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Colorado's Early Openers Debut Eateries, Terrain

ABasin-Il-Rifugio Can't get much higher for a view of the Rockies than at A-Basin's new mountaintop restaurant. (Arapahoe Basin/Ian Zinner)

A pair of Colorado mountains are open for the season – and another two will likely open by the end of the month – as the 2019-2020 ski and snowboard season begins in earnest.

Arapahoe Basinand Keystone have already turned on a lift or two for the season, Loveland is close. Just up I-70, Copper Mountain continues to be among the first to open, setting Nov. 1 as its date to begin the season, but hoping natural snowfall will push that sooner.

So, here's a look at what's new at these four high-elevation Colorado resorts as skiers and snowboarders begin to line up for another season.

First-to-open Arapahoe Basin settles into the first full season of the Beavers and Steep Gullies off-piste skiing and riding – a section of the mountain that backcountry-ers have hiked in and out for years, but now served by the new Beaver four-seat chair. Also at the Continental Divide mountain is the first full season the restaurant Il Rifugio, the highest lift-served eatery in North America at 12,500 feet. Located where the Lenawee and Beavers chairs disembark, the restaurant features European bistro offering – and a top-of-the-world view when the snow isn't flying.

Down the road, crews at Vail-owned Keystone spent the summer putting in pipes, guns, and compressors all over the hill to ensure early-season skiing and riding. Part of a Vail company-wide initiative, snowmaking at Keystone now has 3,000 more feet of pipe, upgrades all along the lines, and a delivery system streamlined to be as efficient as possible, according to resort information.

Over the divide at Loveland Ski Area, Denver's favorite day-trip mountain is comfortable with the way things are for this season, including the second season for Chet's Dream high-speed quad that relieves morning congestion and gets skiers and riders up the hill more quickly.

At Copper Mountain, more alpine terrain can be reached by a lift with the opening of the Three Bears lift on the face of Tucker Mountain. Previously reached by hiking or snowcatting off of Union Peak, the terrain has nothing but double-black diamond runs under the 12,400-foot ridge.

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