For years, there's been a friendly competition among a trio of high-elevation Colorado resorts to see which Northern American resort opens first. But Covid-19 has cancelled that "race" for this season -- pushing opening dates back.
Editor's Note: Due to the U.S. Forest Service Temporary Closure there is no public access to Loveland Ski Area.
View this post on Instagram
Due to unprecedented and historic fire conditions, the USDA Forest Service’s Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests is announcing a temporary closure of all National Forest land in Clear Creek, Jefferson, Gilpin, Boulder, and Larimer counties, effective at midnight Oct. 21. This decision will be re-evaluated daily as conditions change. There will be no public access at Loveland Ski Area. These temporary closures are in place to support the suppression of the three fires currently burning in these counties and to prevent the potential for new fire starts, which impacts the resources available for existing fires. Orders restrict access to all but emergency personnel and persons with a permit authorizing their presence in the closure areas.
Management at Arapahoe Basin, Loveland, Copper, and Keystone have indicated, in various ways, that their focus for this unprecedented season is elsewhere: Developing across-the-resort plans to reduce the spread of the coronavirus while hosting a safe ski and snowboard season.
Other elements have come into play as well. A statewide drought, exacerbated by a dry summer, means less water and shorter snowmaking "seasons" that generally need two weeks of consistent blowing to put down a skiable surface. Also, despite a couple of inches of early snow, a warmer-than-normal fall has kept snow guns more silent than usual.
Plus, state and county regulations may change over the course of the season, specifically in terms of the capacity allowed on the mountains at any one time.
Noting that last season Arapahoe Basin "swooped in" to edge out Keystone as first to open on Oct. 11, A-Basin's Katherine Fuller joked at a recent teleconference that “.. we can’t pull the same trick twice. (Instead) this year feels less focused on (a race to open) and more focused on what are our health and safety procedures."
Keystone officials admitted that due to new higher-tech snowmaking systems, "excitement was high" last season to be the first to open. But it's different this season: "For us, this year it is about giving the resort a little more time to open with some more terrain and space for guests to spread out, said Keystone's Judy Churich, noting the Vail Resort-owned resort turned on snow guns Oct. 6 and plans to open Nov. 6 with a full-on reservation system.
Loveland announced a comprehensive operating plan early this month, but officials have left their opening date flexible and non-competitive -- "late October-early November." Snowmaking guns fired up on Oct. 11.
"At this point, the only thing we can say with any certainty is that this season is going to be…different," a website statement said. "Some changes will be very minor while others will be more impactful, but each will help us remain open for skiing and snowboarding."
In recent years, Copper Mountain has joined the first-to-open party (hasn't won yet). This season, there's no thought of pushing to drop the ropes, as the Summit County resort plans to open Nov. 30.
"We've decided to push back our opening date to Monday, Nov. 30, in an effort to avoid large crowds and invite guests to spread out with more terrain and lifts available," said Copper's Dustin Lyman. Snowmaking began Sept. 30 and the resort hopes to have U.S. Ski Team training sometime before opening day.