nov. 18, 2016-April 9, 2017
100 Dercum Square, Keystone, CO
970- 496-4386 • http://www.keystoneresort.com
Annual Snowfall: 235 in
Area: 3,148 acres • Runs: 135 • Lifts: 20
Base Elevation: 9,280 ft
Summit Elevation: 12,408 ft
Season Dates: Nov. 4, 2016-April 9, 2017
Loveland Ski Area
I-70 west exit 216, Georgetown, CO
303-571-5580 • skiloveland.com
Annual Snowfall: 400 inches
Area: 1670 acres • Runs: 93 •Lifts: 10
Base Elevation: 10,800 feet
Summit Elevation: 13,010 feet
Season Dates: Early-November 2016-May 2017
Ski Granby Ranch
1000 Village Road, Granby, CO
888-850-4615 • granbyranch.com
Annual Snowfall: 220 inches
Area: 406 acres • Runs: 35 • Lifts: 6
Base Elevation: 8,202 feet
Summit Elevation: 9,202 feet
Season Dates: Dec. 17, 2016-April 2017
85 Parsenn Road, Winter Park, CO
970-726-5514 • winterparkresort.com
Annual Snowfall: 327 inches
Area: 3081 acres • Runs: 143 • Lifts: 26
Base Elevation: 9,000 feet
Summit Elevation: 12,060 feet
Season Dates: Nov. 16 2016-April 23, 2017
Originally published in the November 2016 issue of the MMAC Monthly