Colorado's Front Range Heavyweights Keep Pace With Upgrades

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Folks who head up I-70 from the Denver area this winter know that they are entering one of the most renowned and diverse skiing and riding regions in the nation.

Each year, five famous resorts compete not only to be the first to open but also to be first on the list of where Coloradans and visitors go. This season is no different, with new lifts, terrain and facilities going in this summer.

At Loveland, the boundaries of snowcat tours have been expanded into previously hike-to terrain. The pay-to-ride, guided full-day tours into 580-acre Dry Gulch, located in the upper northwest corner of the Colorado mountain boundaries and north of Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70, supplement Loveland's existing free snowcat service in the same area at the top of Lift 9.

Running from the top of Lift 8, 16-person snowcats with a backcountry guide will make up to two trips a day into the area. Skiers and riders can expect 5-7 runs off the ridgeline of Mt. Trelease into the gulch each trip. Backcountry hikers can still get in there on their own.

Arapahoe Basin has paused after a busy couple of offseasons putting in new lifts and high-alpine restaurant. What's new at A-Basin is in the future: Expanded parking, a lot-to-base gondola, and a remastered Wrangler beginner area on east edge of the mountain.

Over at Copper Mountain, crews cut new beginner and glade runs in the Western Territory as part of Copper's multi-year effort to open up easy terrain to skier's far left. They also opened up a couple of new traverses in that same sector, hoping to make it easier to get around the mountain. And the Aerie eatery opens at the top of the American Flyer.

Keystone finally got its Bergman Bowl project completed, after several fits and starts. A new high-speed six-pack rises 1,078 vertical feet out of the gully below North Peak to 12,282 feet elevation in the snowfields of Bergman Bowl. Unusual is that the new above-treeline terrain is mellow, all blue and greens. Steeps can be had off the lift in Erikson Bowl, or by hiking the ridge.

And at Breckenridge, fixed-grip double Lift 5 came down this summer, after more than 50 years of taking skiers and riders out of the Peak 8 base area. In its place with a new six-seat detachable chair called 5 Superchair -- another step in a Peak 8 makeover.

In the same area, a complete re-do of the Park Lane terrain park on lower Peak 8 is due to open. The park's features link into the banked slalom lower down, all off 5 Superchair.

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Colorado Ski Areas Provide Routes For Hiking Along the Divide

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The Continental Divide runs right through the middle of Colorado and, as snow melts, a number of mountain resorts provide ready access for hiking along the nation's long spine.

The Continental Divide Trail that runs from the Montana-Canada border to the New Mexico-Mexico border weaves off and on the trail through Colorado's high country. While not always tracing the actual Continental Divide, it does venture close to several Colorado mountain resorts where hikers can hop on for as long as they like. Mountain bikers often share these trails.

Five ski and snowboard resorts share top ridgelines with the Divide. Only one of them reopens lifts for the summer, but all of them sit on U.S. Forest Service land so hiking is permitted to some of the nation's highest ground. Off-trail hiking is OK unless marked otherwise.

On old Rt. 6, Arapahoe Basin opens its Black Mountain Express chairlift to haul summer visitors to mid-mountain at 11,500 feet. From there, a marked hiking and MTB route called Summer Road winds up the upper bowl to the 12,456-foot Continental Divide ridgeline. Added benefit is via ferrata.

To the north, Loveland Ski Area is ringed by the Divide. The ski area distributes hiking maps at the base. Popular one is to the Ptarmigan Roost (top of Lift 2). From there, its a contour climb to the Divide at 12,700 feet -- and trails that cross above Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70.

Off to the west, the Divide traverses above Summit County to Tennessee Pass (10,424), where Ski Cooper sits under the Divide. Across U.S. 24 from the ski area parking lots are trailheads for dozens of routes up to and around the Divide -- including the Colorado Trail. Take time to visit he newest National Monument in the country, Camp Hale, where 10th Mountain Division troops trained before heading the Alps in Europe.

Next ski area down the Divide is Monarch. Situated just below Monarch Pass (11,312) on U.S. 50, the area is home to an intersection of the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. Best access is up from the ski area entrance on the pass. However, a turnoff to Old Monarch Pass leads off the beaten track and trails around the top of the ski area.

