Arapahoe Basin Wins Race To Open First

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Cooler nighttime temperatures has led to aggressive snowmaking at Arapahoe Basin, so much so that the high-altitude Colorado mountain loaded its first skiers and snowboarders on Sunday, Oct. 23.

Eager skiers and riders get to head up on high-speed chairlift, the Black Mountain Express, and make the first turns of the season on blue-rated High Noon on the lower half of the mountain.

"The time has come," said A-Basin chief Alan Henceroth. "The snowmakers and 'cat drivers have done a tremendous job, and the forecast for the coming week looks outstanding."

Last year's early-opening winner, Wolf Creek, is expected to get a double-digit dump out of this storm. The mountain perched on the Continental Divide is on track to open as scheduled on Oct. 29.

Indeed, warm fall weather is predicted to turn dramatically in the coming weeks all over the West. Forecasting service OpenSnow saying that mountains in Utah should begin to fill up, with Alta and Snowbird with more than a foot. Southern Colorado should get significant snowfalls on the first weekend of the season, but most will wait to open until November.

In the week following, OpenSnow predicts small but steady buildup at most mountains in the West. Expect Loveland and Keystone in Colorado to begin spinning lifts for the 2022-2023 season before the end of October.

However, the ski-focused forecaster indicates that snowfall will cease toward the end of the month, so skiers and 'boarders shouldn't look for many slopes to open before announced dates.

Depending upon location, night temperatures should stay cold enough for snow guns to shoot a base onto their slopes and trails. But mountain managers note that day temperatures can't rise too much without melting some of the overnight coverage.

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What's New At Early-Openers Arapahoe Basin, Loveland, Keystone

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With aspens shedding their leaves and snow guns blasting, skiers and riders are focused on the Colorado high country for the definitive sign of winter's arrival: the race to be season's first resort to open.

The two traditional Continental Divide contenders -- Arapahoe Basin and Loveland -- will welcome skiers and riders with replacement lifts. The third competitor, Keystone, will show off a mountain-top restaurant expansion.

At A-Basin, the mid-mountain Lewanee chair gets an upgrade from a 21-year-old fixed grip quad to a high-speed six-seater. The new faster, heavier chair is expected to give some relief to a choke point on front-side and reduce wind delays.

The Lewanee lift, known as "Len", serves much of A-Basin's expert, alpine terrain from East Bowl to top of Beavers cliffs. It also gets hungry skiers and riders more quickly to the Steilhang eatery, and the remodeled and enlarged Il Refugio atop the ridge.

Over at Loveland, a replacement lift on the main mountain and a new base lodge at Loveland Valley are set to go. The 45-year-old Chair 6 at Loveland's mid-mountain will add a seat to become a new fixed-grip triple to deliver more skiers and riders to the blues, greens and terrain parks on the south flank of the 1,800-acre mountain.

The brand-new base lodge at beginner-friendly Loveland Valley expands by 14,000 square feet the space for ski school, rentals, ski patrol, and a bar and restaurant. With more parking put in last season, Loveland Valley has upped its services for beginners and novices as they improve their skills before moving up the hill to the main mountain.

And just off the Divide above Dillon, much of the news from Keystone was what didn't happen this summer. The Vail-owned mountain was set to debut intermediate-friendly Bergman with a new chairlift, but boundary issues with the National Forest put the project on hold. However, Epic Pass holders can get on the mountain one hour earlier than others.

Instead, skiers and riders who frequent the 3,149-acre mountain will have more space to sit and relax with a 6,000-square-foot expansion of the Outpost Restaurant atop North Peak.

 

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West's Resorts Begin To Fire Up Snow Guns For Opening Day

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With opening dates on the horizon, crews at many resorts in the West have been testing snow guns -- and looking longingly to the skies -- in hopes of putting down a base of snow in October.

Most ski and snowboard resorts have announced their anticipated opening days, although persistent warm weather in some regions may have something to say about that. A frequent check of resort websites is recommended.

However, hints of winter whiff the air and the high-country leaves are turning, so it's time to haul skis and snowboards out of storage and get them ready for the season.

The informal race to be the first to open in the nation falls upon the highest-elevation mountains along the spine of the Colorado Rockies. Traditionally, it's been Arapahoe Basin, Keystone and Loveland that vie for the title, but Wolf Creek surreptitiously snuck in last season by firing up its chairlifts on Oct. 16.

This year -- if official dates are to be believed -- Keystone will lead the pack by opening on Oct. 21, followed by Arapahoe Basin on Oct. 22, and Loveland and Wolf Creek on Oct. 29.

In California, 7,700-foot-high Boreal on Donner Pass is optimistic to begin on Oct. 28, while Mammoth Mountain plans to be in second place with an Nov. 11 opening. Tahoe's Heavenly has penciled in Nov. 18 for its first chairs.

Despite having middle-of-the-pack summit elevation, Lookout Pass (5,650 feet) on the border of Idaho and Montana has pushed its first day all the way up to Nov. 6 -- a full two weeks ahead of its previous earliest opening. Schweitzer, Sun Valley and Tamarack all plan to follow later in the month.

A pair of Utah mountains -- Brian Head and Park City Mountain -- hope to be the first in the Beehive State with openings on Nov. 18.

Skiers and riders in Washington will have to wait until December for Stevens Pass (Dec. 2) and 49 Degrees North (Dec. 3), while Oregonians will have to bide their time until Mt. Hood Meadows and Timberline (Dec. 11). Mt. Bachelor expects to follow close behind on Dec. 12.

In New Mexico, Sipapu has had a lock on first-to-open in recent seasons. For 2022-2023, the family resort tucked into the Sangre de Cristos has tabbed Nov. 18 to begin spinning its lifts.

 

 

 

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