The #RaceToOpen In Colorado; A-Basin One-Ups Keystone
In Colorado, snowfall typically comes first to the highest slopes, prompting a congenial yet competitive contest among ski and snowboard resorts in the #racetoopen for a new season before all the rest.
Over the years, Loveland Basin and Arapahoe Basin have had the race all to themselves, because of their location on the Continental Divide. But recently Keystone has joined in – primarily because of its proximity to the Divide and devotion to snowmaking.
All three originally listed “Mid-October” as their opening dates, but A-Basin jumped ahead by opening Friday, Oct. 11 for two hours. Keystone announced a solid Oct. 12 opening date. The 25 remaining Colorado ski and snowboard resorts have specific opening dates for the 2019-20 season.
True to form, all began snowmaking in early October. A-Basin won the preliminary round by cranking up the snow guns on Oct. 2. Loveland followed on Oct. 3, and Keystone started shortly thereafter after touting a summer-long effort to upgrade its artificial snow-making capacity beyond any in the industry.
Snowmaking most always begins on runs just above the base area, so elevation means a lot. Loveland has the highest base elevation in Colorado at 10,800 feet above sea level. A-Basin is close behind at 10,780 feet, and Keystone is 9,280 feet.
Copper Mountain, just up the road with a base elevation of 9,712 feet and a location tucked into a snow pocket off the Divide, has puts it horse the race – publishing photos of snowmaking – but still tagging Nov. 8 for its opening unless Mother Nature blesses them between now and then. High-elevation powder stash Wolf Creek (10,300) often gets natural snow first but has limited snowmaking; its opening is set for Nov. 1.
A sidelight to this informal competition is the fact that A-Basin left the Vail-owned Epic Pass last season for the unusual reason that Epic Pass holders clogged parking lots and lift lines, and Keystone is one of Vail Resorts prime locales. Loveland is one of a few Colorado resorts that has remained independent of the Epic-Ikon pass wars.