A Collegiate Loop MTB trail starts at the top of the pass and runs 153 to the north into the Collegiate Mountain Range -- home to more than a dozen 14,000-foot peaks. And, scenic gondola lifts hikers to start on the high ground.

And lastly, powder haven Wolf Creek Ski Area dives off the east side of the Divide. Pullover parking during the summer at the ski area provides access to easy strolls around the base. Park up U.S. 160 on the 10,847-foot-high pass and hikers can catch the Continental Divide Trail that winds southward. along the ridge above the ski mountain. Or head north into the density of the Weminuche Wilderness.

 

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Winter's Largesse Means More Choices For Late-Spring Skiing, Riding In The West

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With record snowfalls in the West this winter, we are now going to see just how late into the year the Jones for skiing and riding can last.

Skiers and riders should expect limited terrain, fewer lifts and variable conditions if they head into the hills this spring. "Playing the mountain" is a well-established spring tradition, meaning following the sun as it runs across the trails to find the soft -- but not too soft -- snow.

Springtime brings out the quirky in managers of skiing and riding mountains. For instance, Brighton plans to go until May 29 but because it will only spin the Milly chair, crews will move the rails and boxes over there for a top-to-bottom terrain park. Willamette Pass will be open for weekends until May 14 and has a $19 ticket for sale.

But some things don't change. Timberline Lodge will once again have no closing date for its alpine slopes on the shoulder of Mt. Hood, as snow typically stays year-round on the highest Palmer Snowfield terrain. The mountain usually closes late summer or early fall to take a breath before reopening for the next winter.

Another old favorite resurfaces this summer. Beartooth Basin, America’s only summer-only ski area (on account of its location on the Beartooth Highway connecting Wyoming and Montana, which closes in winter), will open this summer after sitting out 2022 for lack of snow. The season is expected to go from Memorial Day into July.

The king of summer skiing is once again Mammoth Mountain. Some 800 inches of snow fell this winter, and the California resort plans to stay open to July 31 -- with a teaser for days beyond that. Compadre Palisades Tahoe says Memorial Day is the earliest they'll close.

Colorado's perennial champion, Arapahoe Basin, has targets June 4 as a temporary closing date. But up there on the Continental Divide, nothing is certain. Keep track via Al's Blog. http://arapahoebasin.blogspot.com/

Breckenridge has declined to be specific, saying "TBA May." Winter Park plans to stay open until May 14, or until "ALAP" -- a new acronym created by the resort's PR staff.

Elsewhere, tentative closings dates have been set for Mt. Bachelor (May 28) and Crystal Mountain (May 21) in the Northwest. In Utah Snowbird will run daily to May 14 and on weekends until Memorial Day ("at least"), and Solitude says it will stay open until May 21.

Bringing up the rear are Copper (May 7), Loveland (May 7), and Bogus Basin (May 6).

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What's New As Brian Head, Winter Park, Wolf Creek, Loveland Open

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Early-season snowfall, especially along the southern tier of the Rockies, has coupled with snowmaking temperatures to get a quartet of high-country ski and snowboard mountains to start spinning their lifts.

Utah's southernmost resort Brian Head kicked off the Beehive State's winter season the first weekend in November. For its second-earliest opening on record, the resort's upgraded Navajo Express -- more four-seat chairs on the cable -- handles the load for the first couple of weekends before daily operations begin on Nov. 18.

Snowmaking got a production upgrade this summer, as owners Mountain Capital Partners (MCP) continue to put money into its latest acquisition. Kids 12 and under ski and ride for free, all the time and at all eight MCP resorts, with the Kids Power Pass.

In southern Colorado, powder-king Wolf Creek wants its folks to move more easier around its 1,600 acres. To do so, the day-trip resort has installed RFID gates at six of its 10 lifts so that tickets can be read in the skier's parka pocket.

