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Colorado's First-To-Open Trio Ready To Show Off What's New

ABasin-Il-Refugion A-Basin's summit eatery, Il Refugio at Snowplume, will have more room this coming season. (Courtesy Arapahoe Basin)

The annual race to be the first U.S. ski and snowboard resort to turn on its lifts is on, as the three usual competitors Arapahoe Basin, Loveland and Keystone utilize their highest-in-the-nation elevations for both the natural and man-made snow cover necessary to win.

This season, skiers and riders will see a number of new facilities and improvements when they first hit the slopes at the three Colorado mountains. All have recently invested in snowmaking as the cold-weather season begins to shorten at both ends, and a solid base is more critical than ever to get the season off on the right foot.

Aside from the usual paint jobs, spruced-up seating, and fresh signage, here's what's new for the 2021-2022 season as the first dustings of snow accent Colorado's high ground.

At Keystone, the existing four-pack Peru Express out of the Mountain House base will now add two more seats per chair, and become a high-speed six-seater. Mountain officials hope more uphill capacity will relieve morning congestion around the base.

Up U.S. 6 to Arapahoe Basin, the sounds of nail guns have been echoing around the upper bowl this summer. A new high-alpine warming hut, Steilhaus Hut, now perches on the Lewanee Face just below the 12,000-foot summit ridgeline. The restaurant will serve up sausages, beers, pretzels and strudel in the Alpine tradition for high-mountain huts.

Also at A-Basin, the ridgetop Il Refugio at Snowplume (12,456-foot elevation) got expanded this summer with more seating for its Alps-inspired menu. The bistro features cheese and meat plates, wine pairings, soups and salads, and espresso.

Over on the other side of the Continental Divide, Loveland has opened more backcountry to the north and will put snowcats to ferry skiers and riders into Dry Gulch, just east of Lift 8. The tours will extend deeper into the backcountry from where the daily, first-come first-served snowcat service currently runs.

Also at Loveland, the Valley Lodge will look different after an expansion to triple the seating in the cafeteria, expand the rental shop and add more space for the Ski and Ride School.



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