The Alberta chair has long been the best way to get to Wolf Creek's most prolific powder stashes, but it took a couple of lift rides to get to. This season, there's a traverse from the lower parking lot to the Alberta chair base with an RFID printer so that skiers and riders can set up for a powder day without going to the main ticket office or riding another chair.

Northward, Winter Park moved up its opening date to Oct. 31 -- its earliest opening ever. Experts and powderhounds will be happy as mountain managers have opened two areas of steeps. At the far end of the Vasquez Cirque, a section known as "Jelly Roll" for its rolly-polly terrain is now accessible. And, over on Mary Jane far side, more room for steep-and-deep as avalanche-controlled chutes on "Powder Field" will increase access between Trestle and double-diamond The Chutes.

And farther up the Continental Divide, Loveland loyalists began skiing and riding on Nov. 4, and will soon hop on an expanded Chair 6 to get more quickly into the blues, greens and terrain parks on the south flank of the 1,800-acre mountain.

 

 

 

 

 

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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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A Flurry Of Lift Construction Set For Colorado This Summer

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Summer visitors to Colorado ski and snowboard mountains will see plenty of construction going on, as seven resorts across the state string new lifts for the upcoming season.

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Summit County Resorts Record A Combined 200 Inches Of March Snow

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March is typically the snowiest month in the state of Colorado, and this year, Summit County ski areas are recording over 200 inches combined.

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Snowcat Tours Expand Terrain At Smaller Colorado Resorts

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At a trio of Colorado mountains, snowcat tours take skiers and snowboarders beyond the ropes to track up the untouched Alpine terrain -- instantly enlarging and enhancing their day in the high country.

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Powder Alliance Resorts Reach Out To Passholders Of Sierra-at-Tahoe

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A half-dozen resorts of the Powder Alliance have provided pass holders at fire-damaged Sierra-at-Tahoe free access to their trails and slopes until the resort gets back on its feet.

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First To Open? Wolf Creek In An Upset

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The race to be the first to drop the ropes on the 2021-22 season has a new winner this season, as the "friendly" cloak-and-dagger competition reached new heights.

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

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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.

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#racetopopen Colorado 2021-22 Ski Resorts Announce Opening Dates

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The Colorado ski and snowboard season usually gets underway in October with the #racetoopen kicking off between Loveland, Arapahoe Basin, Wolf Creek and Keystone.

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Still Plenty Of Turns As Season Extends Into May ... And Beyond

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The vast majority of U.S. ski and snowboard resorts have shuttered operations for the season -- many of them extending past announced closing dates -- but a hearty dozen will spin their lifts deep into the spring.

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Western Season Passes For 2021-2022 Loaded With Extras

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The options keep on coming, as single-mountain season passes for next season have more add-ons than ever before to compete with the multi-resort mega-passes.

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Springtime In The Rockies: Colorado Season Gets Longer

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Thanks to a snowy March and persistent pent-up desire to hit the slopes, a slew of Colorado ski and snowboard resorts will keep their lifts spinning beyond original closing dates.

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SnoCast: Bursts of Snow to Kick-Off March

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March came in like a lamb, and will stay “lamb-y” with a few small storm systems to track and a typical hint at Spring-like warmth. Read the details in this week’s SnoCast.

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Snowcat Skiing, Riding Limited In Colorado This Season

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Hoppin' a ride on a snowcat to get off the piste and into the powder stashes of the backcountry is a popular pastime at Colorado resorts. But this season, there are fewer options than normal.

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Colorado Restricts Resort Capacities As Ski County Covid Cases Spike

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Significant increases in positive coronavirus cases in Colorado -- and resultant stress on hospital capacities -- have forced further restrictions on the number of skiers and riders who can hit the slopes at the same time.

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SnoCast: More Resorts Open As Atmospheric River Arrives

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An active weather pattern will bring storm after storm to parts of the country, allowing for more resorts to open for the season, while other areas can expect improving winter conditions.

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SnoCast: Who Gets Tricks, and Who Gets Snowy Treats?

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Halloween weekend and first days of November will feature forecast tricks and treats. With a leftover hurricane delivering snow to New England and ski areas opening in the west, this time of year is always a treat to build ski season excitement.

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